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How to Build a Negative Keyword List

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How to Build a Negative Keyword List

The top priority for any PPC campaign is to find targeted keywords that drive more clicks and sales. But few businesses spend the time to build a negative keyword list, resulting in a campaign that is less targeted and ultimately less profitable. Putting these types of keywords into your lists give you a greater degree of control and can even increase your ROI in the long term.

Here we provide a comprehensive overview of what negative keywords are and how they work.

What are Negative Keywords?

AdWords is similar to an auction. The more you bid for certain keywords, the better chance you have of displaying your ads in the top positions. In the previous section we talked more about keyword research and how to identify those phrases that your target market is searching for. But one important concept to understand is that not every search is equal.

Someone searching for “cheap smartphones” has an entirely different mindset than someone searching for “Apple iPhone”. The former has a budget and just wants to buy a cheap phone with basic features while the latter wants the top of the line model on the market.

If your business sells a high end product or service, your campaign should reflect that fact. So how do you prevent your ad from displaying for certain types of searches?

This is where negative keywords come in. A negative keyword is a word or phrase that prevents your ad from being displayed in the search results. It essentially tells Google not to show your ad when someone is searching for that phrase. For example, if you sell products in a high end market you likely won’t want keywords such as “free” or “cheap” to trigger your ads.

Adding negative keywords to your campaign also saves you money. After all, someone searching for a free product or other alternative is likely not looking to spend any money.

How to Find Negative Keywords

Keyword Planner (Google’s keyword tool) is an invaluable resource. The tool is primarily used to get additional keywords ideas for your campaign but you can just as easily use it to find negative keywords.

Another way to find negative keywords to add to your campaign is by examining actual keyword data based on how people are finding your ad. If you have a campaign that has been running for some time, you already have plenty of data to work with.

Google provides comprehensive data for keyword usage. You can find these in the Search Terms Report which provides actual terms that people have typed into Google to trigger your ads. To view the terms report, click the Campaigns tab at the top. Then click on Keywords and the Search terms button. Sort the data by impressions to see a list of popular queries that are causing your ads to display. Then add any phrases to your negative keyword list that are not generating any conversions.

Another excellent method to uncover more negative keywords is to perform a Google search for your primary keywords. Results that appear on the first page are those that Google deems most relevant to that particular query. But many of those results may not necessarily be relevant to your campaigns. Browse through the first few pages for several primary keywords and take note of any keywords that are not transactional or relevant.

Here is an example for “flower delivery services”:

Right away you see keywords such as “free” and “cheap” which you can add to your list. Perform additional searches for several keywords that are relevant to the products or services you offer. Take note of any irrelevant terms and add them to your negative keyword list.

How to Add Negative Keywords to your Campaign

At this point you should have an extensive list of negative keywords you can use. Follow these steps to add them to your campaign:

  • Click the Campaigns tab
  • Click the Negative keywords button
  • Click the red + Keywords button

Note that you can add negative keywords on an ad group or campaign level.

It seems like a lot of effort but adding negative keywords can ultimately reduce costs and  improve conversions in the long run. As your campaign progresses, it’s a good idea to revisit your list and continue to add negative keywords to it.

In the next section we look at the different keyword match types when creating an ad.

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