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Search Term Isolation: A 2021 Guide

Amazon is a pay-to-play platform, which means that in order to succeed, you need to advertise. Almost the entire first page of search results is taken up by sponsored brand ads and sponsored product ads — everything above the fold is sponsored. Organic placements appear below sponsored products, but even those placements are determined by highest conversion rate, positive reviews, and relevancy. And Amazon is releasing new advertising types all the time, including the relatively new Sponsored Brand Video Ad.

Advertising is the bread and butter of your growth on Amazon, and in order to advertise successfully and profitably, you need a proven bidding strategy to power your approach.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Search Term Isolation?
  2. Traditional Bid Management
  3. Search Term Isolation Bid Management
  4. Benefits of Search Term Isolation
  5. Specific Search Term Isolation Strategies
  6. How to Implement Search Term Isolation
  7. Search Term Isolation on Amazon: An Example
  8. Other Amazon Advertising Strategies
  9. Why Search Term Isolation is Critical in 2021
  10. Who Can Do Search Term Isolation?
  11. What Makes Blue Wheel Different?

What is Search Term Isolation?

Search Term Isolation is an advanced bidding philosophy on Amazon. At its simplest, Search Term Isolation is bidding on search terms that convert while negating search terms that don’t — so you only put money towards the best keywords with the best bids. While that explanation is fairly simple, the actual practice of Search Term Isolation is actually much more complicated.

search term isolation example

As you can see in the image above, the actual process is extremely complicated and complex due to the high number of keywords! With Search Term Isolation, you are able to break down each of these parabolas (keywords) individually in order to get more customization and increase profitability.

In the image below, you can see on a very zoomed-in scale how one would edit two individual keywords. Bids can individually be adjusted to account for the amount of impressions, desired budget, and CPC target.

search term isolation keywords

Traditional Bid Management

The Process

  1. Every time an Amazon customer makes a search, Amazon creates an auction.
  2. If you are running a relevant ad and are bidding on a keyword that can show up for that search term, Amazon will include you in the auction.
  3. If your bid is high enough, then your ad gets shown — you get an impression!
  4. If the customer clicks on your ad, then you pay Amazon (i.e. PPC or Pay Per Click)
  5. If they don’t click, you don’t pay anything.
  6. If your bid is too low, you don’t get the impression.
  7. This is the essence of bid management.

The Problem

With traditional bid management, you must bid the same amount on all search terms within a bucket — regardless of whether or not the term is profitable for you.

The issue with this process is that each search term in an auto campaign has a different and constantly changing cost-per-click (CPC) distribution. If there are particular search terms in the group that are bad for you, you can’t bid down. And on the flip side, if there are search terms that are good for you, you can’t bid up. This limitation wastes spend and restricts growth.

Let’s role play. You sell women’s haircare and are launching an amazing new specialty product: sulfate-free shampoo for color-treated hair. If you’re targeting shampoo in a broad match type on Amazon, you’re actually targeting longer-tail terms too, like shampoo for curly hair, or shampoo for men. The problem is you don’t even sell men’s shampoo! Uh-oh. In these research match types, your bid is being distributed across a big bucket of terms… some are relevant terms that convert profitably, some convert but are not profitable, while other terms are not effective and do not lead to sales. Unless you have full control over your search terms, you’ll be paying to target search terms that are nowhere near relevant to your product — which can waste spend. Yikes.

Search Term Isolation Bid Management

We developed an advanced campaign structure for each set of products. This structure allows us to optimize bids on the highest-performing search terms only — one isolated search term instead of a bucket of search terms.

When the auto campaign or the research campaign drives a sale for a specific phrase, our proprietary technology grabs the search term in these two campaigns, puts it in the performance campaign in exact match so it only targets that search term, and simultaneously negates it out of the original two campaigns, isolating it in this performance campaign.

Auto

Auto campaigns are when Amazon targets what they feel are the right keywords. These keywords are chosen based on the product title and description.

Keywords are “buckets” of search terms. With Amazon, you can only set one cost-per-click bid for each keyword. This means if you set a bid of $2 for the keyword pants, all of the related search terms like men’s pants, khaki pants, etc. will also have a $2 bid. If there are particular search terms in the group that are bad for you, you can’t bid down. And on the flip side, if there are search terms that are good for you, you can’t bid up.

