How Negative Keywords Really Work

It seems that everyone I teach or consult with on pay per click has their own ideas on how negative keywords actually work in Google AdWords. This is a straightforward explanation on the correct use that can hopefully help steer your campaigns in the right direction.

What they are:

They are words or phrases that can be added at the campaign or ad group level to exclude your ad from showing. For instance if you sell only new athletic style shoes for women, you would want to avoid showing up for searches about dress shoes, children’s shoes, or mens shoes. You can’t just ignore keywords containing shoes however, or you’d have no traffic at all.

When to use them:

If you’ve read all about how to choose the best match types and decided to build your campaigns using mostly broad matched keywords, you’ll need a good set of negative keywords to keep costs down and relevant traffic up.

Where to find them:

  1. 1. Search Query Performance Report – (http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=68034) A report pulled directly from your current AdWords account that shows the exact query the searcher typed in, and what keyword in your account that query was associated with.
  2. 2. Analytics – You can see every keyword and search phrase that people are using to find your site in your traffic sources section of your analytics. Often times the keywords with the lowest time on site or pages per visits, and the highest bounce rate, are a great place to find irrelevant words you’re being associated with.
  3. 3. Google Search – You can always search around using keywords you feel are relevant to you and see what other websites come up. You’ll often be surprised at the products and companies that are also considered relevant you would never have thought your company would be associated with.
  4. 4. Keyword tool – You can always find negative keywords when you are researching your regular keyword. If you see a keyword and think “wow, no way would I add that to my account!”, there is probably a potential negative keyword there because Google is saying that it matches up with the rest of your keyword choices.

How they work:

Broad Match Negative

-mens shoes

Adding this negative keyword to your account would prevent your ads from showing on any search queries containing the terms men and shoes. It will not keep you from showing for a search containing only one of the words. Here are some examples of which queries would and wouldn’t trigger your ad:

Potential Queries:

shoes dress new = Yes
shoes mens dress new = No
dress mens new = Yes
new shoes dress mens = No
mens shoes = No
shoes mens = No
mens shoes dress new = No

2 out of 6 search queries would trigger your ad. As you can see, broad negative eliminates the most traffic.

Phrase Match Negative

-“mens shoes”

If you were to add this keyword to your account, the system wouldn’t let any search query containing the phrase mens shoes trigger your ads. Here are some examples of which queries would and wouldn’t trigger your ad:

Potential Queries:

shoes dress new = Yes
shoes mens dress new = Yes
dress mens new = Yes
new shoes dress mens = Yes
mens shoes = No
shoes mens = Yes
mens shoes dress new = No

4 out of 6 search queries would trigger your ad.

Exact Match Negative

-[mens shoes]

This negative keyword would only prevent your ads from showing on the exact query mens shoes. Unlike your normal keywords, variations of your exact match negative keywords, like using the singular and plural form of each, is necessary if you want to exclude them. Here are some examples of which queries would and wouldn’t trigger your ad:

Potential Queries:

shoes dress new = Yes
shoes mens dress new = Yes
dress mens new = Yes
new shoes dress mens = Yes
mens shoes = No
shoes mens = Yes

5 out of 6 search queries would trigger your ad. This match type eliminates the least traffic.

All the options for negative keywords may leave you a little weary of dealing with them at all. However they are essential to the success of your campaign. After the initial research it takes just a little bit of negative keyword optimization each month to stay on top of your search queries and keep your traffic relevant and targeted.

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