Definition: A negative keyword is a keyword that you don’t want your ad to show for.
Imagine that you are in charge of a night club. Right now you are letting people in the club based on the principle: First in line – first in. We all admire this as a fair principle.
The problem is, if too many party killers and people who don’t spend money gets in the club. Those nights you will not be earning money and your club will get a bad image from the people who didn’t got a great night out.
Other nights, you get the right mix of people in your club and makes the best party ever, everybody spent 3 times more than they planned.
On the slow nights you notice many non-charming girls/men and lots of people that like to spit in a coke all night.
If you could just sort the crowd, you would be able to earn many times, what you’re earning now. This is what negative keywords is all about.
In PPC you are able to do just that. Before we go into more details about how it is best done, all the best practices, strategies and the default negative keywords list that we made for you, we want to talk a little bit about the benefits.
Benefits of negative keywords
If you have an average Adwords account and you haven’t added negative keywords yet. Then the best thing you could do, to get great results, within the shortest time possible, is to add negative keywords. In other words, you can save around 50% of all costs in an Adwords account just by adding negative keywords. Because you will:
- Save cost on unprofitable clicks
- Improve CTR, quality score, conversion rate, conversion value, average position, customer satisfaction and market share etc.
- Decrease CPC, bounce rate and conversion cost etc.
- Get a higher search share for profitable keywords
- Leave the unprofitable keywords to your competitors (you can almost hear them say: Competition is getting tough)
- Concentrate on making content for the profitable keywords
When to add negative keywords
We add negative keywords in three steps. How many negative keywords you should add depend on your market situation. If you are a small fish in a large lake, you should add lots of negative keywords. If you are a big fish in a small pond, it is worth testing out if some of the keywords really should be added as negative.
You might find some of the keywords that seems less relevant, have less competition and therefore low CPC to make up for low conversion rate.
Sometimes information searches have a terrible conversions rate if you use a product landing page, but if you lead it through a page that answers the question and make them realise that they need your product, it can be a goldmine.
General negative keywords
Some keywords are just unprofitable for most advertisers. It is usually support request, job seekers and informations seekers in a non buying phase etc.
You should start by adding negative keywords from a general negative keyword lists. I have added some negative keyword lists in the bottom of this article. I add them to a general keyword list in the shared library. Then I only need to maintain them in one place. Some general negative keywords only apply to some specific campaign and then you can make several negative keyword lists in the shared library.
It is possible to have a negative keyword list for all of your Adwords accounts, but I find that each account have a different approach and therefore we always go through the keywords to make sure we don’t add negative keywords that will harm the account.
Keyword research isn’t just finding the good keywords, but also finding the negative keywords that you don’t want to have your ads shown for.
Remember to think for which level you want to add the negative keywords. Sometimes it is easier to overview the effect, if you add the negative keywords, at a Campaign/Ad group level, but it takes less maintenance to do it in the shared library.
Search terms and other maintenance
When you go through your search terms, you will not only get a great insight of what potential customers are searching for and are able to add many razor sharp targeting, but this is also a great source for negative keywords. You will also be able to see the number of irrelevant clicks fall as you add more negative keywords.
If you have been sloppy in your keyword research and not been focusing on adding negative keywords. You will see it when you go through the search terms and be able to correct it.
When we take over a client from a lazy adwords agency, we always start over to get something usable, but the negative keywords, we get from the search term is always a goldmine that insures we can start generating better results from day one.
The only problem with finding negative keywords from search terms is that you only get search terms from clicks and not impressions (unless you already have the keyword in your account). I know you only pay per click, but CTR have such a big effect on click prices, that you pay indirect for impressions. Therefore your ultimate goal would be not to be shown for irrelevant search queries.
How to add negative keywords in Adwords
You have three options: The browser version of Adwords, Adwords editors and 3. party tools with API access to Adwords.
Best practice: Use the tool you are working in if it can do the job. Avoid adding keywords one by one if you have many. You can usually do the work much faster, when using Adword Editor or a 3.part tool.
You can add the negative keywords on four levels:
Ad group: If you only want to influence one ad group.
Campaign: If you want to influence all the ad groups in the campaign.
Shared library: Here you can have lists, where you can add the campaigns you like to influence.
MCC: Here you can have lists for several accounts.
Best practice: Use the shared library as the default option, because maintaining it will take a lot longer in the Ad group/Campaign level. If a negative keyword only apply in one Ad group or Campaign it makes good sense to apply it there.
When I sort search terms or other ways to do keywords research, I usually apply the negative keywords in Ad group/Campaign level. After that, I go through the list and add negative keywords to the shared library.
For me it doesn’t make sense to add negative keywords in the MCC level, because if it is negative for one client, it could be the main keyword for another. It does make sense for advertisers that have several accounts within the same industry.
Negative match type
To complicate things even more, you need to decide which match type to add your negative keywords in:
Negative broad match: A broad negative keyword work like a modified broad keyword. All the words need to be in the search term, to be excluded.
Negative phrase match: Is the same as broad match, plus Google require the order to be like in the negative phrase match keyword. Use only when order of keywords is important.
Negative exact match: To be activated the search need to use the exact same keywords as you put in negative exact match.
Google don’t help with synonyms, singular or plural versions, misspellings etc. as they do in their positive counterparts.
Best practice: Use negative broad match unless you have a good reason to do otherwise.
Lists of negative words
I usually go through through these lists, when I get a new account. All relevant negative keywords goes in the shared library. You can also go through the negative keywords from a similar client.
Job Seekers: I have seen a 20% drop in cost by just adding these keywords.
Information seekers: You usually need a special content strategy to convert them.
Researchers: Might become super users of your website, but will not buy much.
Education: Do you provide that?
Bargain hunters: It is difficult, because it is a strong buying signal, but if you are not winning the price battle, because you are a premium provider, you might add these keywords. If you are not 100% sure, I would test them out to make sure.
Price: Is usually some of the best keywords, because it is a strong buying signal. Only add them if you are selling product and service where the customers can’t afford them if they have to ask for the price.
DIY: Do you sell to people who are looking for inspiration to their next do-it-yourself-project?
do it yourself
Software: If you don’t use any of these keywords to get people in
Manufacture: You might start with this list.
Products materials: If you are not selling product of these materials.
Law: Do you want people interested in legislation and regulations to click on your ad?