Auto campaigns are beneficial to gain an understanding of which keywords perform well and which aren’t converting. However, these campaigns only serve a purpose for a short amount of time to gain an understanding of each keyword’s performance; aside from that, these campaigns typically waste spend.

Research

In research campaigns, you get to indicate the keyword to target. Perhaps you’ve identified a keyword you’d like to explore — one that has performed well for you in your auto campaigns and you’re looking to investigate further. For example, maybe the keyword white t shirt has performed well for you, and you’re looking to see if similar keywords, like white t shirt for men or white t shirt large, perform just as well.

Research campaigns contain broad match and phrase match keywords. A broad match is your chosen keyword and any other word in any order. So, white t shirt could be white t shirt for men or white cropped t shirt. A phrase match is the keyword in that exact phrase order and any other word. So, Superman t shirt can have a word before or after it (men’s white t shirt or white t shirt large), but not in between them.

In addition, research campaigns are good for finding longtail keywords. Longtail keywords generally convert better, as they are more specific than a simple, generic keyword. For example, a longtail keyword for white t shirt might be mens’ white t shirt pack of 6. This longtail keyword contains more specific terms, meaning the consumer is searching for something very specific. Usually, longtail keywords perform well because the consumer is closer to the point of purchase. (And, hopefully you have the Amazon Buy Box to get them even closer to purchasing.)

Performance

In performance campaigns, bids are optimized on the highest-performing search terms only: one isolated search term instead of a bucket of search terms. The keywords that are in performance campaigns have proven to have a high conversion rate.

Performance campaigns only contain exact match keywords. An exact match keyword is exactly that term, so your keyword Superman t shirt can only be Superman t shirt.

Performance campaigns are usually left empty at first, unless you have a solid idea of a specific exact keyword that performs well for your brand. However, in order to fully understand the scope of an account, auto campaigns are usually run first, and high-performing keywords are automatically filtered in later.

Benefits of Search Term Isolation

Search Term Isolation, then, allows you to manage bids of each individual search term, not buckets of keywords.

So not only are you only bidding on keywords that are profitable for you, but you’re also able to adjust the bids of each individual search term, maximizing profitability. You can set bids based on ACoS and profitability goals. This allows you to not only isolate profitable search terms, but also optimize those search terms to be the most profitable for you.

You might be trying to hit a target ACoS, which could be different for each keyword. Being able to adjust the bid on each individual keyword allows you to maximize your bids individually to avoid wasted spend, so you are more profitable overall. Or, you might be trying to reach a certain revenue goal, in which case ACoS might not be a priority for you — as long as you reach a certain revenue threshold from your ad sales.

Specific Search Term Isolation Strategies

Ranking

Implementing a ranking strategy is an ideal time to utilize the principles of Search Term Isolation. Because you can control the spend of individual keywords and monitor the success of them, you are able to more easily conquer the SERP of a specific keyword.

There are a variety of reasons you’d want to launch a ranking campaign. Most commonly, you would seek to do this if you are looking to assert your dominance in a space for a certain search term. (If you think you are ranking low because of negative reviews, learn how to remove negative reviews.)

For example, let’s say you’re a new running sock brand who wants to assert yourself as a leader in the space. You might target the keyword running sock and run Sponsored Product Ads for four different products as well as a Sponsored Brand ad, so your products completely take over the content that is above the fold on the search results page.

The goal of these campaigns is to make your brand name and products fully associated with the keyword. It’s often used for product launches, or as part of a larger strategy to jump start sales and gain reviews. This is an expensive strategy, so it should only be used for a specific amount of time in a specific circumstance.

Maintaining branded search coverage is a key part of most brands’ strategies on Amazon. For many brands, this is the bulk of their Amazon Advertising strategy in order to maintain their brand presence without spending a ton of money on the platform.

Search Term Isolation can still help in maintaining branded coverage, even though bids for these keywords are usually relatively low because competition is also low. In addition, ACoS is usually lower for branded search terms because those searching for your brand name are usually primed to buy, while the cost is relatively low in comparison.

Regardless, you can utilize the principles of Search Term Isolation to ensure your products appear at the top of the SERP and aren’t overtaken by competitors. Maintaining branded coverage is crucial to many brands’ strategies on Amazon, and Search Term Isolation will help you reach that goal, whether it’s your sole strategy or part of a larger one.

