Building An Effective Negative Keyword List

If you want to get a good return on investment from your pay per click marketing efforts, it’s critical that you understand how to use negative keywords effectively. Certain keywords can drive a lot of traffic, especially at broad match. And despite the fact that PPC offers greater targeting to customers due to the keyword-based approach to serving ads, you still get a lot of irrelevant traffic from keyword searches that are only tangentially related to what you are offering. Adding a robust negative keyword list can help you prevent these irrelevant keyword searches from showing your ads and leading to clicks that are not likely to convert.

Whenever I’m building a negative keyword list, I usually start with the AdWords Keyword Tool. This is an incredibly useful app for keyword addition, and it’s equally useful for finding queries that you don’t want to trigger your ads. Type in a few of the highest-volume keywords you have and see what comes up. Chances are, you’ll notice a lot of single words mixed in with your useful keywords. For example, if you are a realtor that sells condos in Austin, the Google keyword tool is probably going to recommend keywords like “austin real estate” or “real estate broker” to you. But it might also recommend “commercial real estate.” Since you only deal with residential real estate, it’s probably safe to add in “commercial” as a negative keyword.

Also be on the look out for words that indicate no intent to purchase. For most campaigns, “free” is a pretty safe negative keyword to add, since people looking for free things aren’t going to want to buy what you’re selling. If you’re in a service industry, try to add some negative keywords that do-it-yourselfers would be using to find instructions. For a house painter, “house painting estimates” indicates someone wants to hire a painter, while “how to paint a house” indicates they might just click on your ads to get some tips for themselves. “How to” would be a good negative phrase to add in this case.

Once you have a campaign running, your search query reports are going to be an invaluable source for new negative keywords. After you’ve been running ads for a month or two, run a search query report, and filter it by clicks and impressions. You will probably find that a lot of people have been clicking your ads after typing in an irrelevant phrase. To eliminate this traffic in the future, add in words or entire phrases that have generated clicks but no conversions (assuming that the phrase in question is not relevant to your business). Also be on the lookout for phrases that generate a lot of impressions but no clicks. These may not be costing you money, but the large impression count and low click-through rate might negatively affect your quality score for keywords that you actually need in your account.

With a little foresight and prudent monitoring of search queries, you’ll have a healthy negative keyword list in no time. Even adding a few good negatives can have a drastic impact on your cost per conversion. This will give you more bang for your buck in your PPC accounts, which is always a good thing.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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One Response to Building An Effective Negative Keyword List

  1. Great post, Shawn! There is tremendous value locked in your Search Term Reports.