Posted by James Lee on 17th May 2010

Organizing Negative Keywords

Good keywords are essential to the success of your PPC campaign, but you may be surprised to hear that negative keywords also play a significant role. We here at ClickSweeper have talked about negative keywords before and how they form a fantastic combination with broad match keywords. Want to capture long tail keywords yet exclude irrelevant queries and clicks? Negative keywords are definitely your friends.

But how do you get the most out of them? Not too surprisingly, like your regular keywords, negatives work best when they are:

  • tightly organized
  • focused
  • well researched

In other words, it’s going to take a little time and work on your part. But it’s worth it to have fewer irrelevant impressions and clicks, higher clickthrough rates, and more conversions. (Keep in mind that although irrelevant impressions may not have an immediate impact on your budget, they can — and do — commit crimes against your quality scores.)

Start by thinking of your negative keywords as a campaign. Within that campaign, you’ll want to have AdGroups so you can organize, focus, and expand your negatives. If you’ve been monitoring your campaigns for a while, you might already have a good feel for what negative adgroups to create (products you don’t sell, businesses with similar names, places you don’t ship to, etc.). You can also use your existing AdGroups to build negatives targeted around each. In fact, do both.

To use our favorite example, let’s say your business is called Red Herring Mystery Books, and you sell mystery novels. Negative adgroups for you could be based around fish (real ones!), fishing books, and literary idioms — anything you don’t sell and don’t want your ads to appear for.

Now here’s where the research comes in. Take your tentative negative Adgroups and check them out on several sources (Google sktool, search queries, Google search suggestions, and Wordtracker questions, to name some of our favorites) to build your keyword list. You may well end up creating several more Adgroups as you go through these tools.

Don’t forget about negative match types:

  • broad match will exclude queries with the word(s) in any order
  • phrase match will exclude only queries that have that exact phrase
  • exact match will exclude queries that are exactly the same as your negative.

Will this process yield an exhaustive list of negatives? Probably not right away. Trends in search do change with new product releases, fads, and other factors. But a solid inventory of at least 200 negatives is definitely a good list to build on.

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

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