Increase your PPC profits with negative keywords

Increase Your PPC Profits With Negative Keywords with Ian Howie at Wordtracker - the leading keyword research tool

Use 'negative keywords' and your PPC profits can increase dramatically. This valuable technique tells Google which phrases your ad should not be displayed for. For example, if you're selling brand new 'apple laptops', you don't want your ad to appear when someone searches for 'refurbished apple laptops', so 'refurbished' should be a negative keyword for your campaign.

Negative keywords are an integral part of any successful PPC campaign, stopping your adverts from appearing when a search query includes a term that is not relevant to your ad.

By adding negative keywords to your campaigns, you are filtering out unwanted traffic, helping you reach the most appropriate prospects whilst lowering your costs.

To find, prepare and add negative keywords to your Google Adwords account, go through the following steps:

  1. Find your negative keywords
  2. Prepare your list of negative keywords
  3. Go to ‘Negative Keywords’ in your Google Adwords account
  4. Enter your negative keywords

Let’s look at each of those steps…

Step 1. Find your negative keywords

There are 3 ways to compile your negative keyword list and they are:

  • Wordtracker Keyword Tool
  • Search Query Report in your AdWords account
  • Use your market knowledge and common sense

Let’s look at each of those:

Wordtracker Keyword Tool

Make a search in Wordtracker’s Keywords Tools and instead of looking for keywords you want to target, look for keywords you don’t want to target, ie negative keywords. For example, see the following screen grab of the results of a search with ‘apple laptops’ - the possible negative keywords are highlighted:

Search Query Report in your AdWords account

This will tell you what people are searching for. What search queries are triggering your ads? If your ads are being shown for searches using terms that are unrelated to you, add them to your negative keyword list.

Use your market knowledge and common sense

You might already have an idea of the search queries that you don’t want to trigger your ads. This may include terms like cheap or free.

Step 2. Prepare your list of keywords

Prepare your list of negative keywords for Google by wrapping each in [square brackets] and preceding with a ‘-‘. Like the following list for our ‘apple laptops’ example:

-[apple laptops discount]
-[reconditioned apple mac laptops]
-[colored apple laptops]
-[pink apple mac laptops]
-[used apple laptops]
-[linux laptops apple]
-[mini laptops from apple]
-[refurbished apple laptops]
-[orange apple laptops]

Step 3. Go to ‘Negative Keywords’ in your Google Adwords account

Log in to your Google Adwords accounts, go to ‘Tools’ and then ‘Edit campaign Negative Keywords’, see grab below:

Step 4. Enter your negative keywords

Copy and paste your negative keywords into the ‘Enter words manually...’ box and click on the ‘Add Keywords’ button, see grab below:

You can apply negative keywords at both ad group level and campaign level

At ad group level, all the ads in that group will not show for search queries containing that negative term. At campaign level, all the ads in the campaign will not show for search queries containing that negative term.

Different types of negative keywords

As with normal positive keywords, there are different matching options that each define how your keywords will match (or not) with search queries. So we’ll look at each one...

Standard negative keywords

Adding standard negative keywords to your ad groups and campaigns is the same process as adding any other keyword, but you put a minus sign (-) in front of the term.

If you added '-free trial' to your negative keyword list, your ad would not be shown if a user searched using the words 'free' and 'trial'. But, it wouldn’t stop your ad from being shown if they searched on just one of those words. So 'free sample' or '3-month trial' would both trigger your ad, whereas 'free 3-month trial' wouldn’t.

Negative phrase-matched keywords

Create a negative phrase-matched keyword by surrounding the term with quotation marks.

For example, if you added '-"free trial"' to your account, your ad would not appear if the search query contained the phrase 'free trial'. But don’t forget, the rules of phrase match still apply so your ads could still show if the search query is 'trial' or 'free 3-month trial'.

Negative exact-matched keywords

A negative exact-matched keyword looks like this '–[term]', like our apple laptops examples above.

For example, if you added '–[free trial]' to your negative keywords, your ad would only be prevented from showing on the search query 'free trial'. Variations of this search query, such as 'free trials', 'free' and '3-month free trial' could still trigger your ads.

In all cases it’s a good idea to add relevant variations of your negative keywords, including singular and plural forms.

Summary of the benefits of building a negative keyword list?

  1. Your ad will not be shown for keyword phrases that are not relevant to your target market.
  2. There will be fewer clickthroughs that do not convert to sales.
  3. Your overall clickthrough rate (CTR) will be higher, ie more people who see your ad will click on it.
  4. A higher CTR will result in your ad being positioned higher on the page without having to pay a higher Cost per Click (CPC).
  5. You will save money by reducing your CPC.
  6. You will gain better knowledge of the keywords that you should weave into your website’s content.
  7. You will increase your campaign’s Return on Investment (ROI).

A word of caution…

Start with the obvious negative keywords but don’t overdo it. Make sure you know which campaign you're affecting-some negative keywords will work for one campaign, but not for another. You could find yourself canceling out profitable keywords which you should be trying to bid for.

If you don’t use negative keywords in your campaigns, your ads will be shown to users who aren’t interested in your business. Untargeted traffic can lower your Quality Score and your ROI will suffer. But make sure you don’t over-use negative keywords. Consider your potential negative keywords carefully and add to your list over time.

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  • Generate thousands of relevant keywords to improve your organic and PPC search campaigns.
  • Optimize your website content by using the most popular keywords for your product and services.
  • Research online markets, find niche opportunities and exploit them before your competitors.

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