How to Make the Most of Negative Keywords in 2021

February 22, 2021
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Businesses want customers to see their ads. Visibility fuels their sales and keeps their business growing. However, more important than letting everyone see your ads is having the right people see your ads. PPC advertising has revolutionized that by putting targeted ads alongside specific search and negative keywords

Why are negative keywords needed?

As amazing as that sounds,the whole system not without its errors. Targeted keywords aren’t perfect and can’t distinguish between words and phrases that have multiple meanings. That can drive the wrong people to your site, depleting your ad budget without increasing any of your sales.

Negative keywords resolve this issue because you use them to narrow who your ads target. They allow you to guarantee that the people seeing your ads really want to see your ad. There are some tricks to creating an effective keyword strategy that you can use to get the most out of your PPC campaign.

In this article, we’ll go over briefly what negative keywords are and why they’ll benefit you. We’ll also cover some tips you can use to get the most out of them for your campaign.

Negative keywords are an essential aspect of your online ad campaigns because they help your ads have the biggest impact possible. It makes sure the people seeing your ads want to see your ad by accurately representing what your company offers.

What Are Negative Keywords

Negative keywords ensure your site is only showing up for those receptive to seeing it. It narrows the way your ads perform by blocking off specific phrases that have nothing to do with who you are. As your business grows and you expand, you’ll need to expand the number of keywords you bid on. But just expanding in itself leads to a lot of waste, especially as you go beyond your industry.

Negative keywords let you refine your keywords by removing search queries that are only sapping up your ad budget with no return.

To illustrate, say you run a business that specializes in leather shoes and release a new leather boot. You don’t want your ads showing up for people searching for canvas moccasins, right?.

You can add negative keywords in the same way you add keywords you want to bid on. They can be assigned to you:

  •  Account
  •  Campaign
  •  Ad group

Just like regular keywords, negative keywords can have multiple levels of specificity. They can be:

  • Broad match
  •  Phrase
  •  Exact match

You have a lot of freedom in how you use your negative keywords. Having a thorough understanding of how they work will get you the most return for your effort.

Why Use Negative Keywords?

why use negative keywords

Negative keywords get your ads to the best audience for making conversions. That’s great for you and your business, but the most important ways negative keywords work is that they:

  • Save you money
  • Save you time
  • Save your customers’ money

By narrowing who sees your content, negative keywords exclude irrelevant traffic from getting to your site. That way, people won’t accidentally end up on your site without meaning to. Those clicks cost you money for clicks that are only a nuisance to those searching. It allows the people coming to your site to do so deliberately.

The more specific benefits negative keywords bring to your site are:

  • They improve ROI by reducing your average cost-per-click
  • They  improve overall CTR, or click-through-rate
  • They prevent unwanted traffic from cluttering your site

You pay a lot of money to show your ads. Negative keywords help you ensure your ads are doing what they’re supposed to and show up in front of the people who want to see them.

To get the most out of negative keywords, you need to use them wisely. Here are some tips for making the most of your negative keywords.

Checklist On How To Create Negative Keyword Lists

negative keyword list tips

1. Regularly Check Keywords

Check how your ads and keywords are performing regularly. With newer accounts, check once weekly. If your account is older, you can check every few weeks instead. You’ll be able to find which keywords are performing poorly and pause them. It also shows you the irrelevant keywords to add to your negative keywords.

Developing a sophisticated negative keyword set is essential for it to benefit you. Greater sophistication allows your keywords to reach a more specific audience.

Look for negative keywords while planning your keywords and seeing what additional terms show up that don’t pertain to you. Using a search query report will also tell you the full set of keywords that show up alongside your relevant searches.

You can use these to expand your lists and refine them based on the continuing amount of data you acquire. As your campaign continues, you’ll collect a lot more data that makes your keyword and negative keyword lists more effective.

2. Add Negative Keywords in Stages

This is especially important with larger accounts. Adding negative keywords in stages helps you narrow it down in case you run into issues. When you add dozens of negative keywords in one go, then your performance drops, you won’t know what went wrong. It will take a lot of effort to comb through to find the problem.

Adding in stages lets you address issues quickly as they occur. That way you’ll be able to resolve any issues quickly before they cause significant harm to your business. Especially when you add broad terms to your negative keyword list, you risk blocking broad sections of your target audience from reaching your site.

If you notice a dip in your keyword performance, that indicates that your negative keyword has started working against you. Remove the negative keyword or refine it to be more specific on a campaign level to prevent further issues.

3. Differentiate Campaign and Ad Group Keywords

This tactic helps you narrow down your campaigns so they can stand out more. You’ll want to set broad terms as negative keywords to go across your business. These phrases are usually implemented through negative keyword lists and remove all terms that don’t pertain at all to what you offer.

For specific campaigns or ad groups, your negative keywords will likely be more specific. Setting competing brands as negative keywords for other brands will also narrow your results on Google. For instance, if you sell computers, you can list “HP” and “Apple” as negative keywords for Dell.

4. Learn How to Distinguish Irrelevant Keywords from Poor Performers

When going through your keywords list, be careful to write-off the ones showing poor conversions. You can repurpose low-performing keywords without making them negative keywords.

Keywords like “compare,” “reviews,” or “ratings” represent the early stages of customer interest and won’t bring immediate conversions. However, these terms are important because they can lead to future conversions. Often, you’ll need to interact with customers online 7 times before they buy from you. Cutting out those keywords cuts off a significant part of your sales funnel before it has a chance.

Make sure your negative keywords pertain to things you just plain don’t sell. That way you refine your keywords and increase performance efficiency.

5. Save Time with Negative Keyword Lists

You can manage your negative keyword accounts really quickly through negative keyword lists. Negative keyword lists work best when you use them to block generic, broad phrases that don’t pertain to your business. These include phrases like “free” or “warranty” that might associate with your products with either illegal enterprises, like online piracy, or services you don’t offer.

Negative keyword lists can be easily created in Google. Access these in the Shared Library in your Google Adwords account.

  • Go into your Shared Library
  • Select “Campaign negative keywords.”
  • Click to add a new list
  • Then add your negative keywords

This allows you to set a broad list of negative keywords that you can apply quickly across your campaigns. It streamlines your process and prevents you needing to copy and paste full lists for every new campaign you start.

7. Periodically Check Your Existing Negative Keywords

As you grow your business, your needs and strategies will change. What may have once been an irrelevant keyword to you may become relevant in the future. As you expand, you’ll uncover new frontiers of keywords you need to block just as much as you’ll adopt new industries you hadn’t been in before.

Every few months, go through your old list and make sure you didn’t block something you’re now doing. Especially if you’re blocking broad phrases, you might be blocking traffic from potential customers. Regularly revisiting your list lets you evaluate if your negative keywords are actually working for you or working against you.

Negative keywords have a huge impact on your ad’s performance by ensuring the people seeing your ad want to see your ad. That saves them time because they’re not clicking on an ad they think is relevant, only to realize it isn’t. That then saves you money because you’re not paying for a click that won’t bring you any money.

Continued success relies on having a complex negative keyword set that you constantly expand. Google’s algorithm only does so much to put the right ad in front of the right people. Your negative keyword list helps Google help your campaign. It lowers the chance of Google making a mistake and putting your ad in front of people it’s not relevant to.

Jason is a passionate data-driven specialist with extensive PPC & SEO experience. When not writing about SEM he can be found surfboarding the wildest ocean waves of the Argentinian coast.