Using Negative Keywords in Amazon Advertising

When a recent search for gaming mouse pads showed the following paid ads for menstrual pads, I knew Kotex needed some help with their negative keywords. Maybe you do, too. Negative keywords are a simple concept, yet they are crucial to getting the most out of your Amazon Advertising campaigns.

If you aren’t making use of negative keywords, here are some basics to get you started.

How are Negative Keywords used in Amazon Advertising?

Just like other pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, Amazon Advertising uses negative keywords to prevent your ad from serving on the search terms you specify. When a user makes a query using your negative keyword, your ad will not appear.

Though it might be entertaining to think of a computer mouse sliding across a menstrual pad, the Kotex ad was clearly a mistake. Kotex should have included “mouse” as a negative keyword to keep their products from appearing in front of the wrong customers.

Kotex ad without negative keywords

Why Bother With Negative Keywords?

That said, what’s wrong with ignoring negative keywords? Isn’t it good for your ad to get in front of more people? In the case of PPC, the answer is no.

Keyword targeting is a tactic that sits at the bottom of the marketing funnel – when a user searches for mouse pads on Amazon they are very likely looking to purchase a mouse pad in the near future. By ignoring negative keywords in your campaign set up, you put your brand at risk of both wasting money and negatively impacting your performance metrics. Shoppers who see your ad while searching on an entirely different track may still accidentally click on the ad. A click costs you money, even if they hit the back button before the page finishes loading. Or, they may intentionally click on the ad with low to no purchase intent. If you’re still not convinced because you’re currently trying to build awareness for your brand just remember that not only will this click likely have a higher cost per click (CPC) than a display campaign click, but it will lower your search campaign’s conversion rate (CVR) and return on ad spend (ROAS) metrics.

Once your budget is spent, your brand loses out on potential prospects that would have arrived at your product with high purchase intent. Your ultimate goal, of course, is to bring in prospects who convert.  For more on conversion, see our post on enhancing your product pages.

Types of Negative Keywords on Amazon

There are two main types of Amazon negative keywords: exact match and phrase match. Generally, these act like they sound. Exact match negative keywords only exclude keywords that identify the exact words and close matches, in the specified order. Phrase match keywords exclude keywords for phrases and close matches. For a more detailed dive, check out this article from Karooya.

Examples of Bad Targeting

Missing negative keywords are not the only targeting mistake brands make, however, and the examples can be quite comical. For instance, who knew that mac and cheese had anything to do with facial hair removal? I wouldn’t recommend using Kraft products to wax your upper lip, even if both wax and mac and cheese can go in the microwave!

waxing without negative keywords


During Prime Day, we also saw a goof from Barbie. While it’s possible someone searching for women’s fragrance would be interested in a toy, I certainly wouldn’t stake my advertising budget on it.

Barbie without negative keywords

At the end of the day, both positive and negative keyword targeting are important pieces of the bigger picture. For more information on shopper targeting, see our overview of Amazon Audiences and Advertiser Audiences.

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