The Search Term Isolation Methodology

This step by step guide will help you manage your Search Term Isolation recommendations and achieve better performance and an improved ACOS.

What is Search Term Isolation?

“Search Term Isolation” is a methodology for managing search terms.
You can watch a video about Search Term Isolation here

Main Guidelines

  1. Each search term appears only once per match type (no duplications)
  2. Every new term is created in Exact, Phrase, and Broad
  3. Each term is added to negative exact and negative phrase respectably.

The new terms we create can come from keyword discovery tools. For example, tools such as Helium 10 or from our auto campaigns or from existing Broad and Phrase keywords.

Recommended Actions

When relying on our own Auto, Broad and Phrase, you should follow the relevant recommendations:

Search terms with sales – above Target ACOS

These are relevant search terms that led to a sale and have an ACOS above our Target ACOS.
Recommended actions:

  1. Move the search term to exact – bids should be managed in exact.
  2. Add the term to negative (in the original ad group) – to prevent duplicates and free up budget for additional discovery.
  3. Set the exact keyword bid to the lower of the source keyword bid and the Amazon suggested bid.
  4. Create new broad and phrase keywords and set their bid to the Amazon suggested bid.
  5. Add a “Negative Exact” to the Phrase keyword and “Negative Phrase” to the Broad keyword.
Search Term Isolation - Search terms with sales - above Target ACOS

Search terms with sales – below Target ACOS

Search terms with sales are relevant search terms and are considered competitive.
Recommended actions:

  1. Move the search term to exact – bids should be managed in exact.
  2. Add the term to negative (in the original ad group) – to prevent duplicates and free up budget for additional discovery.
  3. Set the bid to the higher of the original bid and Amazon suggested bid.
  4. Create new broad and phrase keywords and set their bid to the Amazon suggested bid
  5. Add “Negative Exact” in the Phrase and “Negative Phrase” in the Broad
Search Term Isolation - Search terms with sales - below Target ACOS

Search Terms Without Sales

Search terms that have not generated sales should be evaluated based on their clicks and spend. They should be turned off (added to negative) once they cross a certain threshold. The threshold varies based on different conditions:

  • The product life-cycle stage – during launch phase we should set it higher than during maturity.
  • Advertising budget – if we don’t have a big budget we would not want to identify under-performing terms as early as possible so we might want to set a low clicks threshold.
  • The competitive landscape – in a highly competitive space we might decide to be more patient and set a higher threshold.

Typical thresholds can be:

  • The account average conversion rate. If your account is converting at 8% on average it means that you generate a sale every ~12 clicks. Any search term generating more than 12 clicks without a sale should be evaluated.
  • The break-even ACOS. Most Amazon sellers do not want to lose on their advertising (this is not valid during product launch) therefore they consider their break-even ACOS as the threshold for adding a term to negative. Considering there isn’t an ACOS when there’s no sales we can use the NPACOS.

So when should we add a search term to negative?

We should only add a search term to negative once we are convinced it is not relevant to our product or has wasted a significant portion of our budget.

Remember: Broad, Phrase, and Auto are used for keyword discovery and when a search term is using up the ad groups budget it is preventing or limiting the discovery of additional search terms thus we should either turn them off by adding them to negative or move them to an exact state and reduce their bid so we don’t completely “kill” them.