(A side note: you should invest in creating a Brand Store for your brand, especially if you want full coverage on Amazon.)

For many brands who are new to Amazon Advertising, non-branded search is unfounded territory — usually, brands just seek to maintain branded coverage without gaining new customers through other search terms on the platform.

However, non-branded search is essential to growing your Amazon business, and it should absolutely be supported by a Search Term Isolation strategy. Because you’re consolidating spend behind profitable keywords, you will be able to more easily put money behind profitable non-branded search terms, as well as branch out into new search terms you want to conquer.

When expanding to non-branded search terms, each keyword will have varying degrees of profitability. Search Term Isolation makes it possible to avoid wasted spend and make each keyword as profitable as it can be, while staying within your ACoS or revenue goals. Ideally, because you’ve used this bid management technique to optimize other areas of your business on Amazon, you have “extra” money from reducing wasted spend to invest in expanding your business through non-branded search.

Revenue Goal

When it comes to goals for Amazon, some businesses are solely concerned about revenue, regardless of budget. If you view Amazon as a separate revenue stream, not just covering your bases for your brand, you’ll likely seek to hit a specific target.

To scale your business, you need to have an advertising budget behind your Amazon account. Amazon is a pay-to-play platform, so you need to invest advertising in order to grow. To achieve higher revenue, you must put more budget behind an aggressive advertising strategy.

Search Term Isolation can help you achieve your revenue goals. Because you are avoiding wasting spend on unprofitable search terms, you will naturally be able to put more money behind terms that are going to actually make you money. Reaching your revenue goal is much easier with Search Term Isolation, even if you don’t have tons of extra capital to invest in advertising.

Many brands shy away from revenue-based goals because it requires additional capital investment on the advertising side. However, with Search Term Isolation, you are avoiding wasted ad spend, which gives you more money to spend on profitable ads.

ACoS Target

On the flip side, many brands want to hit a specific ACoS, or Average Cost of Sale, to determine the profitability of their ads. While revenue-based goals are preferable for some brands, many choose to instead determine the success of their campaign by monitoring ACoS.

Hitting an ACoS target is preferable for many brands, as it indicates the success of an advertising campaign. ACoS is calculated by dividing your ad spend by your ad revenue, so you can see a direct correlation between how much money you spent vs how much money you made.

If you’re looking to consistently reach a specific ACoS for your advertising campaigns, Search Term Isolation can help you reach that specific goal, whether you’re looking to lower your ACoS or maintain a specific target ACoS. By avoiding wasted spend and putting money behind profitable search terms, you’ll be able to maintain a more stable ACoS with a dedicated account manager who makes sure you’re hitting your target goals.

Additionally, you or your agency partner might come up with an ACoS target that will open up your budget and spend to allow you to scale. So, rather than choosing an ACoS based on just maintaining results, you might determine your target ACoS based on a primary metric or goal, and running an open budget when that ACoS is achieved.

How to Implement Search Term Isolation

Search Term Isolation requires a delicate balance between technology that automates processes and smart humans who manually make changes. The marriage between technology and humans is one that can’t be overlooked when it comes to this bid management system, especially if you have a large number of ASINs. Whether your account is simple or complex, whether you have just a few products or hundreds, whether you’re running 10 campaigns or 1,000 campaigns, Search Term Isolation can be implemented successfully across your account.

Powered by Technology

Technology automates the process of Search Term Isolation, making it easy to manage your entire catalog of product listings on Amazon.

When the auto campaign or the research campaign drives a sale for a specific phrase, our proprietary technology grabs the search term in these two campaigns, puts it in the performance campaign in exact match so it only targets that search term, and simultaneously negates it out of the original two campaigns, isolating it in this performance campaign.

While you could technically implement Search Term Isolation without any technology, the process would be very tedious and time consuming. Having to do this process manually requires a level of attention that is nearly impossible if you have more than a few product listings. Having technology that automates the process allows you to implement Search Term Isolation across your entire product catalog quickly and efficiently.

Managed by Humans

Although technology is crucial to effectively implementing Search Term Isolation, the most important component to this bid management technique is marketing-savvy humans who manage the account. Marketers are needed to manually adjust the bidding of certain keywords as necessary.

