Using Negative Keywords Effectively

A common mistake that a lot of pay per click rookies make is loading up their accounts with hundreds of useless negative keywords. I’m all for the judicious use of negative keywords, since they help filter out traffic that won’t ever convert for you, and help you keep your cost per conversion in check. However, if you follow automated suggestions to bulk add a lot of negative keywords, you could be excluding traffic that could potentially offer some positive results.

When first-timers set up a new PPC account, a lot of them just follow the automated instructions since PPC can be really intimidating if you’re new to it. Tools like the Google Keyword Tool can give you suggestions for negative keywords, but it can’t tell you what negative keywords your specific account needs. What’s worse, they “conveniently” offer an option to bulk-add a ton of negative keywords, which are probably only tangentially related to your search terms (if that) and would probably never show up in a search query report. Why Google would try to make you get less search traffic, I’ll never know. Usually their automated suggestions for account improvement involve giving more money to Google…

But I digress. If you bulk-add keywords like this, you’re going to end up with a long, convoluted list of negative keywords like “porn,” “world of warcraft,” or “butt.” Having a lot of unrelated terms in your negative keyword list can create a lot of noise that distracts you from the really important negatives you have. If you’re going to get serious about excluding traffic you don’t want, you need to look at what keywords are actually driving traffic but not converting – wasting your PPC money. The only way to do this is to analyze your search queries by running a search query report. Look for keywords that are getting a lot of clicks, but aren’t converting. Then, add these keywords to your negatives list. It’s as simple as that. Don’t let some automated system push you around. You really need to do the analysis, and find which keywords are affecting you specifically, since everyone’s PPC situation is unique.

As of this writing, neither Yahoo or Bing has a comparable search query tool to Google. However, it’s not a major leap of faith to assume that the same bad keywords are being bad across every search engines. Feel free to add the negative keywords you find in your Google reports to your other PPC accounts. Keep an eye on your conversions and CPC. If your conversions stayed the same or got better and your CPC went down, then you did good. If your CPC stays the same or goes up, and your conversions drop, then go easy on the negative keywords to get back some of that converting traffic.

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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