The Importance of Negative Keywords
January 12, 2012
I’m going to apologize right off the bat for this tired cliché, but not all keywords are created equal. There are, in fact, tons of keywords you don’t want anywhere near your campaigns, driving ‘bad’ traffic to your website.
In order to raise your overall quality score and prevent this ‘bad’ traffic, you’re going to add some negative keywords at some point.
“How can traffic be bad?” you might be thinking at this point, and believe me, I hear you.
Consider this, if you’re selling bags of coffee beans on your webstore, there’s a chance people can find you with a search of “coffee maker” unless you specify otherwise. Of course, you don’t want people going to your site thinking that they can buy a coffee maker, that’s what I mean when I say ‘bad’ traffic.
What I suggest is that you review your keywords and think of any other words that could be associated with them and add them as negative keywords right away, you’ll surprised at how much lower your cost per acquisition can be. One of the first campaigns I ran as an intern-PPC-guy included the word ‘traffic’ as a keyword and I got tons of clicks, but hardly any conversions.
When I asked my boss to look over my campaign to see if he could offer any insight, all he told me was that I was going to kick myself in the head when I realized what the problem was. He pulled up my search terms for the campaign and sure enough, it was littered with queries for road conditions from all over the world, from Australia to South Africa, Switzerland to Vancouver and everything in between.
Silly me, thinking that an ad that was very distinctly about PPC or AdWords traffic would deter people who were looking for traffic reports and road conditions! I removed those keywords and immediately improved my cost per acquisition as well as my conversion rate.
The cool thing about the search query report is that you can add negative keywords right from the report. Just select the queries that you don’t want people to find you with and hit the add negative keyword button. I’d recommend doing this every few days as a part of your AdWords management routine depending on how much traffic you’re getting. It’s going to save you a ton of money in the long run, or at least help spend your budget much more appropriately.
It’s important to note that when adding negative keywords, you’ll most likely want to use phrase or exact match types, otherwise you’ll accidentally alienate keywords you want to show for. I’ll use the coffee maker example again, if you turned the broad match “coffee maker” into a negative, you’d lose searches including the word coffee. Obviously you don’t want that to happen, so you’d only make the exact and phrase match versions a negative keyword.
One of my favorite tools for adding keywords of any type is this one. It also has a negative keyword maker toward the bottom of the page for those days when you don’t feel like adding all those negative symbols on your own.
The earlier and more frequently you begin to use negative keywords, the easier it is to manage as you grow so don’t wait too long to start using these tips on your campaigns.
Trace Ronning is the social media coordinator for WordWatch. They’re dedicated to delivering small business advertisers better results for their money. He blogs about small business and paid search at blog.wordwatch.com and you can follow him on twitter @WordWatchPPC.
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