Understanding negative keywords is essential to drive maximum impact from your pay-per-click campaigns and achieve the highest potential ROI.

Most businesses have tried pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns to attract more website traffic. In fact, 65 per cent of small to mid-sized companies have PPC campaigns, while 45 per cent have an active strategy to do so.

While these campaigns do cost money, they provide a healthy return for businesses. Google estimates businesses earn an average of $2 for every $1 they spend on Google Ads.

The concept seems relatively simple. Drawing users to your site to discover your products or services should translate to sales. Yet, there is an aspect of PPC campaigns that is worth learning and implementing to optimize the results you gain from each campaign: negative keywords.

Understanding negative keywords

Learning how to use negative keywords to ensure you attract the right searchers can help ensure every dollar you invest in your PPC campaigns goes toward attracting the right people.

What are negative keywords?

Keywords help the right searchers find you. Negative keywords are search terms that you suspect could lead your ads to be shown to a disinterested audience, such as people who have searched for something similar to what you sell, but not exactly.

How negative keywords work

When you choose keywords to bid on for your PPC advertising, you can also instruct Google not to show your ads for certain searches. These search terms are negative keywords.

Why would you want to deter certain people from clicking on your ads? They may not be looking for your product or service, but have typed something that could lead them to your business by mistake. They may simply not fit your ideal customer profile, or they may be searching for something completely different that has a similar name.

For example, if you sell new clothing brands for women at premium prices, you may want to discourage shoppers looking for secondhand or cheap clothing in your area, as they are unlikely to be your target customer.

In another scenario, imagine a small grocer that brings in fresh seasonal fruit. Their seasonal ads for deliveries of fresh apples are of no interest to buyers looking for an Apple device. A gardening enthusiast may be after a new plant hybrid, not a new car powered by more than one type of energy.

3 benefits of using negative keywords in your PPC campaigns

Optimizing your ad campaigns will help you put your resources where they will drive the most impact. Adding negative keywords to your PPC strategy can ensure you drive the types of clicks that are valuable to your business and have a chance of gaining you customers.

Here are a few benefits you’ll see when you begin using negative keywords to help refine your ad targeting:

1.     Increase your click-through and conversion rates

The more effectively you can target your potential customers with your ads, the more likely people will click on your ad, increasing the click-through (CTR) rate across your campaigns. These people are also more likely to convert into customers.

2.     Boost ROI from advertising costs

Remember, for PPC advertising, you are paying per click by users. If the wrong people click on your ad, the money you are spending on those clicks is going to waste. Negative keywords help ensure your spending goes to showing ads to people who are likely to want to buy from you.

3.     Improve your quality score

When users search for something they need, Google will show ads matching their intent. When they click an ad and find a relevant landing page, they’re likely to spend time on that site, indicating to Google that the search result was a good fit for what they needed. This relevance works in your favour to show that you’re offering high-quality content for this type of user.

How to use negative keywords effectively

When you use negative keywords, you can ensure Google doesn’t show your ads to audiences that are a poor match for what you sell. However, you’ll want to learn how to use them in different situations to help drive the best outcomes from your ad campaigns.

A few best practices to consider include:

●       Use the right negative keyword match type

There are three negative keyword match types to consider:

  • Negative broad match
    Your ad will not be shown in response to search queries that match any of the terms you put into the negative keyword section of your Google Ads campaign manager. The order of the words and phrases you select doesn’t matter. This is the default setting in Google Ads, and simply typing in a word or phrase into the negative keyword section of your campaign manager will add it as a negative broad match.

    Example: glass cookware
  • Negative phrase match
    Your ad won’t be shown to users who have typed in your negative keyword terms in the order you specify. You can use quotation marks to signal to Google that you want a negative phrase match.

    Example: “glass cookware”
  • Negative exact match
    Your ad will not show when the search terms used match your negative keyword selection exactly. This means the words must match and the user typed them in the same order. Google may show your ad if the searcher added words, used them in a different order, or added or removed characters. To indicate a negative exact match, use brackets around your keyword.

    Example: [glass cookware]

●       Learn where and when to use negative keywords

You can use negative keywords to prevent your ads from being shown for specific terms across all campaigns or within specific ad groups.

  • Campaign
    Sometimes, you will want to broadly block search results for a keyword because you know it will never be a relevant search term for your business. Using it for all campaigns is smart because you’ll protect yourself from unrelated clicks from irrelevant searchers.
  • Ad group
    In other cases, you can use negative keywords to strategically drive users to very targeted ads. If you have an active campaign to appeal to searchers looking for a particular product, you may want to add negative keywords to other campaigns so those searchers don’t end up on a product page that isn’t quite right. If you have an active campaign for the exact item they want, you can use negative keywords to help funnel them to the right spot.

●       Explore different ways of generating a negative keyword list

You can likely access suggested lists of negative keywords from your Google campaign manager, or try using Google Keyword Planner to help research terms you should consider.

Even your standard keyword research process can be helpful. As you type in main topics (also known as seed keywords), you can review suggested keywords sparked from your seed keywords. If you track all the keywords that seem irrelevant to your campaign, you can flag them as potential negative keywords to add to your strategy.

Searching in Google can also provide ideas as you review search results for the keywords you test. If some of the suggested search results look wildly off from what you’re looking for, make note of them. They probably good negative keyword candidates.

Doing this manual testing is a great way to see what other users will find when they search and how they may end up in the wrong place after inadvertently clicking an irrelevant ad. PPC advertising can drive appealing returns for your business if you optimize your campaigns to bring in the right traffic. Book a consultation with a Postmedia expert to learn more.