Why Long Tail Search Terms Are Amazon PPC’s Silent Killer

Why Long Tail Search Terms Are Amazon PPC’s Silent Killer

Long tail searches kill Amazon PPC campaigns every day. 

You may follow the most commonly known best practices for maintaining a successful campaign, but if you’re not careful, long tail searches will drag down your account’s performance and rack up a mountain of wasted spend too.

Too often we notice that the majority of spend disappears in auto campaigns, a tell-tale sign that there is an excess of irrelevant search terms. We call this Death by 1,000 Cuts.

Don’t get us wrong! We love auto campaigns. They’re a fantastic research tool, but if over 80% of ad spend originates in an auto campaign, we guarantee a huge chunk of ad spend perishes with it.

To spare you from dying a bleak Death by 1,000 Cuts,  learn how to prevail.

Death by 1,000 Cuts: A Cautionary Tale

Huddle up for story time, badgers. This is a true story of a real campaign with over 13,000 non-converting search terms.

A common story of 13,541 search terms with 0, read: zero, total sales.
A common story of 13,541 search terms with 0, read: zero, total sales.

In this campaign, the average cost per search term is 90 cents. Most are one-click wonders.

While a click for $0.90 may not sound like much, these numbers add up quickly across 13,541 search terms.

This is a total of $12,627.97 wasted ad spend from a total monthly ad spend budget of $21,058. 

Nearly half of this campaign’s ad spend is squandered on search terms that didn’t convert. 

Unfortunately, this is the default reality of most accounts. This can happen to you too if you aren’t careful. Don’t let this happen to you. The end.

Relevant side note: If you’re wondering what a search term report is and where to find it, we review the basics of Amazon Sponsored Products search term reports here.

How do I Look Beyond Big Offenders in Amazon’s Search Term Report?

To really outsmart and optimize the worst of your long tail search terms, we recommend filtering your search term report in specific ways to find the worst converting terms.

When most people download a search term report to look for negatives, they select to filter, for example, search terms that have spent over $30 without a conversion. This is called High Spend Non Converters.

Some people take this a step further and opt filter their search terms for whatever has received over 30 clicks without a conversion. This is called High Click Non Converters.

Both of those options are fine, but to really find your vampire click-through rate, CTR, terms, then we advise filtering search terms that have received over 2,500 impressions and less than 0.18% CTR without any sales. This is called High Impression Non Converters.

If you do this weekly, keep time frame in mind. 

Reviewing search term performance for only 30 days at a time may cause a lot of sneaky hiccups in the long run. For example, if a search term spends $5 a month, but you only filter searches that are over $35 dollars, that seemingly insignificant error will likely cost you $60 dollars a year. 

Important note: Every downloaded search term report is only 60 days of data from Amazon.

This is why we recommend combining search term reports from Amazon to build a huge database for your account. Viewing your search term data over many months is more valuable than a 30 or 60 day time frame.

See how Amazon only offers 60 days of data? Insufficient!
See how Amazon only offers 60 days of data? Insufficient!

Did you know that our Ad Badger app built a feature for this very reason? 

We combine six month’s worth of data, or 180 days, as a lookback window so you won’t have to manually combine reports. 

Our tool’s goal is to help you stay away from spreadsheets by doing the heavy lifting for you.

See how Ad Badger offers six months of data research? So much better.
See how Ad Badger offers six months of data research? So much better.

Regardless which method you try, tools or manual tracking, let research help you see beyond your biggest and worst converting long tail search terms to help stop wasted spend once for all.

Research is key to surviving the Death by 1,000 Cuts.

How do I Stop Auto-Campaign Long Tail Wasted Ad Spend on Amazon?

Now that you know how to filter your search term reports to find the worst converting search terms, it’s time to stop wasted spend.

To stop wasted spend on long tail searches, do these two simple steps.

First, configure your weekly negative keyword optimization strategy (or your nightly strategy, if you use Ad Badger, which allows more precision). Schedule a weekly task to find the worst converting search terms, and do not skip this task ever.

Secondly, know that auto campaigns in Amazon Advertising display your products for an immense amount of search terms. That’s just the way it is. 

Here’s an example featuring the client we mentioned earlier. They sell construction equipment. Somehow they earned one impression and one click for the search term “#1 mom.”

While this bizarre search term doesn’t make sense however we dissect it, it’s unfortunately just one of many oddball terms. If we add the thousands of nonsensical terms that accumulated random single clicks and impressions, we have a hefty bill.

If you only look for big offenders in your search term report, you’ll miss these.

How to Save Ad Spend on Amazon from Long Tail Search Terms

  1. Don’t turn off auto campaigns or broad/ phrase keywords.
  2. Limit budget on auto campaigns.
  3. Get proactive with your Amazon Ad account structure.
  4. Look for Negative Phrases and Negative Exacts.
  5. Run N-Gram Analysis on your Amazon search terms.

These steps are your survival handbook. May the force be with you, young badgers.

