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Negative Keywords Can Be Profitable for PPC Campaigns

When you are spending money on pay-per-click (PPC) accounts and relying on their profitability, you need to use every tool available to you to enhance and improve your (ROI) for each paid click. You should count on your competitors doing that.

When building and tweaking your keyword list for your PPC campaigns, your first impulse might be to think of any and all possibilities that people will be searching for your specific product or service. But if you’re running a paid search campaign, you’re interested in buyers or subscribers, you’re not Negative Keywords Improve Performance of Paid Search interested in browsers or “tire kickers” – people who are only their to shop and aren’t really interested in actually buying or subscribing.

Undoubtedly, the most relevant keywords can attract the attention and the sales that you’re looking for, but if you really want to be effective, you need to start investing more time in building out your negative keyword list to filter out all those keywords and phrases so commonly used by those browsers and those tire kickers. Negative keywords built into your campaign will filter out and prevent your ads from displaying any time those particular terms are used in the query. Negative keywords have multiple benefits in a PPC campaign:

  • Eliminating wasteful clicks, reducing your overall ad spend
  • Increase the relevance of your existing ads
  • Increasing your CTR
  • Improving the quality score of your ads
  • Lowering your CPC costs

Using a hypothetical, let’s say you’re in the business of selling lamps. You’ve run your campaign for a few weeks and you’ve seen that the broadly matched keyword lamp has been converting into sales but curiously has generated a negative ROI overall. A broadly matched keyword is a keyword with a “match type” that would display your ad as long as the word lamp was anywhere in the query, no matter what other keywords were in that particular search term.

So if someone typed in a search for just the keyword lamp, your ad would be displayed. If a person typed in a search for “incandescent lamp problems”, your ad would also be displayed because it matches broadly for the word lamp. In order to maximize the performance of your campaign, you should utilize negative keywords as much as possible to prevent ad displays that will most likely not convert into sales. The proper use of negative keywords will improve your ROI by filtering out very specific keywords that indicates their predisposition as non-buying consumers.

Let’s look at some ways to build and expand your negative keyword ideas that can help to improve the ROI of your PPC campaigns:

  • If you are using an analytics program, you can visit the log that provides a summary of all of the keyword queries.  Make sure you check as many keywords as possible, focusing on the specific keyword combinations that are irrelevant or counterproductive to your primary objective for the campaign.
  • Run a query through your Adwords campaign or if using Yahoo! Search, email their support team for a search query report.  Look for the same kind of “tire-kicker” keywords that you found while searching through your analytics reporting.
  • There are several negative keyword tools that you can use to find out what keywords bring in the traffic for companies that do something similar to what you do but are not necessarily applicable to what you are selling in your business.
  • Keep a list of ideas your brainstorm so you don’t forget your ideas for negative keywords. Think of which keywords are very obvious but have nothing to do with your business, including free and no charge.
  • Run a query performance in Google to see if any of your ads are being displayed due to irrelevant keywords. You can get this report by going to Reports > Create New Report and then select Search Query Performance.

There are many negative keywords that can be incorporated into your ad campaigns.   Here are just a few to help get you started generating ideas:

  • job
  • career
  • example
  • sample
  • research
  • information
  • tutorial
  • bargain
  • cheap
  • free
  • no charge
  • closeout
  • price
  • how to
  • make
  • tips
  • advice
  • broken
  • poor
  • trial offer
  • giveaway
  • contest
  • support
  • club
  • picture
  • photograph

Now, if you were a merchant selling lamps, would any of the keyword combinations below be coming from your potential lamp buyers?

  1. lamp advice
  2. lamp information
  3. lamp tutorial
  4. lamp picture

These keyword combinations will most likely not produce sales.  If we’re talking about the performance of a PPC campaign, the words “advice”, “information”, “tutorial”, or “picture” would be prime targets for negative match for any online lamp retailer.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and should not be used indiscriminately as a “one-size-fits-all” list.  In fact, some of these suggested negative keywords might be relevant for buyers of your particular product or service.  You need to analyze the keywords that have performed poorly in your PPC campaigns and discern from those under performing keywords what makes any specific word or word combination an ineffective purchase query.

Continue to review, refine, and add negative keywords to your campaign on an ongoing basis to keep improving your performance step by step over time. You can immediately improve the performance of your PPC campaigns by employing negative keywords, but if you continue to build, develop, and improve your list over time, you’ll see incremental improvement in your paid search campaigns that will add up substantially over the long term.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • free pay per click August 20, 2009, 3:53 am

    Although there are wide discrepancies over what percentage of search each company gets, Google receives between four to twenty times more search traffic than Microsoft and three to five times more search traffic than Yahoo, combined and assuming no market disruption– the two companies would still only generate one fourth to one half the search business of Google.

  • KeywordTerminator May 21, 2010, 3:44 am

    Hi there, thanks for a great article. Negative Keywords can save you a lot of money, or if you are willing to keep your PPC spend the same, can make you a lot of money!

    Defining negative keywords can be a long, slow arduous task. Either by guesswork or by trawling through loads of enquiry data, most businesses just do not have the time to search for irrelevant keywords and simply end up with a few negative words in their campaigns.

    We’ve personally fallen foul of not implementing negative keywords which is why we built a great solution to automate the whole negative keyword process. You can check it out at KeywordTerminator.com and also pick up our Free White Paper, Be Positive – Go Negative.

    Cheers, Steve