How Negative Keywords Can Help You Get the Most Out of Your PPC Efforts
February 5, 2019
Paid search can be a valuable channel for any inbound marketing strategy. From increasing brand awareness to driving higher traffic and sales conversions, paid search can help you build a better link between search engines and your website and content.
One paid search tactic commonly used to help businesses rank their pages above the noise and clutter of organic search results is pay-per-click (PPC), but if not fully optimized, your PPC efforts can turn out to be just expensive, fruitless tactics.
One way to optimize your campaign is by using a negative keyword list. Before we delve into this topic, let’s have a quick refresher on some of the basics of PPC:
Google Ads Basics
With Google dominating search engine traffic, Google Ads is one of the more powerful, cost-effective platforms available for implementing and running PPC campaigns. How exactly does PPC work on Google Ads?
Google Ads operates on a pay-per-click model, in which users bid on keywords and pay for each click on their advertisements. Every time a search is initiated, Google digs into the pool of Ads advertisers and chooses a set of winners to appear in the valuable ad space on its search results page. The “winners” are chosen based on a combination of factors, including the quality and relevance of their keywords and ad campaigns, as well as the size of their keyword bids. – Wordstream
As with search engine optimization (SEO), the foundation of paid search is keywords—search terms or phrases that make it easier for potential leads or buyers to find your content on search engine results pages (SERP).
The right keywords in a PPC campaign can help you better target prospects exactly when and where they are most likely to convert. But what if certain keywords are triggering PPC ads that are attracting the wrong type of visitors?
That’s where negative keywords come in.
See the Opportunity in the Negative
Negative keywords are search terms that relate to your business, industry, and content, but they trigger clicks from people who are not your target personas and who may not even be interested in your brand or content.
From an organic SEO standpoint, this isn't big deal. But because Google Ad’s auction style favors bid size and relevance, you could end up wasting your budget on traffic that is less likely to convert.
Thankfully, negative keywords provide a great opportunity t0 further your campaign’s targetization and effectiveness. In Google Ads, you can prevent your ads from being displayed to anyone who uses these keyword or phrases in their search. But how do you determine which keywords to include in your negative keyword list?
Analyzing Search Data
Where to Look
You don’t have to look far to locate search terms and phrases to add to your negative keyword lists because one of the best places to look is in Google Ads itself:
Search Terms Report: With this report, you can view actual search terms people used in Google that triggered your ads. You can pick out the keywords that might not have attracted the correct traffic by viewing which terms have lower click-through and conversion rates.
Google Keyword Planner: If you want to identify negative keywords before they cost you anything, there’s no better place to look than within Google Keyword Planner. Here you can review keyword suggestions of terms you want to target in your ad campaigns, but it’s also a useful tool to identify unrelated terms to exclude.
Pro Tip: Negative keyword lists are not a set-it-and-leave-it effort. Comb through search data frequently to make sure you’re staying on top of new search terms that could hurt your conversion rates.
What to Look for
Identifying negative keywords can be tricky because it requires analyzing and understanding the searcher’s intent. You’ll have to sometimes dig a bit deep to determine if a searcher is looking for what you offer or something else?
For example, someone searching for “cybersecurity jobs near me” is likely looking for employment opportunities in a specific location, whereas someone searching for “cybersecurity jobs training” may be focused more on professional development opportunities. Both searches use the keywords “cybersecurity jobs” but the intent of each inquiry is different.
Understanding why the searcher is using a keyword and figuring out their intended end goal is vital to building an effective negative keyword list.
Pro Tip: Choose your negative keywords carefully. If you use too many negative keywords, you may prevent qualified people and their search queries from seeing your ads.
Getting the Most Out of PPC
PPC and paid search provide businesses and marketers added visibility to draw in target personas, but it can become a costly endeavor if not fully optimized. Utilizing negative keywords is not only an effective way to cut down on wasted ad spend, but it can also significantly improve your ads’ conversion rates.
Are you using negative keyword lists in your paid search efforts? Let us know by tweeting us at @smartbugmedia.
About the author
Chelsea Boice was formerly a Junior Web Project Manager at SmartBug. She has over 5+ years supporting B2B and B2C organizations with inbound, email, and social marketing campaigns. She currently resides in Barcelona and in her free time, she enjoys salsa dancing, traveling, and true crime podcasts. Read more articles by Chelsea Boice.