If your PPC campaign is suffering from high impressions and low CTR ailment, negative keywords are one of the remedies. Despite being as important as targeted keywords, they are an often overlooked aspect of ad campaign strategies.
When used judiciously, negative keywords can be game changers for ad performance and can also broaden the scope of targeted keywords in your campaigns.
Let us now look at what are negative keywords and the various ways in which they can benefit the keyword strategy for your ecommerce business.
What are negative keywords?
Negative keywords are diagonal opposites of standard keywords. Google defines them as “keywords that prevent your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase”. They are the search terms you want to exclude from your ad campaigns.
Every click matters in an ad campaign. You only want relevant people to see your ads. A comprehensive negative keyword list narrows down the target audience ensuring that the clicks are not wasted on irrelevant searches.
By filtering out such searches, your ads will drive relevant, high-quality traffic to your landing page. An effective negative keyword list will positively impact your CTR and consequently your conversion rates.
A standard keyword says “show my ads to people searching this” while a negative keyword says “do not show my ads to people searching this”.
For instance, if you are advertising for a courier company you will want to target “delivery service” and “courier”. At the same time, you want to avoid people searching for “food delivery service” or “track courier order”.
Neither of these searches will yield good results for courier company ads. Hence, it is better to exclude them.
How to find negative keywords?
Preparing a list of negative keywords is a little more complex than preparing a keyword list. If your audience research is accurate, you know exactly the kind of people you want to target.
But you will need to put a little more thought into pinpointing the type of people you want to avoid.
Manual searches & Google Suggest
A Google search is the simplest keyword research tool. You just type what you are looking for and Google would suggest similar searches. Google also provides a list of similar searches at the end of the first page.
You should perform a search for your targeted keywords and review the search results for relevance and search intent. Do this for each of your targeted keywords and you have a robust list of negative keywords.
Google Keyword Planner
You can type in your targeted keywords in the Google keyword planner to get a list of similar searches. You will notice that many searches that have your targeted keywords have different search intents.
The above image is an example of keyword ideas from “delivery service” and “courier service”. You can see several keywords that include target search terms but are irrelevant.
These are your negative keywords. Despite their search volume, the audience gained from such search terms is of little to no use.
How to evaluate negative keywords?
You can evaluate negative keywords based on irrelevance and potential waste of clicks. As these keywords are meant to exclude search terms from the ad campaigns, you will need to evaluate them for different scenarios.
You can estimate whether a keyword is negative or not by asking the following questions:
- Would a person searching this, click on my ad?
- What would happen after the person searching this clicks on my ad?
- Does this search intent match my target audience?
- Can I expect conversion from this search audience?
- What will I miss if the person searching for this does not see my ad?
These questions will help you assess the potential value of each search term and identify negative keywords.
5 negative keyword strategies for ecommerce PPC campaigns
Negative keyword strategies intend to increase CTR, improve audience quality, and maximize conversion rate. These strategies specifically target search terms that can drain your budget with unnecessary impressions or irrelevant clicks.
1. Run search term reports for negative keywords
Every Google ad campaign generates a search term report. To create a list of negative keywords you only need to consider impressions, CTR, and conversions for each search term in the report.
The keywords with low-performance metrics are your negative keywords. In this method, CTR and conversion are more important than impressions. Many negative keywords would yield a good impression.
But their CTR would be low and conversion would be near zero. All the impressions and clicks are wasted because the keyword is targeting irrelevant audiences.
By categorizing them as negative keywords, your ads can now focus on searches that yield fruitful results.
2. Make use of negative keyword match types
As with standard keywords, Google also has 3 match-type categories for negative keywords. These categories function quite differently from their standard keyword counterparts.
Negative Broad Match
This category will exclude searches containing all the words from the negative keywords. You can use this category to:
- Exclude all searches for the keywords regardless of the order.
- Exclude searches for phrases, but include searches for individual words.
- Exclude singular, but include the plural or vice versa.
- Exclude keywords with additional words, regardless of the order.
Negative Phrase Match
This category is an order-sensitive version of Negative Broad Match. It will only exclude searches that have negative keywords in exact order. You can use Negative Phrase Match to:
- Exclude exact phrases, but include variations of the phrase.
- Exclude exact phrases with additional words.
Negative Exact Match
This category will only exclude searches that only include negative keywords. You can use Negative Exact Match to:
- Exclude exact words or phrases, but include searches with additional words.
- Exclude exact phrases, but include variations of them.
This is how each category will function for the negative keyword “formal shirts”:
3. Implement “account-wide negatives”
Account-wide Negatives are the keywords you never want to target, regardless of the campaign. For eCommerce, account-wide negatives include keywords like “free”, “second hand”, “jobs”, “make your own”, “shops near me” “address” “contact number” etc.
Such keywords accompany your targeted search terms, but the search intent is irrelevant to your ad. To list out account-wide negatives you have to think of irrelevant search intents that could contain your targeted keywords.
Some of the most common search intents to include in this negative keywords list include:
- Job Searches
- Mistaken Searches
- Address Searches
- Research Queries
- Brand Specific Searches
- Informational Searches
- Customer Service Searches
- Domain Specific Searches
- News Searches
- Generic Searches
Building a list of account-wide negatives will save you a lot of time and money. The benefits of this function will amplify with each addition to the list.
4. Apply campaign-wide or ad group-wide negatives
If you implement a list of negative keywords at the campaign level, you are telling Google that you do not want to show ads to anyone searching for these keywords in the entire campaign.
These negative keywords will apply to all ad groups within the campaign.
Alternatively, you can choose negative keywords at the ad group level. Here, you can ensure that each ad group has a different set of negative keywords.
You can also use negative keywords to ensure that different ad groups do not overlap. You can use targeted keywords from one group as negative keywords for another. This will ensure that you don’t waste multiple ads on a single search.
5. Exclude irrelevant keywords based on current events
Major events, shocking news, and viral content can disrupt a search campaign like an earthquake.
Let’s say you are running ads for “banana milkshake” and some celebrity spills a banana milkshake on their dress. If this incident goes viral in the news, your ad campaign will experience unexpected fluctuations.
As your campaign is targeting the words “banana milkshake”, people searching for the butterfingered celebrity will also see your ad. Negative keywords can help you exclude all people searching for the celebrity.
You can also take preemptive measures to ensure that current events or a sudden rise in related searches do not affect your campaign.
List out popular people, products, or brands that are related to your targeted keywords, but not relevant to your ads.
Positive results from negative keywords
Listing out negative keywords will always be a work in progress. The more campaigns you run, the more negative keywords you will discover. Each negative keyword helps you filter out people you don’t want.
Though if you have too many negative keywords, you might also filter out potential customers. Target keywords and negative keywords work like yin-yang. They are opposites, yet function harmoniously.
Targeted keywords decide who sees your ads. Negative keywords serve as a refinery that filters out waste from the water, so your spending can be focused on the people you want to target.