Typical AdWords Mistakes: Negative Keywords [Series]

White Shark Media

10 years ago



Our monthly series about typical AdWords mistakes have today taken us to negative keywords.

The vast majority of mistakes made with negative keywords are due to PPC managers not understanding the importance of going above and beyond.

Google, as opposed to Bing, does not disclose the searches that give you impression but no clicks.

This causes a big gap when it comes to finding negative keywords because a lot of negative keywords are found outside Google.

If you’re currently making the following mistakes when adding negative keywords to your AdWords campaigns, you’ll be amazed at the impact that correcting your mistakes will have on your AdWords performance.

1) Only Adding Negative Keywords in Exact Match

One of the key places to add negative keywords is your Search Terms report. In this report, you see the exact search queries that resulted in clicks on your ads and thereby costing you money.

Mining this list of search queries is a standard optimization technique that most PPC managers follow. However, many PPC managers just check off each search query they want to exclude, and then they exclude it in the standard match type: Exact Match.

When you choose to add a negative keyword in Exact Match, you’re only excluding that exact search query from triggering your ad. For example, let’s say you added the negative keyword [omega juicer coupon] because you don’t have coupons or low prices.

Seeing that you found it necessary to exclude [omega juicer coupon], you should also exclude all other instances when someone searches for omega juicer coupon:

  • Cheapest omega juicer coupon
  • Omega 8006 juicer coupon
  • Craigslist omega juicer coupon

When you choose to add the negative keyword in Exact Match you need to do 20-100 times more work per negative keyword in order to get the optimal effect.

In the example above, you would have to add each product number, various adjectives, etc. to exclude all instances of someone searching for an omega juicer coupon.

Solution: You can simply add the negative keyword in Broad Match. This way you will exclude your ads from being shown for all search queries that include the words in any word order.

2) Not Expanding Each Negative Keyword

When you have identified a good negative keyword, the work is just starting. Seeing that you never see all the search queries that your ads appear for in Google, you need to make maximum use of the search queries you do get to see.

If we continue with the example omega juicer coupon, there are so many more negative keywords that can be derived from that single search query:

  • Plural vs. singular
  • Reducing the length of the negative keyword
  • Similar negative keywords

Let me dive into each of the ways you can expand your negative keywords:

Plural vs. Singular

If you’re not interested in getting impressions for the search omega juicer coupon, then you’re definitely not interested in getting impressions for the search omega juicer coupons.

This small change with adding your negative keyword in plural alongside your singular will double the impact your negative keywords have.

Reducing the Length of the Negative Keyword

A great way to think of negative keywords is to always try and reduce the number of words each negative keyword contains.

If you’re not interested in getting impressions for omega juicer coupon searches, you might not be interested in getting impressions for any searches related to coupons.

Reducing your negative keyword from omega juicer coupon to just coupon will further increase the impact your negative keyword will have.

Just be careful you don’t go too far. Always think whether this will influence other areas of your AdWords campaign or account negatively.

Similar Negative Keywords

Going a step further will allow you to exponentially increase the impact of your work with negative keywords. Continuing with the example, if you’re already adding the negative keyword coupon/coupons, you will most likely also want to exclude similar terms such as:

  • Discount code
  • Discount codes
  • Promotional code
  • Promotional codes
  • Promo code
  • Promo codes
  • Voucher
  • Vouchers
  • Couponing

We have come from a single three-worded negative keyword to having more than 15 negative keywords that together will eliminate 95% of all consumers looking for products related to coupons.

This small exercise doesn’t take more than 5 minutes per keyword, and the impact you will make is far more powerful than just adding the negative keyword in its initial form.

3) Not Taking Pro-Active Measures When the Signs Are There

The mistakes we have seen so far might be obvious to some of the more experienced PPC managers who are reading this blog post. However, this next mistake is much more time-consuming and therefore more likely to be made – even by senior PPC managers.

