Semantic Advantage Inc.
SEO, SEM/PPC and Social Media Marketing

Negative Keywords for Search Engine Marketing

Austin PPC Services - Improving Pay Per Click Campaign ROAS

Effective use of negative keywords is an essential component of a Pay Per Click program.  Judicious selection of negative keywords can increase your click through rate (CTR) and lower the cost of your search engine marketing program, improving the ROI of your ad campaigns.

Negative keywords are search terms for which you do not want your ads to be displayed.  It’s counterproductive to present your ad to someone who is not looking for what you are offering or is unlikely to purchase your product or service.  Negative keywords prevent the ad from being shown in these circumstances.

For example, if you are selling expensive 1950’s movie posters, you might choose the negative keywords ‘-cheap’ (wrong price segment), ‘-concert’ (wrong product) or ‘-blog posters’ (eliminates ambiguity in the word ‘posters’).  These negative keywords will suppress ad impressions for search queries containing these terms – reducing your bounce rate and eliminating the cost of those clicks.

There are several specific types of negative keywords:

Non-shoppers: Indicate that the searcher is looking for information unrelated to a purchase.  This includes searches for jobs, free products, academic material or reference information.    Examples: ‘-career’, ‘-closeout’, ‘-download’, ‘-free’, ‘-job’, ‘-study’, ‘-training’, ‘-tutorial’

Segment Refiners: Keywords that refine your product/service niche, and exclude searches for products/services that you don’t offer.  The exclusion can be on the basis of product feature or capability, geography, new vs. used, or price.  Examples: ‘-used’ (books or cars), ‘-consumer’ (credit or software), ‘-luxury’ (condo or watch), ‘-electoral’ (college), -recipes (Indian food), ‘-manhattan’ (clam chowder), ‘t shirt’ (mens shirts)

Ambiguity Resolvers: If one or more terms in a keyword phrase has an ambiguous meaning, negative keywords can avoid delivering ad impressions for the unintended meaning.  Examples:  ‘-hyundai‘ (sonata), ‘-light’ (bulb sale),  ‘-germany’ (hamburg restaurants), ‘-utah’ (jazz scores), ‘-airlines’ (southwest vacations), -movie (trailer), -dallas (cowboy shirt)

You can identify negative keywords specific to your business and major search terms by examining the search results for unwanted results, or by using a keyword tool like Wordtracker or the Google AdWords keyword tool.  Here's a list of commonly-used negative keywords.

Care must be exercised using negative keywords, to avoid unintended consequences.  An online bookstore may not want to use the negative keywords ‘-career’, ‘-cheap’ or ‘-tutorial’ because these appear in the titles of their books!

And, more generally, you may elect to have your ad displayed to people who are looking for something you don’t sell -- in the hope of persuading them to purchase your product instead.  Generally this should be done in a separate keyword group, to avoid mixing expensive high conversion terms with less expensive low conversion keywords.

For example, a Lexus dealer might have one keyword group based on the relatively expensive short tail keyword ‘luxury import car’ with the negative keywords ‘-audi’, ‘-bmw’, ‘-mercedes’ (to avoid paying for clicks from people who are determined to buy an Audi, BMW or Mercedes) and another keyword group based on the less expensive keyword ‘new mercedes s class’ (with no negative keywords) to go after prospects who might be persuaded to buy a Lexus instead.

For more information on using negative keywords, contact Semantic Advantage or visit our Search Engine Marketing page.

Negative Keywords