Negative Keywords – How & Why To Use Them

What the Heck is a Negative Keyword?!

Great question! I’m so happy you asked! (tongue in cheek) A negative keyword is unique to Paid Search/PPC/Pay-Per-Click/SEM/CPC – whatever you prefer to term this crazy subgenre of digital marketing. A negative keyword is a word or phrase that is used to prevent an ad from being triggered by potential queries that are less likely to convert. The implementation of negative keywords further compliments your specific targeting efforts and eliminates much of the irrelevant behind-the-scenes queries from showing your brand’s paid advertisements.

How to Discover Negative Keywords

Whether you are using Google Ads, Bing Ads or both as your preferred advertising platform, you can unearth oodles and oodles of negative keywords by heading to the search terms. You can navigate within the Google Ads’ interface by clicking on the Keyword menu item on the left-hand side and then head to the “Search Terms” tab (3rd tab, right below the black heading bar.) In Bing Ads, it is the 7th menu item in the grey bar, at eye-level on your monitor, when on a desktop computer, of course.

Now, we’ve arrived at the respective search terms report section. Chef’s choice, but you can choose to view this report across all campaigns, in an individual campaign, or even a specific ad group. You will likely want to select a wider date range,to utilize more historical data  in order to make more informed decisions and be as effective as possible in your negative keyword-ing endeavors. Pro tip: I highly recommend adding a column to your view to see the search terms alongside the keywords which triggered them.

Initially, some queries should stick out at you. These will be your top candidates for negative keywords. In the industrial B2B sector, commonly seen queries are “dimensions”, “requirements”, “specifications”, etc. More often than not, those are further from a purchase than desired.

As you start to document your negative keyword candidates, keep in mind that each platform has predetermined limits set in place. Google only parses 10 words per query. Therefore, you will simply not be able to add negative keywords longer than 10 words. This limitation is likely to become critical as the quantity of voice searches continues to climb.

Negative Keyword Lists FTW

As advertisers, we obviously want to positively affect profitability as much as possible. By ignoring negative keywords and only focusing on your targeted keywords (sometimes way too broad at that,) your grip on that objective loosens.

When adding negative keywords, you can choose to do them one at a time, or:

  • Create separate negative keyword lists.
  • Share your negative keywords across several add groups, campaigns or accounts.
  • Use the Google Ads Editor and copy and paste them from one ad group or campaign into one or more other campaigns or ad groups.

There are, however, limitations even when using lists. Google Ads limits you to 2,500 keywords per list, while Bing Ads maintains a 5,000 negative keyword limitation. There are numerous advantages associated with the use of keyword lists. Chiefly, it’s the flexibility of being able to share them without having to go into each individual ad group or campaign and having to apply them over and over again.

To Google We Will Go

When starting this process it is important to come equipped with a brief list of your key terms near and dear to your client’s campaign – 6 to 10 target keywords may be a good start. Next, perform a search utilizing one of those keywords. Be sure to check out both the ads and the organic results appearing on the SERP after it loads. There is a large possibility that not all ads are going after exactly the same thing. If that is the case, it is important to establish exactly where you fit in. If what you are advertising for is either more specific than what you are seeing or totally unrelated, then remedy it. Simply adding “residential,” for example, as a negative may make all of the difference if your service is aimed commercially at businesses. Pay attention to organic listings too because precious negative gems can be mined by really understanding the pool in which you are placing your paid ads.

Might I Suggest Google Suggest?

To begin, type another search into Google. You should see the suggestions (aka Google Suggest) appear after each keystroke. If you advertise for an air compressor which you only sell new then you may see people searching for “air compressor rentals” or “air compressor reviews.” If so, then it may be wise to add them to your negative keyword arsenal.

Conserve Your Ad Money. Don’t Burn It.

The ultimate benefit of implementing negative keywords to any PPC strategy is that you spend less money where it simply doesn’t make sense to spend it. As you can imagine, with all keywords there are myriad of queries which can trigger your ad to show. Many of these queries are unlikely to turn into sales. Using negative keywords allows you to filter out a large percentage of these non-optimal queries. It is our job to keep that at bay and find ways beyond scheduling, location targeting & exclusion, device targeting and bid adjustments, just to name a few. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally nominate negative keywords to be a part of your paid search strategy.

Contact Ecreativeworks For More Paid Search Info & Insight

For more paid search insight, to have an audit performed on your Pay-Per-Click account or if you have questions about negative keywords and the approach behind it, feel free to reach out to Ecreativeworks. We have a staff of knowledgeable, highly-experienced and enthusiastic search engine marketers willing to help you gain control of or get started on your paid search management and strategy, today!

Written by: Nick Meyer, Paid Search Specialist, Ecreativeworks

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