Step 1: Don’t Turn off Auto Campaigns or Broad/ Phrase Keywords

Research campaigns offer significant value for long term optimization and you need as much data as possible to achieve this. Employ our RPSB strategy for simplicity’s sake.

A certain amount of research spend is required to find your very best keywords. 

Because the search terms shoppers use to find your products are unpredictable, you will need to dedicate some of your budget to research activities like Automatic Campaigns, Broad/Phrase Keywords, and Category Targeting.

Step 2: Limit Budget on Automatic Campaigns

Now that you purposely have a research budget, set a budget cap on all your research, including your automatic campaigns, broad/ phrase keyword targeting, or category targeting.

How to Allocate Ad Spend toward Research Campaigns
New accounts, mid-cycle accounts, and mature accounts require different research budgets.

An appropriate budget allocation for research varies by an account or product’s maturity. 

New accounts and new products should expect most, if not all, of their budget to go toward research campaigns until enough data is gathered to prove which keywords convert best.

Mid-cycle accounts and products should crossover as they blossom. When an account or product is in this range, accumulating more reviews and gaining brand recognition, the research budget should decrease to anywhere between 40-70% total ad spend.

Mature accounts and products, or a well-aged and well-optimized account, should spend approximately 20-40% of its total ad spend budget on research.

As you RPSB your auto campaigns, expect spend to increase on manual exact match campaigns. However, you’ll also funnel funds from keywords that do reliably convert.

Step 3: Be Proactive With Amazon Ad Account Structure

Structure your Amazon Advertising Account to gain maximum visibility.

Being intentional about ad account structure maximizes your control and efficiency in a campaign which lowers wasted spend.

Tidy account structure simplifies finding what you need when you need it. Enough said.

Step 4: Look for Negative Phrases & Negative Exacts

There comes a time in every Amazon Marketer’s life when we just have to do the work. Roll up your sleeves and explore that search term list! Run a filter for “all terms without a conversion,” either in Excel or an Amazon PPC tool.

If you use Excel, review your search terms and look for new negatives to add. Scan for trends and add new negative phrases. (If you need a refresher on how to use Negative Keywords in Amazon PPC, click that link.)

An example of filtering for search terms with $0.00 in revenue for Amazon PPC on Excel.
An example of filtering for search terms with $0.00 in revenue for Amazon PPC on Excel.

Negative Phrases block hundreds of irrelevant terms.

If you sell running shoes, for example, and you get one click for trail running shoes, then adding “trail” as a negative phrase blocks all searches containing “trail,” like “trail mix.” Trail mix is not a trail running shoe. If you sell running shoes, you don’t want to pay for the click of a shopper seeking a snack. 

Add negative phrases to your campaigns one by one or use a bulk operations sheet.

If instead of Excel, you opt to use Ad Badger, our biased fave Amazon PPC tool, then add negative exacts and phrases in our Negative Keyword Quick Attack.

Here are precise steps for maximizing your Ad Badger app experience:

  1. Filter for each search with more than one click and no conversions.
  2. Click anything you don’t want in your account.
  3. Add Negative Exact Keywords at the appropriate Level. (Bonus tip: Use account level to block these negative exact keywords from every campaign in your account.) 
  4. Return to the Quick Attack and add any phrases you want to block.

Regardless if you choose manual work or a PPC tool, remember negative exacts and negative phrases are your allies in the fight to eliminate long tail searches.

Step 5: Run N-Gram Analysis on Your Amazon Search Terms

Remember the “#1 mom” click our construction equipment client received? 

We could have ran a filter for every search term featuring the word “mom,” and we may have found clicks for similar terms, such as “gifts for mom” and “mom birthday gifts.” If the common culprit of those terms was “mom,” it may have never converted! 

Get new negative phrase ideas by evaluating your search terms containing common phrases. 

This allows you to add to the root of the negative phrase, in this case, “mom,” which then blocks every search term containing “mom” so “mom” won’t further decrease your account performance.

This is an elaborate way of explaining that n-gram analysis is a multi-word trend. The “n” in n-gram refers to number.

“Mom” is a single word and, therefore, mom is a 1-gram. 

A 2-gram example is “running shoes,” as in “trail running shoes,” “shoes for running with dog,” and “waterproof running shoes.”

Using n-gram analysis clarifies and improves account performance. It’s also the final step of eliminating wasted spend on long tail searches.

Outlive Long Tail Search Terms!

If you don’t want to die a brutal Death by 1,000 Cuts, scour your search terms for all the worst offenders, not just the big ones.


  • Find the big offenders first.
  • Analyze how much money you spent on no-sale clicks.
  • Do not turn off your research campaigns.
  • Limit your research campaign budget to maintain smart spending levels.
  • Structure your account to facilitate the RPSB strategy.
  • Add Negative Phrases and negative exacts where necessary.
  • Look for trends in data using n-gram analysis.

Are you dying a Death by 1,000 Cuts? Has this post saved your account’s life? Don’t thank us! Just share us with your friends! 

Cheers to long, prosperous lives, cubs. Badger out.


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