In addition, humans are needed to develop specific strategies based on the specific needs of the brand. Different strategies are needed to reach different goals. For example, conquesting a specific search term requires a different strategy than expanding into a non-branded search term which is different than owning a branded search term.

Without an Amazon Advertising specialist to manage the account, the automations could not achieve success on their own. While the system can manage itself to a certain extent, humans are essential to the sustained success of Search Term Isolation. From daily monitoring of the account to manual altering of search terms, dedicated marketers are the lynchpin to Search Term Isolation’s success.

Search Term Isolation on Amazon: An Example

Here is a simplified version of Search Term Isolation, summarizing all of the steps we’ve outlined above!

Let’s say your brand sells shampoo. You turn on an auto campaign, which bids on keywords such as shampoo, rose shampoo, shampoo for curly hair, and cruelty free shampoo. Each of these keywords have varying degrees of success for your brand.

The keyword shampoo is not profitable for you at all — big-name brands completely dominate the space with their large budgets for this high-volume keyword, and you just can’t compete. But with the auto campaign, it keeps running. A savvy Amazon advertiser would recognize this, and negate this search term from all campaigns, choosing to go after more profitable keywords.

Rose shampoo drives quite a few sales for your brand. If you have the technology like Blue Wheel, this keyword will be moved into the performance campaign as an exact match, and negated from the Auto and Research campaigns. Now, this keyword can do its best work!

But perhaps the keyword shampoo for curly hair doesn’t accurately describe your product, so consumers are confused about who your product is actually for. An Amazon advertising specialist would negate this keyword from all campaigns, and likely replace it with a keyword that accurately describes your product — maybe something like volumizing shampoo.

Of course, this is just a quick snapshot of what Search Term Isolation looks like in play. As we’ve stated before, this management technique is complex, especially if you have a large catalog of products. Managing your account requires a balance of powerful technology and talented humans.

Other Amazon Advertising Strategies

Many Amazon sellers who are none the wiser turn on Auto Campaigns and think their advertising efforts are done — after all, the name implies that the campaign runs itself! However, as we’ve previously discussed, Auto Campaigns have their limitations. These campaigns are effective at discovering new keywords, but they equally prioritize all keywords, regardless of how profitable they are.

Other sellers may decide to enlist a full-service agency to tackle their entire Amazon Advertising strategy. While these agencies certainly have their benefits for certain situations, there are marked limitations — and usually advertising is the first faulty characteristic. Many of these agencies will simply turn on an Auto Campaign and let it run, assuming that Amazon Advertising is a set-it-and-forget-it platform. In reality, it requires constant optimization and is essential to scaling your business.

Why Search Term Isolation is Critical in 2021

As Amazon continues to assert its dominance in the ecommerce space, Search Term Isolation will become even more important as more brands sell on the site and more shoppers flock to the site for all of their shopping needs.

In 2020, we saw how essential Amazon became, as people shifted to online shopping in the midst of the pandemic. Amazon continued to dominate the ecommerce industry, as people altered their shopping habits to be solely online. From groceries to toilet paper to beauty products, Amazon became a one-stop shop for regular shopping more so than it had been ever before. With the convenience and speed of Amazon Prime, shoppers now expect to be able to buy their essentials online.

As these trends increase in 2021, Search Term Isolation is going to become even more important for sellers. According to Seeking Alpha, the “advertising segment is turning into one of the strongest business areas for Amazon. The company has successfully broken the duopoly of Google and Facebook in the digital ad market. It is quite certain that Amazon will expand its current market share in the ad market as its growth is much higher than Google and Facebook. Amazon’s ad business is also the fastest-growing segment within the company, easily beating the growth rate of AWS, online sales, and the subscription segment.”

If your brand wants to scale your Amazon Advertising business, you need to implement Search Term Isolation in 2021. Not only is this strategy essential to reaching new customers, it’s also crucial for beating out the fierce competition, which will only get more intense as time goes on.

Who Can Do Search Term Isolation?

Blue Wheel: Powered by AI. Managed by People.

Blue Wheel is a new breed of agency. We combine our powerful AI technology with skilled Amazon experts to give brands the cutting edge in a competitive industry. The Amazon marketplace is more crowded than ever, and with every brand trying to get a leg up, you should entrust your Amazon advertising to the experts. Advertising is the key to growth on Amazon.

