How to Use Negative Keywords Positively

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

When it comes to running a successful PPC campaign, negative keywords can have a major impact. Here we look at how you can use extensive lists of negative keywords to yield the best possible ROI.

If you’re putting together a killer PPC campaign, you need to know that your keywords are getting conversions and that your ads are being seen by the right audience. When a searcher clicks on a misfired ad that appears on the results page, the advertiser pays.

For this reason, a well-maintained list of negative keywords represents one of the most potent weapons in your arsenal when building an effective PPC campaign strategy.

Save Money by Weeding Out the Undesirables

Negative keywords are the search terms that you don’t want pulling up your ads. For example, if you are a furniture retailer selling the Charles Eames DSR chair you don’t want your ads to be shown if someone is searching for a new DSR wifi router.

Implementing extensively tailored lists of negative keywords is an effective method of making sure you aren’t unwittingly spending money on groups of users with a low click-through rate or generate low value traffic to your website (i.e. those who aren’t interested in spending money on what your ad has to offer).

Though easy to overlook, negative keywords can be critical in identifying your target market.

Ideally, you should have a good negative keyword strategy in place before launching a new campaign and regularly audit your campaigns and new negative ad keywords. Filtering out the useless clicks and impressions can have a positive effect on your Quality Score, your ROI, and your overall success in PPC advertising.

In an interview with Search Engine Land, Epiar’s Ken Jurina explains that advertisers that employ extensive and well researched lists of negative keywords have the chance to help businesses save between 5% and 40% on PPC spend.

Tracking Down Negative Keywords

You can take several highly effective steps to help identify and build lists of negative keywords. The bigger the lists, the stronger your campaign will be.

Google Analytics offers a primary source of information on useless keywords. By sorting keywords according to bounce rate, the site shows advertisers exactly which keywords regularly fail to convert. Your first step should be to download and interpret the Search Query Reports (SQR) relating to your various AdWords campaigns.

These reports allow you to review the irrelevant search queries triggering your ads and will help you develop organised negative keyword lists. You might even come across entire classes of negatives you’ve previously missed.

Keep an eye on Google Trends and Twitter Trends for prominent new phrases. For example, if your ad relates to a fine dining restaurant at a popular hotel, you don’t necessarily want it to appear on the results page for searches on celebrity gossip.

Google tends not to display ads closely related to trending topics, but you’re better off expanding your list of negative keywords than depending on Google algorithms.

A word of warning: when reviewing negative keywords lists compiled by others, remember that one size does not fit all. Try not to copy and paste negative keywords lists compiled by your competitors and don’t disregard keywords just because someone else has.

Decisions relating to negative keywords must be based on your own marketing goals, strategy, and budget.

Your ads are unique and should be treated as such. The same goes for individual campaigns. Creating generic lists to be used throughout your portfolio is a good idea so long as you bear in mind that not all negative keywords may be appropriate for every campaign.

Competitive Intelligence Tools like Adthena provide crucial insight into your competitors’ keywords. As David Kidder writes in his Clickable Guru’s Guide, “While these reports are typically used to generate new ideas and overlooked keywords, they can also be a useful source for bolstering your negative keywords list.”

These tools are vital in understanding which keywords you should avoid. If a keyword or phrase is shown to be performing badly for a competitor, highlighting it as a negative keyword will help you to cultivate an advantage.

Negative keywords help keep a campaign focused and eliminate an unnecessary waste of both time and money. As you work to maintain your campaign, endeavour to refine your audience through extensive lists of negative keywords. Attract the right crowd, and you won’t end up blowing the budget on poor click-through rates.

(Main image credit: Jessica Paterson/flickr)

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. He has been involved in technology businesses and start-ups for over 22 years and has built businesses across the globe including in Silicon Valley, London, Australia and Taiwan. Ian has grown Adthena since 2012 to its current position as the premier global provider of competitive intelligence. Ian likes to foster a culture of great products, getting things done, responsibility, freedom and continuous improvement.