May 31, 2016


AdWords Tips | Adding Negative Keywords

How to add negative keywords to your AdWords account for the win.
How to add negative keywords to your AdWords account for the win.

The secret to success in advertising is targeting the right audience with the right message at the right time. In search advertising, keywords are the number one indicator that somebody is or is not part of your audience. So, what is the best way to add negative keywords?

In this article, you will learn about negative keyword match types, how they differ from traditional keyword match types, and best practices for adding negative keywords.

First, we must understand negative keyword match types because, they vary slightly from regular regular keywords. You indicate to Google which match type you want by putting [ ] or " " around the words, or leaving it blank for broad match.

  • Broad-match: Block groups of words, no matter what order they are in. Google wants your ads to show at every possible opportunity, so unlike regular broad-match, which can include any variation or synonym of the word, negative broad-match functions more like broad-modified, blocking only search terms that contain the words in your broad-match negative keywords. The words can be any order but do not cover plurals and misspellings.
  • “Phrase-match”: Blocks a series of words in a row. There can be words before or after, but if the term contains the exact terms you choose to block, then it won’t show. You will still need to add close variance and plurals to this.
  • [Exact-match]: Literally only blocks the exact series of letters exactly how you have them inside the brackets. Any variations will still be able to show ads.This is the default match type for all negative keywords but we do not recommend using it for any queries with less than 3 words because it will only block a small fraction of searches.

We’ll use an example client who sells dna testing kits for dogs. They want to target searches for dna tests for any type of dog, but avoid other mammals or generic searches.

Navigate to your AdWords interface and drill down into your campaign > keywords > search terms report.

Then, click on columns and match them to what I have here. You will want to see the which keyword triggered the term, how many Impressions and clicks each term got, total cost and most importantly how many conversions and the cost per conversion for each.

Before you hit Apply, make sure to check the box and name the view so you can quickly return at a later date

Let's look at 3 example search terms and how each match type could apply. I like to start out by sorting by cost to see where we can have the largest impact on the account. Click on the cost column to do that.

Google conveniently provides you with checkboxes to the left of each search term. Let's analyze each highlighted term individually.

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dna test: This could mean a dna test for literally anything from somebody on the Jerry Springer Show trying to prove the baby is not his or someone trying to figure out their family lineage. If you have a campaign with a small budget it is a good idea to block very generic terms like this where only a very small fraction of searches would be related to your product. Higher volume campaigns should not block these search terms because you want to show your ad as many times as possible whenever it is relevant.

dna test twins: this one should be obvious. There is no such thing as twin puppies so this search term would never be somebody in their target market. We recommend using broad match here and only including the word twins.

dog dna test petco: Upon first glance you might think this would be a good phrase match negative, or maybe you just want to add Petco is a negative broad match. Upon further observation, this search term generated 2 conversions below our clients target CPA of $45.

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Warning: Never add negative keywords without first looking at how many conversions the term has generated and the cost per conversion. If you spot a word in your search terms that you want to investigate further than just create a filter to only show Search terms containing that word like that word and look at the cumulative CPA.

Although the searcher might want to drive down to Petco to get their dog DNA test, these stats show they might prefer simply ordering it off the internet and having it delivered. If search terms containing Petco had zero conversions then we might recommend adding it as a negative, however, since it has generated conversions we want to leave it for now

Now that we have selected a couple keywords that we want to add his negatives, hit me -2 red button at the top of your page..

The default is exact match because Google does not want to involuntarily eliminate opportunities to show your ad. You should change the structure of the word to match your desired match type at this point.

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If you just want to add a keyword to that particular ad group then leave it on the default setting. If you would like to block term for the entire campaign then click on campaign. If you would like to block it from ever showing up for anything in the account then you can create an account-wide negative keyword list, but that's a story for another post.

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Hit save and you have just  fine tuned your campaign. By eliminating irrelevant searches you will increase your click-through rates, decrease CPCs and get an overall better cost per conversion.

How often should you do this activity? Initially, after every couple hundred dollars of spend to make sure there aren’t search terms that are wildly outside of your target, eating up significant amounts of budget. As the campaign begins to mature and more negative keywords are added, the less frequently you shouldn't need to do this. However, we recommend adding negative keywords at least once a month to make sure nothing new is popping up.

Having trouble adding negative keywords to your account? Give us a call

Tyler Whittingham

Tyler is the sensei of PPC advertising. AdMind is his brainchild and has been nothing but successful thanks to Ty's expertise in sales, marketing, and creative. In his free time he enjoys skiing in Utah's mountains and taking trips to Hawaii.

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