Whether you’re a newcomer to Google Ads or have been running PPC campaigns since Google launched the platform in 2000, you’ve probably given a great deal of thought to which keywords will result in more clicks and higher conversions.
However, fewer businesses devote as much time and energy to building a negative keyword list, despite the crucial role that negative keywords play in maximizing the ROI of a Google Ads campaign. In fact, research shows that almost half of advertisers don’t add a single negative keyword to their accounts over the course of a month. Simply put, they’re missing out on chances to maximize the effectiveness of their PPC spend, because negative keyword strategies often wear overalls and look a lot like work.
But what are negative keywords? They are an advertising filter tool that enables advertisers to ensure ads are not displayed to users who use particular words or phrases. Negative keywords help e-commerce merchants reach users with higher intent, resulting in higher marketing ROI.
The primary goal of contextual advertising is presenting useful, relevant ads to people when they’re searching for a given term. This is usually done by understanding the intent of the search and finding relevant ads – for example, someone who searches the phrase “buy succulents online” is likely looking for an online store to purchase a computer.
However, some keywords convey a lack of intent that is likely to produce negative ROI. Negative keywords offer a way to exclude advertisements from being shown for certain searches. This is particularly useful for campaigns that offer either broad matching or phrase matching.
Here are 2 examples of how it can work in practice:
#1: It’s not free
Leather Handbags, LLC, is an online store that focuses on upscale leather bags for women, constructed by hand and customized for each order. However, they’re aware that their market is one where people are often looking for free or low-cost pieces of accessories (especially young girls who don’t have stable financial income or it isn’t high).
These “non-buyers” are a sizable part of the group of people looking for bags, and if the company’s advertisements went to every search with the phrase “leather handbags,” they’d be showing a lot of ads to people who searched “free leather handbag” and “used leather handbag.”
Negative keywords allow this e-commerce store to exclude themselves from searches with either of those terms, helping them focus on searchers who are looking for new handbags.
#2: Different products
Online Computer Sellers offers a variety of desktops, laptops, and tablets for purchase. Unfortunately, their advertisements are often crossing over so that people who are searching for one type of machine are being shown ads for another type – and very few people will make that kind of change.
For this company, negative keywords can help them ensure that the right type of ad is shown to each searcher (desktop computer ads to those searching for desktops, laptop ads to those searching for laptops, etc.). The better an ad matches what a customer is actually looking for, the more likely they are to click on it.
How to find negative keywords in the Search Terms Report? It’s not very complicated.
The Search Terms Report shows you the actual search queries that people typed into Google to trigger your ads. Once you have a firm grasp on the types of search queries that triggered your ad, you can begin to put together lists of both positive and negative keywords. This method can yield some solid results.
For example, you can sort results of the Search Terms Report by the highest number of impressions, which provides you with a list of the most popular search queries that trigger your ads. This data can then be further refined to show which terms have higher click-through and conversion rates. Even terms you assumed may work in your favor might not be performing as well as you thought they would. If this is the case, you should consider adding them to your list of negative keywords – even if they might appear to be closely related to your business or product.
Some people are happy enough to make this the first and only stage of their negative keyword strategy, but not you. But what else can you do?
Bidding on the best keywords in your space is only half the battle. Your success also relies upon having a sophisticated set of negative keywords that are continuously expanding and being refined based on real data. Google often does a tremendous job of sifting through millions of ads to serve the right one to a given searcher at the right time – but there is plenty of incentive for mistakes and “stretching relevance.”
The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen to you and doesn’t spend your hard-earned coin is to build negative keywords meticulously.