I have an example from a client who is an ecommerce store with more than 90 brands and 400 different product categories. We run a huge AdWords account and our work with negative keywords becomes monumental at this level. The products are mainly within home décor and electronics.

We run individual Search campaigns for brands, product category keywords, and generic keywords.

Let’s say that we’re running a campaign for the product category “bedding”.

When we initially started the campaign we got a lot of clicks from searches like:

  • Kenneth Cole bedding
  • Wamsutta bedding

We didn’t have “Kenneth Cole” or “Wamsutta bedding” in our store, so clicks from these keywords didn’t convert very well.

I have seen cases where similar brand keywords can convert across several brands, but we were experiencing a big loss across these keywords with this client.

After a couple of weeks of me excluding brand after brand, I decided to become pro-active instead of just reacting to data. I went to Macys.com, Target.com, Bedbathandbeyond.com, Amazon.com, and all the other major retailers to find all the brands they were selling.

Next, I cross-referenced this list with the brands in our inventory and added all the brands we didn’t carry as negative keywords. We saw an immediate impact on the bottom line and our campaigns quickly became profitable thereafter.

Taking a pro-active approach can help you get to profitability faster and save you many hours of analyzing Search Term reports.

4) Forgetting to Add Exact Match Negatives When Pausing Exact Match Keywords

Adding keywords in different match types is a tactic used by most experienced PPC managers. However, you will sometimes see that Exact Match isn’t converting good enough to make the keyword profitable – even from a low position.

This causes PPC managers to pause the exact match version of a keyword and let the phrase or BMM keywords remain active. Unfortunately, this causes Google to let your phrase match keyword trigger ads for exact match search queries.

Therefore, you still appear for the exact match search term that you originally did not want to appear for. If you’re not careful, you will think that your phrase match keyword is dropping in performance and lower the bid.

A good practice to avoid this is to add internal negative keywords to help you sculpt what searches you want to appear for.

This way you ensure that you only show for those profitable long-tail searches, instead of wasting budget on shorter keywords that you paused in the first place.

5) Only Adding Negative Keywords on Ad Group Level

When you add a negative keyword directly from your Search Terms report, you’re given the choice between three levels:

  • Ad Group
  • Campaign
  • Negative Keyword List (Account)

Choosing the right place to add your negative keyword can save you several hours worth of follow up work and wasted ad spend.
If you have already decided that you don’t want to get searches for anything related to a specific keyword, you might as well add it directly to your negative keyword list. This way you can make an impact across your entire account immediately without even breaking a sweat.

6) Not Having a General List of Negative Keywords

There are many negative keywords that go across industries. Negative keywords like:

  • Jpg
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Scam
  • License
  • Certificate
  • Error
  • What does mean
  •  Job
  •  Intern

And many more can be used across industries. Lists like this can be found throughout the web and I urge you to take advantage of them. They can help you increase your CTR tremendously from day 1.

7) Adding More Than 50 Negative Keywords to Display Network Campaigns

This was a tip originally shared by Matt Van Wagner at the recent Hero Conference in Austin. If you’re running a Display Network campaign and have more than 50 negative keywords assigned to it, Google will randomly choose what negative keywords are active.

Therefore, you shouldn’t start adding keyword lists or your regular negative lists to your Display campaigns and be more cautious about the keywords you choose to add.

Go Above and Beyond to Make Every Single Negative Keyword Count 

There is a common theme throughout this entire blog post: Go the Extra Mile. This mantra couldn’t be truer with negative keywords. You waste valuable time by just following your routine when adding negative keywords.

Go further, make relations, think of ways to increase the impact of every single negative keyword you add and you will see how your campaign slowly, but steadily will improve its performance.

I like to finish my blog posts with one action step that I urge you to take, and I have the perfect one for you:

Most Important Tip: 

Download your negative keywords list and apply it across your campaigns (including individual ad group lists), and find out what negative keywords could be expanded and could apply for your entire account.

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