How to Use Negative Keywords to Conserve Your PPC Budget

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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When aiming to optimize PPC marketing efforts, it is important to test different versions of copy, images, offers and to ensure that landing pages are properly optimized for conversions.

However, the most crucial aspect of PPC refinement is determining which keywords are most profitable and apt for building highly-relevant ad groups. By zeroing in on the most profitable keywords for a campaign, retailers can reach those who are actively seeking products that are sold in the merchant’s store.

But, while figuring out the right keywords is essential to success, establishing the wrong keywords is equally as impactful as there are many terms that can eat through an advertiser’s budget while never driving a single conversion.

Negative keywords are a critical component to optimizing PPC efforts by cultivating the most relevant traffic, increased click-throughs and bolstering the number of sales generated via the adverts.

web traffic on laptop screen

Retailers that seek to produce the most targeted PPC campaigns must master negative match type implementation.

Here is your guide to achieving that goal.

Negative Keywords Defined

Negative keywords are a match type that enables advertisers to set established parameters that prevent ads from surfacing for specific keywords and phrases.

This refinement option helps marketers to improve their keyword strategies and to increase the relevancy of ads, thereby improving the return on ad spend (ROAS) merchants can potentially produce. By eliminating poor-performing keywords that are present in irrelevant search queries, negative keywords assist advertisers in reaching the audiences that are most likely to convert.

Much like standard keywords, negative keywords can be assigned at the account, campaign or group level. Moreover, there are three negative keyword match types:

negative keywords defined

Negative Broad Match

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Much like the standard broad match category, negative broad match prevents ads from surfacing for searches that contain targeted keywords anywhere in the query. The order of the words matters not.

Additionally, negative broad match is the default setting; therefore, advertisers should be mindful not to accidentally include all their negative keywords in this category.

Negative Phrase Match

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Negative phrase match halts ads that would otherwise display for queries that include the targeted keyword in the exact order that it is entered by retailers.

For instance, if the negative keyword “wireless headphones” is entered, the ad will still surface for the query “wireless black headphones” as the phrase is interrupted by the word “black.”

Negative Exact Match

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Negative exact match is the most stringent category as it dictates that ads will only be stopped if a searcher enters in the negative keyword exactly as it is targeted. If there are any extra words anywhere in the phrase, under this paradigm, the ad will still surface.

While the addition of these keywords may seem to complexify a marketer’s strategy and keyword research for PPC campaign efforts, there are some significant benefits that accompany negative keywords.

team brainstorming online concepts

Benefits of Negative Keywords

There are various rewards merchants can reap from taking the time to implement a negative keyword list properly.

Firstly, negative keywords can improve a campaign’s CTR by eliminating irrelevant queries that surface ads to consumers who have no interest in the offered goods. Therefore, the utilization of negative keywords helps to generate more relevant ad groups that are increasingly capable of garnering clicks and conversions.

Moreover, negative keywords help to maximize advertising budgets by cutting down on the number of clicks from consumers who aren’t actually interested in what a retailer offers. Additionally, by using this match type effectively, advertisers can dodge the common pitfall of keyword cannibalization that happens when a search query matches more than one keyword, resulting in the keywords competing with one another, thereby saving even more money.

To gain these PPC benefits, merchants must understand how to mine for irrelevant queries and create a negative keyword list.

Mining for Negative Keywords

Campaigns that are utilizing broad and phrase match keywords as a means of generating volume must analyze search queries to better understand which are unjustly sucking up a brand’s budget.

To identify the right negative keywords, merchants should dig through their search query reports in Google Ads. While this task will undoubtedly take some time, it is worth the effort.

google ad search query quoteWhen analyzing these reports, retailers should evaluate queries and determine if they should become negative keywords by assessing their:

  • Click-through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Cost per conversion

If a search query shows a below-average CTR, this indicates that users who see the ad aren’t clicking through. This lack of performance could be because the query has nothing to do with what a brand offers. If this is the case, it should become a negative keyword. However, if the query is relevant and drives volume, consider building a new ad group to target this search.

On the other hand, if a search query presents a below-average conversion rate or a high cost per conversion, this is potentially the result of under-optimized landing pages that don’t properly direct users to convert. Therefore, merchants should analyze their site’s pathways to conversion from the landing pages utilized. Yet, no matter the reason, if terms are failing to convert, they should most likely become negative keywords.

To obtain these answers, merchants should become familiar with the filters the Google Ads interface has to offer. Start by heading to the “Search Terms” under the “Keywords” tab and click the small funnel. Doing this will enable business owners to enter or select the filters they would like to apply. Each filter will require users to establish the appropriate parameters by using greater than, less than or equal to definitions for each field.

With the parameters set and the correct columns enabled, retailers will be capable of identifying search queries to use as negative keywords based on the framework outlined above.

From here, merchants can create their negative keyword lists.

How to Create a Negative Keyword List

Every PPC campaign capable of reaching a relatively broad audience of qualified consumers must leverage a mixture of broad, phrase and exact match keywords to produce enough volume to identify potential new terms to target. However, in doing so, retailers are likely to compete against themselves when running more than one campaign. The only way to remedy this situation is to implement negative keyword lists.

Merchants should take the time to brainstorm potential negative keywords to implement as well as dig through their search query reports in Google Ads (as described above) to uncover keywords and phrases that are dragging their efforts down.

After doing so, create a negative keyword list in the Google Ads interface and click the “Tools” icon at the top right of the screen. Under “Shared Library” select “Negative keyword lists.”

Click the blue “+” icon, name the list and begin adding the negative keywords and terms. After creating a negative keyword list, add it to any existing campaigns by simply checking the box next to the appropriate list, click the “Apply to campaigns” button that appears, choose the correct campaign and click “Apply.”

If advertisers seek even greater control of their negative keywords, they can also be applied to specific ad groups.

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By learning to uncover and implement negative keywords effectively, eCommerce retailers can produce increasingly relevant adverts that reach audiences who are not only interested but ready to buy.

In addition to increasing PPC conversions, retailers can minimize the number of irrelevant impressions and clicks generated by their campaigns, thereby optimizing their advertising budgets and producing a higher return on investment for their efforts. For help with increasing your conversions and ROI, contact our PPC experts at Visiture.

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