It’s pretty alarming to check on your Amazon ad campaigns and find that the keywords you think should be driving your business are doing nothing for you — or even worse, wasting your ad spend.

The question is: why did your best Amazon keywords stop working?

There isn’t one easy answer. Amazon is complex, but there are four key areas that can help address your performance issues. 

If the keywords you expect to pull in clicks and conversions aren’t getting you there, we suggest running through these four possible explanations to see whether one – or more! – of them gives you the key to unlocking your problem and getting your ads running right again.

1. It turns out those aren’t your best keywords

Apologies in advance if this one is difficult to stomach, but a frequent reason for the “best” or “top” keywords not performing as expected is that they’re not actually either best or top. 

We have a lot of empathy for this situation. You know your product inside and out. If you’ve sold it on other platforms you know what’s worked there. You for sure know how you’d search for the product if you wanted to find it. That’s all true. But there’s more.

Taking a step back can be helpful here. What sellers think of as their best keywords often turn out to be the ones they feel attached to or believe should work well based on their understanding of the product. However, how the product fits into the Amazon ecosystem and how shoppers want to find it can be quite different from what you expect.

Jacob Buchbinder, Ecommerce Analyst here at Teikametrics, is all too familiar with this situation. He says, “I’ve had this conversation many times with different clients over the years.” His advice to those clients is clear, “You have to let the bad keywords free, instead of holding onto them and dragging down performance.” 

This is why we always advise doing the research and identifying the best keywords based on actual data. We built our keyword bidder with this principle in mind. It identifies keywords that are producing conversions at higher volumes and higher click-to-conversion rates, and automatically moves those terms from auto campaigns to manual campaigns so you can more effectively capitalize on that activity. It also surfaces high-performing keywords that you can add to your PDP to increase relevance.

While it can be helpful to test out keywords based on your expertise about the product or what keywords have worked in other settings, the operative word here is test. Put them into a campaign, see how they perform, keep the ones that are proven, and pause the ones that waste your spend.

2. Your best keywords aren’t working because something about your product has changed

Maybe you have a very good grasp of the data on your keywords and know exactly which ones have historically driven impressions, clicks, and conversions. If that’s the case, and you see the performance of those keywords drop off, the problem could be that while the keywords haven’t changed, the product has.

Amazon’s algorithm matches products to search terms based on several factors that relate to the estimated likelihood that the shopper will be delighted to discover your product, and ultimately convert. 

  • If you’ve made changes to the content of your listing then your keyword strategy needs to adjust. Make sure that keywords in your listing, backend and ad campaigns are aligned. 
  • If you’ve had any other changes to your product’s listing on Amazon – a bunch of bad reviews, trouble with keeping inventory in stock, etc – then the performance of your keywords is going to be impacted. Jacob says, “I’ve seen bad reviews compound the issue when you’re used to bidding on high volume search terms and then Amazon stops serving your product and your traffic and CPCs deteriorate.”
  • If the frequency with which you’re winning the Buy Box has dropped, that’s going to affect your keyword performance. Remember that Amazon won’t serve ads if you’re not winning the Buy Box,  and if Amazon won’t serve ads for your product at all, it doesn’t matter much if you have the right keywords.

So, make sure the issue isn’t with your product listing or ability to fulfill orders. These are things you’ll need to address first to encourage conversions.

3. They were your best keywords but now they’re someone else’s

If it’s not you or your product that is changing, maybe the changes reside within your competition. 

A great thing about Amazon is that the gate is wide open for entrepreneurs and smaller businesses to have an opportunity to grow on the marketplace. But that same “open” dynamic means your competition and ankle-biters can readily wreak havoc on your ad performance and your sales.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that other sellers will do their research and try to move in on the keywords that are proven to bring results. If new competition is going after your good keywords, or even just increasing their willingness to spend on those keywords, you may have to fight harder for that air time. And if your margins are thinner than the competition’s, those keywords could cease to be worthwhile to advertise against. 

There are a few things you can do to proactively handle these changes in the competitive landscape. One is to, again, rely on performance data to make decisions, and frequently assess the data to inform ongoing changes. An automated bidder that can analyze performance and adjust accordingly can save you time and money. 

Also, consider working competitive analyses into your workflow. Understanding the changes with your competition can help you to make sense of the changing performance of critical keywords. Market Intelligence for Flywheel 2.0 (currently available for managed services clients only) allows you to track the performance of keywords over time and to see exactly what brands and products are winning those keywords, so you can decide what to do about them.

4. They were your best keywords but shoppers are looking for something else

Another thing that can change the marketplace besides the competition is the evolving needs and interests of your audience. Many factors can influence these shifts. 

Seasonal variations may mean that your product is in more demand at certain times of year than others, so you’ll simply see higher volume on your search terms during those periods. Or shoppers may think about your products in different ways at different times. They may well have searched for “school supplies” in August to find your glitter pencils, but in December that search term isn’t likely to be used much when shoppers are looking for stocking stuffers, even though the same product could fill that need.

Changes in culture and internet trends can also be factors. The words that are commonly used, the way that people think about how they interact with food or clothes, and what’s trending on TikTok, are all examples of potential influences on how keywords perform. 

One way to keep a pulse on this is to notice the ways that customers talk about your product in their reviews. They may describe use cases you hadn’t thought of, or use words you haven’t tried. You can use that research to inform keywords to test. Not to belabor the point, but the suggestion here is to test those keywords, examine the results of the test, and make decisions based on those results.

Another way to understand how shoppers are changing is to run auto campaigns and analyze the search term report. Teikametrics Flywheel does this analysis for you and surfaces new, high-performing keywords discovered in auto campaigns that you can move into manual campaigns to more effectively bid on them.


Hopefully, one of these four explanations addresses your situation and gives you the insights you need to course correct. 

Jacob suggests adjusting how you think about keyword performance. He says, “Instead of thinking of the situation as my best keywords stopped performing, it might help to think of it as my opportunities are changing.” 

There’s a theme running through all these answers, and that theme is that human expertise drives the greatest success on Amazon when it’s paired with research, data-backed optimization, and AI to keep this process continuous.

Teikametrics can help with AI-based, ad optimization software that analyzes and adapts to your performance data and finds you new keywords that work with your products.