Why Negative Keywords Are Critical to Your PPC Campaign

PPC is very complex with many moving parts. Markets, trends, Google, and Bing are constantly changing. I’ve been working on PPC accounts for years and still learn new things all the time. As complex as PPC is, there are a few simple things you can do to improve the performance of your PPC campaign. The emphasis for today:

Negative Keywords

The reason I felt it necessary to talk about negative keywords stems from a few experiences recently. The past couple of months, I have audited five accounts for Adwords users. They were looking for someone to take over their account due to low performance. Some of these businesses had been running Adwords themselves, while others had other agencies run them.

A recurring problem I see is a lack of negative keywords, or this situation: negative keywords that were added when the campaign started, but never added in the future. Adding negative keywords should be happening constantly, particularly early on in a campaign.

Of the many things I did to clean these accounts up, adding negative keywords was on of the most critical.

Check the numbers

One account had a CPA (cost-per-acquisition) of $1700 before my audit. After the audit and adding more negative keywords, their CPA dropped to about $700. This was done by only adding negative keywords. One round of adding negative keywords dropped their CPA by about 141%.

Another account had a CPA of $180 and in less than two months has dropped to $100. This drop was not completely from negative keywords, but they play a big part.

So now that we know how important negative keywords are, how do I know what words to add as negatives?

How to Identify Negative Keywords

First, think of anything that a searcher might search for that might be somewhat related to you and could get you some irrelevant clicks. Paying for these keywords is a waste of your money. For example, let’s say you sell swimming pools. You only sell pools. It is possible that someone might search for swimming pool filters, swimming pool service, swimming pool heater, etc.

If these searchers click on your ad, your business isn’t relevant and they are probably not actually interested in buying anything from you. However, you still pay for the click. If they don’t click on you, it lowers your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and this hurts your Quality Score with Google. If your Quality Score is low, you have to pay more for your ad to appear in good positions.

Second, there is a tool called the Search Query Report. To find this report, find the tab in Adwords labeled “Keywords”. Then click on the “Details” drop box.

Adwords Search Query Report Adwords Search Query Report Menu

Next, under the details drop box, click on “All” under “Search Terms”.

This All Search Terms report shows keyword phrases for your ads that were clicked. You can add keywords that you want to have in your campaign that you do not have yet, or add certain keywords as negative that are not relevant to your business.
You can add negative keywords as negative-broad, phrase, or exact. This works the same way your regular keywords work. For example, going back to the swimming pool example.
Let’s say you see a search term of “swimming pool cleaning company”. This is not relevant to you because you sell pools, you don’t clean them. So you have some options. You can add that exact phrase as a negative term, so if someone searches that exact phrase you will not show. Or you can elect to add “cleaning” as a negative keyword. This way if the term “cleaning” ever shows up in a search, your ad will not show.

The Bottom Line

Adding negative keywords is not the only way to get your campaign running how you want it, but it is a big step in the right direction. Adding negative keywords will usually make you more relevant, increase your quality score, get you higher conversion rates, lower cost-per-conversions, and get you cheaper clicks.
Bottom line: You get most bang for your buck. And we all want that.