Whether you’re looking to lower ACOS, increase sales, or boost revenue, our Amazon team will develop a custom advertising plan to help you reach your goals.

What Makes Blue Wheel Different

Unlike other agencies, Blue Wheel is dedicated to Amazon Advertising. We don’t handle inventory, forecasting, or customer service, because we believe that advertising is the single most important piece of your Amazon growth strategy — and any full-service agency who offers other services on top of that are short changing you by not giving advertising their full attention or don’t have the same level of advertising expertise..

Our History

Our journey on Amazon actually began as sellers — we grew into a Top 8 Figure Seller on Amazon in less than 2 years, a feat that less than 1% of Amazon sellers reach. We knew we had cracked the code on something special. It wasn’t luck, and it wasn’t coincidence. We had discovered a way to use advertising as the primary means of growth, and it was profitable.

We pioneered the use of Search Term Isolation on a larger scale with other brands after we saw the success it had on our own brand on Amazon. After a few years, we developed our own proprietary technology that has allowed us to implement Search Term Isolation across all of our accounts. As we’ve grown our team of Amazon experts, we’ve been able to help more brands grow their companies on Amazon.

Now, as an official Amazon Advertising Partner, we’re offering our expertise to sellers across a variety of verticals, from beauty and hair care to apparel and supplements — and more!

Our Proprietary Technology

Let’s get into the weeds a little bit. Because if you’re trying to implement Search Term Isolation on your own, your head will start spinning. It’s totally possible, but at the same time it will be incredibly tedious and complex.

Working with a technology that can automate certain processes and give you the specific tools necessary to manage complex accounts allows you to scale Search Term Isolation as your business grows. So, even if you don’t think you need it now, because the principles of Search Term Isolation are so proven to help your brand grow, you will likely need the assistance of powerful technology to help implement it on a grander scale.

At Blue Wheel, we couldn’t find a technology that gave us the tools we needed to serve our clients best.

We tried to find a software that would give us the flexibility and customization we needed to manage complex accounts, but nothing quite fit the bill. Too many softwares entirely automate the process, giving no wiggle room to customize keywords and strategies. Yet other software options didn’t have any automation, so the process would have been entirely too tedious and complex, especially for accounts with a high number of ASINs.

So we created our own. Enter Companion.

We created this proprietary technology because we needed total control and customization in order to effectively manage Amazon accounts successfully.

With Companion, we’re able to harvest keywords and negative keywords in real time, giving our clients the competitive edge they need to succeed in a crowded marketplace. Our technology seamlessly handles the bidding of individual keywords, automatically negates keywords, and allows us to fully customize your account. Another key advantage of this technology is the ability to edit keywords in real time.

Our People

Perhaps the most impactful part of Blue Wheel is our people — the Amazon experts who are actually managing your account. Our team provides the human touch that is necessary to drive your business forward… because ad tech on its own is no replacement for Blue Wheel brainpower.

These Amazon Advertising specialists don’t just look at your account once a day and call it good. They are dedicated to strategically planning, implementing, and monitoring advertising campaigns for your account. While they rely on our proprietary technology to take care of the tasks that can be automated, they also diligently plan out strategies that will help your business reach their goals, whether you want to increase product visibility and ranking, lower ACoS, boost revenue, or test a new ad type, like Sponsored Brand Video Ads.

Without our people, Blue Wheel would just be another SaaS company that might help streamline some processes, but overall doesn’t contribute to any markable growth in your brand on Amazon. You’d be able to plug-and-play, but you’d likely not see much movement. A software alone can’t work to help you reach specific business objectives.

But with these experts on our team, Blue Wheel is truly a partner with your brand on Amazon. You’ll always work with real people who have a deep understanding of how Amazon works as well as your brand’s specific goals. As your industry changes, our team pivots their strategy. When your business has new goals, we adapt our strategies to align with yours. When Amazon releases an algorithm or policy change, our team is ready to address any possible changes at a moment’s notice. And, at the core of it all, is Search Term Isolation.

See how Search Term Isolation can help increase your sales and decrease your ACoS. Reach out for a no-cost Amazon audit today!

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