Success, in my opinion, has become synonymous with a few core characteristics, such as resiliency and having the ability to think quickly on your feet. As paid search marketers, we are certainly no exception to these principals because we’re constantly testing things that may not work in order to improve our accounts. In this sense, we are resilient to continue trying new things. Furthermore, we’re constantly forced to make financial decisions in real-time to ensure optimal return on our ad spend (ROAS). In this sense, we have the ability to think quickly on our feet and make the right decisions as well. But those are just a few of the characteristics that comprise a dedicated search marketer.

I wanted to use this intro to demonstrate the fact that it becomes way too easy for PPC management tasks to accidentally slip through the cracks, as a result of how busy we are or even how many accounts we have our hands in. Nonetheless, I’m here to remind you of a particular task that is easily neglected; auditing your negative keywords!

Negative keywords are delicate creatures that can improve efficiency if used correctly, but hinder traffic volume in the long run if used incorrectly. Back in August, I wrote a post on how to perform a landing page audit, so I’d like to treat this in similar fashion. After reading this post, it is my hope that you will leave with a better understanding of what a negative keyword audit is, why they’re important and to go about performing such a task.

What Is A Negative Keyword Audit?

A negative keyword audit is the process of revisiting the current list(s) of negative keywords in a given account to double-check and ensure that they aren’t restricting qualified traffic. Although adding negatives may seem like a one and done process, this is certainly not the case. Products and services being offered by your clients are constantly changing, so this is one way in which we make ourselves aware of that and adapt accordingly.

How Do I Audit My Negatives?

There is no right or wrong way to go about auditing your negative keywords, as long as we’re left with a healthy flow of qualified traffic that drives conversions at the end of the day. Ultimately, it is up to the account manager to maintain an awareness of which keywords he/she is targeting within the account. At that point, the manager should have a pretty clear understanding of the product/service and the accompanying keywords that drive the most qualified traffic.

For example, if I have adwords and adcenter running as keywords in my account, but pay-per-click is in my account as a negative, I would know to remove that if I audited correctly. Although that is an extremely generic scenario, that is exactly the mindset you want to have when performing a negative audit. Here are a few things I like to consider when revising my negative keyword lists:

  • Are there any obvious outliers from previous management?
  • Has my client introduced any new products/services recently?
  • Am I utilizing all of the available match types correctly?

These are all things you should be thinking about. If you’re running in adCenter, you have an incredible advantage that hasn’t gained a whole lot of publicity yet.

What I’m referring to here is the Negative Keyword Conflict (above) reporting feature introduced earlier this month. This feature is available in the Reports tab of your adCenter interface and will automatically locate all of the keywords that are currently restricted by negatives in your account. After using this a few times, it’s truly an awesome feature and would love to see this added to the arsenal of Google tools soon!

How Often Are Audits Needed?

As a best practice, I’ve read that you should be auditing your negative keywords every two or three months to avoid restricting too much traffic. However, I’ve found that performing an audit once every six months or so is more than enough to maintain a close watch. This way, you can ensure that your negative keywords are well kept and continuously groomed for optimal traffic flow.

Why Are Negative Audits Important?

Negative keyword audits are important because they keep your negative keyword lists in check to ensure that aren’t blocking qualified traffic. For example, when working for an agency, client accounts are often passed down through several managers, which can make it difficult to keep track of all the negative keywords added previously. On the other hand, it could also be something as trivial as accidentally using the wrong match type, which would end up restricting more than you had originally intended. These are two reasons why you might consider auditing your negative keywords.

To wrap things up, auditing your negative keywords should be added to every PPC account manager’s task checklist. Oftentimes with our busy schedules, it becomes far too easy for small details to slip through the cracks. I hope everyone was able to take something valuable away from this post and would encourage any and all feedback you may have. Thanks for reading!