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It may sound counterintuitive. but you shouldn’t forget about negative keywords when optimizing your ads and listings for keywords that rank on Amazon. 

As the most popular online store in the United States, more shoppers turn to Amazon to purchase the items they need and want. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of competition for sellers.

To advance past the competition, many sellers use different strategies to get their products in front of potential customers. An easy way that brands can improve the performance of their ads and listings is by using different keyword strategies.

One great example is using negative keywords. Such terms can improve your ROAs and better target your customers.


What Are Negative Keywords?


Negative keywords are terms you’re excluding from Amazon search results. This ensures you focus on Amazon keyword optimization best practices, and make it easier for potential customers to find you.

While you may use your best efforts to only optimize your listings for specific keywords, Amazon may end up displaying your brand on irrelevant searches and topics. Amazon’s algorithm may think your brand is a good fit for these results when the opposite is true.

Let’s say you sell brand-new products, items, or equipment. Examples you may use include “used” and “refurbished,” because you don’t want customers thinking you’re selling used items.

There are other reasons to add negative keywords to your campaign. When you focus on keywords your market is actively searching for, you’ll drive your chances to convert leads and make your ROI. 

But to achieve the best results, you’ll need to know how negative keywords work on Amazon.


How Negative Keywords Work on Amazon


To set negative keywords, log into Seller Central, go to Advertising, and click Campaign Manager. You’ll see a section for Negative Keywords. Click that, then type in your negative keywords. 

You can set negative keywords at an ad group or campaign level. Amazon lets you set 10,000 keywords per ad group or campaign. Each exact keyword can contain a maximum of 10 words (or 80 characters), and phrase match caps at four words.

The key to setting negative keywords is choosing ones that relate to your products but may not be the ones you want to target. We mentioned the new vs.used example, but there are other similar terms that can work as negative keywords. 

For instance, let’s say you sell specialty beer glasses. You may want to use negative keywords such as “wine glasses” so that your product appears in front of the right consumers.

Now, what are some examples of terms that you shouldn’t use? For starters, try not to include singular or plural keywords. 

For example, don’t exclude “beer glasses” from search results, even if you only sell individual products. This has to do with user intent. Even though users may only want one beer glass, they may type in “beer glasses” because they want to view different options.


Types of Negative Keywords


The two main types of Amazon negative keywords are phrase and exact match. These two variations differ, and it’s best to know more about them before creating a negative keyword strategy.


Negative Phrase Match


A negative phrase match means your ads won’t appear for the keywords it’s targeting in the exact order. While your ads may show for the keyword that switches around the words or adds extra words, it won’t show for the exact phrase you set.

Let’s say you use the negative phrase “training shoes.” Your ad may show the phrase “shoes for training,” “training gym shoes,” or even the singular keyword “training shoe.” But your ad won’t appear for any search term with the phrase “training shoes.” This includes terms with added words, such as “men’s training shoes” or “green training shoes.”


Negative Exact Match


When you choose exact match, your ads won’t appear for key terms in the same order. Unlike exact phrase match, exact match keywords will show if you add different terms. 

Using the previous “training shoes” example, your ads may still appear for search results such as “women’s training shoes” or “blue training shoes.” Your branded keywords may also appear on these search results.


Other Tips to Remember When Using Negative Keywords


To ensure your ads appear in the right search results, you’ll want to consider some best practices when creating a negative keyword strategy. While you want to get your ads in front of the right audience, you don’t want to damage any possible outcomes or potential sales. 


Close Variants


Close variants are similar to your target keyword but aren’t an exact match. Examples include:

Now, should you consider close variants to be negative keywords? It depends. As with any negative keyword strategy, only add the ones that are irrelevant to your ad. Using the training shoes negative keyword, you may also add “running shoes” if you don’t sell fitness footwear.

But some close variants should be excluded from your product listings. For example, if you sell flip-flops, you may be tempted to include common misspellings in your negative keywords list. Since typos are common, you may still want to keep the misspellings.

Another important factor to consider is regional differences in the English language. You may want to optimize your flip flops for “thongs” in Australia, but you’ll want to use “thongs” as a negative keyword if you sell flip flops in the US. However, you shouldn’t add other appropriate synonyms as negative keywords, such as “sandals.”


Conduct Negative Keyword Research


With that said, you should approach negative keywords the same way you approach any keyword strategy – by conducting research first.

  1. Center your research around keywords that don’t rank well or are too expensive. These terms may have a high CPC that doesn’t convert well, ones that don’t attract enough traffic, or ones that are very competitive.
  2. Take the search terms you want to rank for and find similar keywords that don’t align with your brand or products. We can use the “beer glasses” vs. “wine glasses” example, or “flip flops” vs. “training shoes.”

Even if the other keywords perform well and are inexpensive, they still don’t align with your brand or products, so you’ll waste money by optimizing your ads for them.

While Amazon lets you use many negative keywords, you should limit your terms to the ones that will cost too much money without converting leads. If you use too many, your ads will reach fewer customers.


When in Doubt, Use the Phrase Match


Are you not sure which type of negative keyword to focus on? Since Amazon may show your ads for different versions of a negative keyword, it’s best to use phrase match to ensure you only reach your target audience.

Let’s use the “refurbished” and “used” terms as examples. If you sell brand new laptops, you will want to set “used laptops” and “refurbished laptops” as negative keywords, since you only want to target customers looking for new equipment. 

If you use an exact match, Amazon may still rank your laptops for other search results, such as “Mac Used laptops.”


Do You Need Help Advertising Your Listings?


While negative keywords are essential for your Amazon advertising strategy, it’s still difficult to know which search terms will result in conversions and the ones that will only waste your ads budget.

This is where we come in. We will rank your listings for converting keywords and only use negative keywords when necessary. This ensures we help you improve your ROAs and increase your ROI.

Learn more about our advertising services today.



sephanie-jensenStephanie Jensen has been writing e-commerce content for seven years, and her copy has helped numerous stores rank on Amazon. Follow her on LinkedIn for more insight into freelance writing and creating high-quality content.

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