Negative Keywords for SEM-PPC

negative-keywords-ppc-campaignsEffective negative keywords in Pay-Per-Click advertising campaigns improve results and increase Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). More importantly, these can improve traffic quality  and conversion rates. Judicious selection of negative keywords will reduce the Bounce Rate and increase Conversion Rates by eliminating unqualified prospects.

By definition, a Negative Keyword specifies the search terms for which you do not want ads to be displayed. Why show ads in response to queries that don’t fit what you are selling? Needless to say, clicks on those ads irritate the searcher, cost you money and hurt your campaign metrics.

Worse yet, the ad platform – Google Ads, Bing or Amazon – will take note of these bounces. And penalize them with reduced Quality Scores, lower placements and higher click costs. By adding suitable negative KWs, we make the pay-per-click campaign management much more productive.

For example, an online shoe retailer running ads with PPC keyword ‘crocks’ could use negative keywords -crocodile, -crockery, -pot and -ceramic. This will prevent showing ads to people searching for ‘nile river crocs’, ‘croc pots’ and ‘ceramic crocs and jars’.

Likewise, an Intellectual Property law firm using the word ‘patent’ should employ the negative keywords -leather and -medicine. As a preventive move, this avoids ad impressions to people looking for ‘patent leather’, ‘history of patent medicines’, etc.

Not showing ads for inappropriate search queries means fewer wasted clicks, lower costs, higher conversion rates and better ROAS.

Pay-Per-Click Negative Keyword Categories

Non-Shoppers. Search term indicates that the searcher is looking for information unrelated to a purchase. This encompass searches for jobs, free products, academic material or reference information. Recommended negative KWs include -career, -closeout, –download, -free, -job, -study, -training, -tutorial.

Segment Refiners. Negative keywords refine the 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). And also -electoral (college), -recipes (Indian food), -manhattan (clam chowder) and –t shirt (mens dress shirts).

Ambiguity Resolvers. If one or more terms in a search phrase has an ambiguous meaning, negative keywords can avoid delivering ad impressions for the unintended meaning. Examples: -hyundai (in searches including ‘sonata’), -germany (hamburgers), -utah (jazz scores). Plus -airlines (southwest air quality), -movie (camp trailers), -dallas (cowboy shirt).

Disparaging or Profane Language. Why show an ad to someone searching for ‘<your product name> sucks’, ‘i hate <your business name>’? Or even worse,  ‘<your service offering> is terrible/awful/stupid’.

To do this systematically, we use tools like WordStream, Kparser or Karooya to search for negative keyword ideas. And, while running the SEM pay-per-click campaign, we check the Search Terms report to identify mismatches we transform into additional neg KWs. Here are some negative keyword examples we use for business and e-commerce ad programs.

Tips for Negative Keywords PPC Applications

To avoid unintended consequences, we need to exercise care using negative keywords. An online bookstore should avoid the negative keywords ‘-career’, ‘-cheap’ or ‘-tutorial’. Because these might appear in the titles of their books!

And, more generally, we sometimes elect to have ads displayed to people who are looking for something our client doesn’t sell. We do this in the hope of persuading them to purchase our product instead. Generally we put these 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’. We might specify the negative keywords -audi, -bmw, -mercedes. These prevent paying for clicks from people who are searching specifically for an Audi, BMW or Mercedes. But we could create another keyword group based on the less expensive keyword ‘new mercedes s class’ (with no negative keywords) to go after prospects we could persuade to buy a Lexus instead.

For more information on SEM pay-per-click management services, visit our Search Engine Marketing page or contact Semantic Advantage.