For those of you looking to refine your PPC campaigns and improve your return on investment, we have some helpful tips on negative keywords for you.

A negative keyword is a special kind of keyword matching option that allows you to prevent your ad from appearing when the specific terms are a part of the user’s search.

Some clients have told us they’re nervous about using negative keywords because they fear it will reduce the traffic to their sites. If your goal is simply to increase traffic, then you may not want to use negative keywords. But if your goal is to find qualified leads, negative keywords will help filter out some of the traffic that you may not want. For example, if you’re selling clothes, but you don’t sell shorts, you can make ‘shorts’ a negative keyword. That way you won’t show your ad to a shopper looking for shorts (which may help you save money).

Most PPC engines, including the top 3 (Google, Yahoo and Bing) allow you to set up Exact, Phrase and Broad match options for your campaign keywords. With broad match, you are basically at the mercy of the search engine to determine when to serve your ad and charge you for the click. Broad match keywords will drive alot of traffic to your site, but the traffic will not be targeted. Exact match keywords tell the search engine that the search term a user enters must contain your keyword. This ensures highly targeted traffic, but your traffic levels will be significantly reduced.

Here’s a live example to better explain match types and the use of negative keywords

Phrases Versus Broad Matches
The default Adwords ad mode is called Broad Matching. Using the key phrase “crash test dummies”, Google will display the company’s ads anytime a search query contains the word crash or test or dummies. For example, if someone searched for “windows crash”, then the company’s ad could appear. With the advertising popularity of the words “crash” and “test”, the company was displaying their ads needlessly and generating hundreds of clicks per month for searches completely unrelated to their products.

In contrast, phrase matching allows me to tell Google to only display an ad it the query contains the phrase “crash test dummies”, with words either before or after the phrase. I can also enclose the phrase in brackets, like [crash test dummies] to instruct Google to only show the ad when someone searches using that exact phrase, with no other keywords before or after the phrase.

By using a phrase match with negative keywords, like this:

“crash test dummies”

eliminates a large number of irrelevant ad views that could potentially waste advertising dollars.

Using negative keywords is a very effective way to reduce unqualified leads while maintaining good traffic levels. But how do you find the proper negavie keywords? To do this effectively you must use a robust analytics solution that can show you the broad match keyword you’re bidding on side by side with the search term that triggered your ad on the PPC network. After all, when you’re looking at your campaign reports on Adwords, Yahoo or Bing, you can see the keywords you’re bidding on and the dollars spent on each keyword, but if these are broad match keywords, you don’t know what the user actually typed in.

Hitslink Platinum provides a perfect solution. With it’s robust campaign and conversion tracking features and powerful segmentation capabilities, you have the bid vs. actual keyword data at your disposal and can easily build a list of negatives to adjust your PPC campaign.

Campaign setup will require some work:

  1. Campaign identifiers should be configured to track PPC Engine, Campaign, Adgroup, Keyword and Match Type for every recorded click
  2. Keyword Desination URLs should be uniquely set up for each keyword to pass through the data to Hitslink
  3. Segmentation Filters must be defined for each Campaign.

Once everything is configured and tracking, you can view the Organic Vs. PPC Campaign Activity By Search Terms report and see exactly what search phrases where used to display your ad and trigger a click. Furthermore, with Hitslink conversion tracking script installed on the confirmaiton pages, you can see what search terms triggered a conversion.

You can learn how to use negative keywords at Google’s website. You can also hire us if you’d prefer not to learn the finer details of PPC advertising the hard, expensive way. :)


2 Responses to “Using Negative Search Terms in PPC campaigns”

  1. Tom says:

    Wow! I just learned something new.. is that true that if you have broad match google stops showing the actual keyphrase type in for each click? I know they show them for all other phrases, I am on my way to check this out.
    However I agree its cumbersome to get at these keywords but I use them all the time and add the actual typed in phrase as an exact match so that if the same phrase is typed I will get a lower cost per click on the next one.
    Been reading your articles and am very impressed keep up the good work.
    I am also on my way to check out your suggestion for Hitslinks Platinum as I have not heard of this program but sounds good and I am always looking for any sort of timesaver and willing to pay for a good one.
    Thanks again for some great posts.

  2. Maria says:

    This is a great technique and something that we use throughout our clients PPC campaigns. Using the new Keywords List tool you can add negative keywords much more quickly to campaign and ad groups.

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