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How to use negative key terms

PPC advertisers are always looking for ways for optimise the traffic that they generate from their Google Ads or Microsoft Ads campaigns. As with any SEM activities, relevancy is key in driving the highest quality users to your company’s website or app to purchase your products or services.

One of the most effective methods for improving relevancy across your campaigns is negative keywords.

What are negative keywords?

Any marketer who has created a Google Ads search campaign is familiar with the term “Keyword”. It is a word or phrase that you can choose to target and show ads for within a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Through a variety of different matching types, your selected keywords can be triggered by what are known as search terms. These are the actual phrases that search engine users type into the search bar before being shown your text ads.

Negative keywords function as the opposite to keywords. They can be selected based on search terms that you don’t want your ads to be triggered by.

Below is an example of a search by a user who is looking to find electrician services in their local area:

Example Keyword:electrician (phrase match)
 Example Search Terms:electrician near mehow to become an electricianelectrician services
Example Negative Keyword:how to become an electrician

Similarly to regular keywords, you can assign a match type to negative keywords in order to dictate what search terms are blocked by a specific negative keyword. You can add exact, phrase and broad match negative keywords, all of which will block differing amounts of variants of the search term that you choose to add as a negative keyword.

What can negative keywords be used for?

Adding negative keywords to your PPC search campaigns can have numerous benefits which result from the increase in relevancy.

Firstly, the obvious advantage to removing irrelevant search terms from triggering your search campaign ads is the reduction in ad spend used on irrelevant searches. Any budget that would be used on low-performing searches can be reserved for quality traffic which has higher interest and intent of finding your company’s products.

Another reason for introducing negative keywords into your PPC strategy is the Click-through rate (CTR) of your search campaigns should improve. By reducing the amount of impressions from irrelevant search terms, your text ads will be entered into auctions for more relevant and quality searches. This increases the likelihood that users will find the products and services in your ads appealing and therefore click through to your website or app. This drop in impressions and rise in clicks is the recipe for an overall increase in CTR.

Negative keywords can also be used for structuring your search campaigns and there are a multitude of methods for building out your search campaigns. Depending on the products and services that a PPC marketer wishes to advertise, search keywords can be split between multiple ad groups across multiple campaigns to divide the categories by theme. Negative keywords can then help direct clicks, traffic and spend through the correct ad group or campaign if there is any crossover between the different search terms.

For example:

CampaignAd GroupKeywordSearch TermNegative Keyword
Cutting ToolsDiamond Blade Cutting Toolsdiamond blade cutting tools (phrase)diamond blade cutting tools 
 Other Cutting Toolscutting tools (phrase)diamond blade cutting toolsdiamond blade cutting tools (exact) diamond (phrase)

Finally, implementing negative keywords into a SEM strategy helps drive up overall performance metrics for an account. By optimising the relevancy of search campaigns, the new traffic with higher intent will be more likely to convert, whether that includes purchasing a product, filling out a contact form or calling the customer sales number.

This increase in likelihood for users to perform these actions results in a rise in conversion rate. A rise in conversion rate equates to a drop in Cost-Per-Action (CPA) or sometimes (depending on revenue value) an increase in Return-On-Ad-Spend (ROAS).

If you'd like us to take a look at your PPC campaigns and see how well they;'re set up and whether or not Negative Key Terms are being used effectively then why not book yourself in for a free PPC Audit?

written by:
Dan Swan