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Sculpting Traffic with Negative Keywords

What are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are filtering words and phrases that protect your ad from being displayed on irrelevant search results. This will in turn increase relevance and quality score and ultimately, your ROI by increasing your conversion rates and lowering your cost per conversion. If your conversion rate is poor, the first thing you should do is to analyze your search query report. If you find phrase and broad matched keywords that have no relevance to the products or services you actually offer, turn them into negative keywords to prevent your ad from showing on searches for those keywords that are adversely affecting your quality score.

Negative keywords are extremely important. They are just as important, if not more important than positive keywords. They should be given just as much attention and just as much time as your positive keywords when developing your account. In fact, a well-managed AdWords account will usually have more negative keywords than positive keywords.

Positive keywords bring you traffic, whereas negative keywords filters it for you so that only the searchers who are truly looking for what you are selling ever get to see your ad. A comprehensive list of negative keywords increases the quality of your traffic and improves your CTR and conversion rate significantly. This makes negative keyword the most important match type of all, because they help to filter out irrelevant traffic that you don’t want your ads to show up for. The negative match type is signified by the – sign; e.g. -keyword.

Consider the following scenario: let’s assume you sell greeting cards online and want to use the broad matched search term greeting cards as one of your keywords in your ad groups. Using exact or phrase match may be too restrictive in this case, and you may want to use broad match to discover as many relevant keywords as possible. However, the problem is, this is a highly competitive search term, and occurs in many different contexts. To avoid your ad showing up for all sorts of irrelevant searches, it is imperative that you protect your ad with negative keywords.

If you don’t use negative keywords to protect your campaign, your ads could show for irrelevant searches for anything related to “greeting” and “cards”, including phone cards, playing cards, deck of cards, tarot cards, calling cards, poker etc. This will adversely affect your CTR and ultimately your quality score because your ad would be showing for searches from people who are not looking for products you are advertising.

Negative keywords can be placed at the ad group level or the campaign level, and they will be applied to all keywords within the campaign or ad group they are applied to. If you have certain keywords that will always be bad for you, you can use negative keyword lists which can be placed at the account level and applied across multiple campaigns.

To solve the “greeting card” problem, you can create a negative keyword list that you apply to multiple campaigns to exclude our ad from ever showing up for things like calling cards, phone cards, tarot cards, card deck, playing cards and anything not specifically related to greeting cards. Since you have now chosen to prevent your ad from showing up for irrelevant search queries, the searches your ad is shown for should be more relevant and thus your ads gain a higher click-through rate. Your clicks should be of higher quality and ultimately, lower your overall cost per conversion.

If you are not getting a better click-through rate after adding negative keywords, re-check your negative keyword list to see if you added negative keywords that stopped your ads from showing on keyword searches that were previously driving sales. For example, it is obvious for someone using negative keywords to automatically add the word “free” to the list. However, note that a search for “desktop pc with free shipping” would not trigger your ad if you used the negative broad match keyword: -free. The problem here is you are using the broad match keyword free, as a negative keyword. In this situation, you should be using the actual exact match search term you are trying to exclude as a negative keyword, rather than making the broad matched term free, a negative keyword. Negative exact match keywords look like this: -[free computer], -[free software] and -[free desktop computer]. This will exclude those search term only. So your ad will still show for other keywords that contain the term free.

Brainstorming Negative Keywords
A comprehensive list of negative keywords increases the quality of your traffic and improves your CTR and conversion rate significantly. To find negative keywords for your niche, follow the tips below:

Who isn’t your customer?
Consider other searches that may be triggered by your broad-match keywords. E.g. if you sell computer accessories but do not sell computers, it is obvious that you’ll want to add words like desktops, computers, pc, tablets or laptops to your negative keyword list to prevent searches from people looking for those items.

The Search Query Report
Run the search query report to build your negative keyword list: The search query report shows you the exact keyword phrases that got searchers to your website. This is the same report that you get from the “matched search query dimensions” in Google Analytics. If you’re bidding on “computer accessories” as broad match, and this report shows you that one of the visitors to your site triggered that keyword match by typing “buy cheap computer”, you will want to mark “buy cheap computer” as a negative exact match keyword so that your ad doesn’t keep showing up for such irrelevant queries. You cannot add a negative keyword like “computer” because that would affect searches for words like computer accessories.

Google Suggest

Do a Google search on your target keywords. For example, the keyword “blue suede shoes” will bring up a wide range of concepts, and you can find those that are unrelated to your target market from Google Suggest. You can also see other businesses that use your keywords in very different ways that are completely irrelevant to you or your business.

The AdWords Keyword Planner Tool:
With Keyword Planner you can also weed out all irrelevant keywords. Here is how to:

  • Use the Include/Exclude widget on the left-hand side.
  • Keep only keywords that meet your requirements; – Filter out the keywords that are a poor match for your biz; – Exclude negative keywords from your list.
  • After you exclude all irrelevant keywords, you can export the list in a CSV file.

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