Ad Group Negatives

Improve PPC Performance With Negative Keywords

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If you’re using anything else other than pure exact matches, arguably the most important match type in your campaign is the negative keyword.

By constantly improving the negative keyword list, you can dramatically improve the targeting. An exhaustive negative keyword list is key to improve both CTR and CR, and ultimately campaign success.

There are two main uses of negative keywords:

1) To avoid showing for irrelevant keywords full stop (campaign level).

2) To increase control of which keywords are being triggered (ad group level). This is particularly useful when using multiple match types.

Ad Group Negatives

My process for negative keyword sourcing:

1. Apply industry standard lists on the campaign level.

These should be self-produced, and consist of keywords that you will never want to show against. For example, for software clients with a sales objective, you might have a standard list with words such as “jobs,” “torrent,” “hack,” etc. These lists should not be too exhaustive as it poses a risk of excluding pertinent searches by mistake.

2.  Brainstorm additional negative keywords for the specific campaign.

Think long and hard about if you want to show against words such as “free” if your product costs money. This is a tricky one. In the case of software, if your price point is very good, you might be able to entice people to go for a trusted brand instead of freeware. For example, for a past client, one of the top-converting phrases contained the word free; whenever the client did a 50% discount drive, the conversion rate of this phrase shot through the roof.

3.  Add any obvious irrelevant keywords that are found through the keyword research.

If you plan to use broad match keywords in the campaign, also add irrelevant synonyms to avoid them triggering ads.

4.  On the ad group level, add negative phrase and exact matches (embedded) as required, to avoid broad matches to trigger where there is an exact match in another ad group.

5.  Constantly add negative keywords as sourced from search query reports (e.g., keywords that are irrelevant, or don’t convert).

What’s your process and tools for sourcing negative keywords?

About the Author

Magnus Nilsson is Managing Director at RED Performance, an Oslo-based agency that helps clients increase their online marketing results.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Magnus, thanks for a great article. Negative Keywords can save you a lot of money, or if you are willing to keep your PPC spend the same, can make you a lot of money! Defining negative keywords can be a long, slow arduous task. Either by guesswork or by trawling through loads of enquiry data, most businesses just do not have the time to search for irrelevant keywords and simply end up with a few negative words in their campaigns. We’ve personally fallen foul of not implementing negative keywords which is why we built a great solution to automate the whole negative keyword process. You can check it out at KeywordTerminator.com and also pick up our Free White Paper, Be Positive – Go Negative. Cheers, Steve

  2. You might have not intended to do so, but I think you've managed to express the state of mind that lots of people are in. The sense of wanting to help, but not knowing how or wherever, is something a lot of us are going via.

  3. I personally go into Negatives so deep, that eventually I find myself looking at 1000's of lines of log files. =P Tedious, but effective in the long run on big budgets.