The Amazon PPC Exact Match Conspiracy

Picture this: you recently graduated your broad match keyword to an exact match to get better control over your budget and placements. You go into your campaign manager and find that your exact match isn’t doing nearly as well as when it was a broad match. Trying to keep it top-of-search is driving up your bids, and you’re not getting as many orders. What gives?

Exact match has always been considered a god among ad types. There’s always been a formula: move keywords from auto to manual and then gradually make them exact match. Sometimes, though, Amazon seems to favor your broad match over its exact match counterpart.

Put on your tin foil hats because we’re diving deep into the exact match conspiracy theory. Is exact match truly the best match type? Could Amazon secretly be prioritizing broad match behind our backs? How do you get your exact match on the right track?

Does Amazon Favor Broad Match?

Amazon does whatever it wants, and it doesn’t like it when you try to force their hand. If Amazon wants to put your broad match at top-of-search, they’re going to do it, even if you lower your bids for that broad match. On the flip side, if you try to make your broad match keyword into an exact match when Amazon doesn’t want you to, that keyword might not give the performance you expect.

an amazon campaign report showing how a keyword is performing better as an exact match than a phrase match.

If your exact match is only getting a few impressions and clicks here and there, maybe it just doesn’t have the juice it needs to drive results. Try increasing your bids slightly to see if there’s any change.


Fixing Your Exact Match Keywords

Don’t jump into your campaigns and make astronomical changes. That takes longer to gain enough momentum to see results, and it doesn’t tell you the level at which the keyword is being forced. Instead, run your tests in small increments. This lets you test different variables at different levels to track down the source of the issue. What’s true for one campaign might not be true for another.

Remember that if it isn’t broken, you don’t need to fix it. If your ad spend is under control and you’re getting good results from a broad match, that’s great! Graduating from broad to exact is a best practice, but it’s not 100% mandatory.


Look back at your historical data and figure out what actions rubbed Amazon the wrong way. What did you do to your keyword when your performance started to drop? By determining what strategies worked and didn’t work, you can get clear data on what Amazon doesn’t like.

Not every keyword is meant to be top-of-search material. People think that you want all of your ads to be top-of-search all the time because that’s where the best conversion rates are. The truth is that not every keyword is destined for top-of-search. You can make adjustments to try to make top-of-search work, but sometimes your keywords have the best conversion rates in rest-of-search. 

Say that you have a campaign with the broad match “running shoes,” but a lot of your sales are coming from the search term “running shoes.” You can’t add a negative phrase match there because the root phrase is so important. At the same time, it doesn’t do as well when graduated to an exact match. You need to use tactics to give some of the control you get from exact match while still maintaining broad match status.

Bid Optimization

One way to keep your broad match in check is through the careful application of bid optimization.

Let your individual broad match do its own thing while keeping a close eye on its spend and incrementally optimizing bids as needed. From there, adjust everything else around your bids to improve the overall account. Keep in mind that you can make incremental bid changes on a keyword level, but you can’t make bids for search terms.

Technically, if you were to put everything in exact match, you could on some level control your bids and budget. There are weird nuances to exact match that would keep you from having 100% control with this strategy, but it gives you greater control than an unrestrained broad match.

Negative Keywords to the Rescue

One strategy to get your spending under control with a broad match keyword is adding negative targets and keywords to your broad match campaign. Take the search terms where you don’t want to appear and add them to your campaign as negative exacts.

using a keyword research tool to find negative exact match keywords for Amazon.

Be both proactive and reactive with your negative keyword adding. Found some negative by punching your keyword into a keyword research tool of your choice? Add them as negatives! Found a bunch of unwanted search terms? Add those too! This balance can help stop adding negatives from feeling like a game of Amazon PPC whack-a-mole.

Key Takeaways

Is the broad match conspiracy theory true? It varies from campaign to campaign. Sometimes Amazon will let you graduate to exact match without a hitch, other times it desperately wants to hold on to that broad match.

Sometimes Amazon needs a little persuasion to help your exact match do well after graduating from broad match. Don’t try to force them too hard because then your performance will dip. Instead, work within what Amazon wants to get the results you need. Make small, incremental changes and measure the changes in your metrics to be sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Other times, it might be in your best interest to just stay in broad match and work around it. Your broad match might not be a cause for concern if you’re getting good sales while staying within your budget. While graduating from broad match to exact match is typical, it doesn’t need to be done 100% of the time if your campaign is already running smoothly.

Similarly, don’t feel the need to push top-of-search for a keyword that doesn’t get the best ROI in that placement. Some keywords actually do better in rest-of-search.

If you need to rein in your budget, use incremental bid optimization on your broad match and make adjustments to surrounding keywords as needed.

Employ negative keywords and targets to your broad match campaign for further spending control. They’ll help weed out the search terms for which you don’t want to appear.

Ultimately, you want to be able to feel what your campaign needs from you. That might not sound like the most actionable advice, but it’s important to be able to take a step back from rigid processes and analyze each campaign as an individual to figure out what would work best for them.

Now, go forth and handle your broad matches with confidence!


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