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Negative Keywords: Keeping the Bad Guys Out

Keep the bad guys out.

I know that sounds elementary, but it’s not always taken into consideration. We do most everything in our power to keep ourselves safe, but sometimes we slip. You forget to lock your car door. You get lost in an unfamiliar (and not so desirable) neighborhood. You leave your purse open in public and something gets stolen. These are things we try our hardest to prevent, but sometimes they just happen.

This is the same principle we can apply to negative keywords. Aren’t sure what negative keywords are? Here’s the definition, straight from Google:

“Negative keywords are an important part of every campaign because they help make sure that your ads appear only to people looking for what you offer. This added level of control can help you increase your clickthrough rate (CTR), reduce your average cost-per-click (CPC), and increase your ROI.”

Alright, so back to my bad guys analogy. It’s important to be proactive about keeping you and your loved ones safe. This goes for negative keywords – consider these search queries as “the bad guys.” They are keywords that sneak their way into your campaign when all they do is bring down performance, and bring in unwanted impressions and clicks. Here’s a classic example that can oftentimes be overlooked: you own a landscaping company. You want to bring in people who are looking to hire a contractor as soon as possible. The number one negative keyword that would be critical to put in the campaign is actually a fairly unassuming one: “ideas.” The keyword “ideas” seems like, well, a good idea (see what I did there?), but if you really take the time to think about the user searching for landscaping ideas, you’ll see what I mean.

People searching for landscaping ideas are absolutely not going to convert. They’re just not. Rather, these people want to see pretty pictures on Pinterest or potential landscaping designs they’ll want once they finally decide to pull the trigger on hiring a contractor. Who knows how long that could take? We don’t want to wait long enough wasting precious dollars trying to find out.

In addition to the keyword “ideas”, here are some other negative keywords that would be great additions to most campaigns right off the bat:

  • Free
  • Cheap
  • YouTube
  • Craigslist
  • eBay
  • Salary
  • Review
  • Comparison
  • Hire/hiring
  • Tutorial
  • Opinion
  • Pictures
  • How to

For the most part, these keywords catch users in the research phase of the search process. They’re deliberating, weighing out their options, and are most likely not ready to purchase your product or service. So let users find what they’re looking for, stay out of the SERP, and save yourself some money.

Another great way to find unwanted keywords is to dive into your search query reports. These are reports that let you tap into how customers are finding your ad. With SQRs, you can see the actual searches people enter on Google, pull up your ad, and result in a click. For instance, we have a client that’s promoting physical therapy. Looking at their stats from the past week, the following keywords snuck in our campaign: physical therapy bed, physical therapy assistant, education to become a physical therapist, and best physical therapy companies to work for. Since our client is an actual physical therapist, none of these keywords are valuable additions to our campaign. Therefore, we want to protect ourselves from the bad guys, and add them as negative keywords.

And, what’s more, you’re able to control whether a particular negative keyword is placed in the campaign level, or you can get more granular and place it in the ad group level. Remember those general keywords I mentioned? Those are great candidates for the campaign level. More specific keywords relating to particular products and services are a better fit for the ad group level.

Now that you’ve learned the rundown on negative keywords, I’ve got one question for you. Why wouldn’t you want to incorporate negative keywords into your campaign? By doing this, you’ll reap the benefits I mentioned above: cheaper CPCs, boosting your CTR, and increasing your ROI. As always, feel free to leave questions and comments below – we’d love to hear from you!