Google Ads Negative Keyword Blueprint

Negative keywords are an often-overlooked tool you can use in Google Ads to push your campaigns from mediocre to performing better than you could have hoped. Why labour for hours over keywords and campaigns if you aren’t going to fully utilise all Google Ads has to offer? The truth is, most businesses don’t. So, in this article, I’m going to guide you through how to successfully build a negative keyword list and how to use them to maximise your CTR (click-through-rate) and ROI (return-on-investment) so you can stop leaving money on the table.

The Basics

I assume since you’re here reading about negative keywords that you know how Google Ads works generally, but if you don’t, Google Ads works like an auction: you bid on keywords to get your ad in front of interested audiences. If you’ve set it up properly with the right keywords and ad, you should be seeing results. If you need to get these basics established, you can read our other article about creating a successful Google Ads campaign.   

But… that usually also means it shows up for close searches. These searches are by people who aren’t interested in your offer and that means you are paying for them too. So, how do we stop this? That’s where negative keywords come in.

What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords help you keep your campaigns streamlined by showing your ads only to relevant search impressions.

Let me show you through an example – so imagine you run a business that sells activewear for plus-sized women. Potential customers may search for “plus sized activewear” or “plus-sized workout clothes”, so it’s likely you would bid on these words as part of your campaigns.

So, if you are bidding on keywords like “plus-sized activewear”, you won’t want your ads to show up to people searching for “plus sized dresses”, since the CTR and conversion rate will be that much lower. We want to a smaller net with more specificity. So, you would want to take keywords like “dresses”, “skirts”, “jeans” and list them in your negative keywords. In this case, you tell Google what search queries are not relevant to your campaigns and will prevent you from paying for uninterested impressions.

Research, Research, Research

You should spend some time really thinking about your major keywords and what other search terms people may be combining this with so you can add any irrelevant terms to your negative keywords list. Remember to think outside the box as you make your list. Consider whether your product shares its name with any popular book, movie or game titles as well as logical search terms.

Another great way to narrow your search with negative keywords is to check out the results for your major keywords, and if you see anything irrelevant there then you can add those words to your negative keywords list, and spy on your competitor’s results for any more possible negative terms.

As you do this, check out how much traffic each keyword gets on Google. If there’s a keyword that is almost relevant and it is the one bringing in the most traffic, think twice before eliminating it. Similarly, if you know your product becomes more popular at certain times of year don’t eliminate something by accident because it’s summer and the traffic bolsters when it gets cold.

How Do I Add Words to the List?

As of March 2019, you’ll find the link to negative keywords under the Keywords tab, but Google has a guide so you may want to double check if the interface has had an update since. Take your time as you enter them to ensure you eliminate the right search queries, especially if you’re using and combining different match types, which you can read more about below.

How Should I Use Them on My Campaigns?

You can use a general list of negative keywords on all the campaigns within your account. This works great if, for example, your product has another meaning for people, and you want to apply that negative keyword to every campaign you’ll ever create. If you have a keyword that is relevant to a whole campaign but you want to filter it to apply to just one ad group, you can do this by applying negative keywords at the ad group level.

Match Types for More Control

If you want to ensure that two of your campaigns for different products don’t conflict you can use the exact terms you’ve used in one for negative keywords for the other. This is especially useful if you want to do some intense testing on your campaigns and you don’t want any cross contamination. But you shouldn’t just copy and paste them from one into the other because you may have some more general keywords in that campaign that work for your second campaign, and if you exclude those you are shooting yourself in the foot. 

There are three match type options for negative keywords: broad, phrase and exact and can be set at both the campaign level and the ad group level. Your match types can conflict with one another, even if they aren’t exact duplicate terms, and you can learn more about that here.

Introduce Your New Negative Keywords Slowly

Even if you’re starting a brand-new campaign, you may want to hold back from applying absolutely every negative keyword you can think of right from the word go. Instead, break the list down into the least related to some that are closer to your search and introduce them slowly, so you don’t choke your campaign the moment it starts. Give each new introduction a few weeks to prove themselves before you move on, so you always know what’s working and what’s affecting your campaign negatively.

Negative keywords are a fantastic way to ensure you are getting the most from your time and money with your campaigns, so your ads are only shown to your ideal customers. Remember to give your campaigns time and review them regularly to test and tweak. Negative keywords can give you a little more control over something that can feel like taking a gamble, but as you become more experienced, you’ll know Google Ads inside out.

Get a free health check by one of our experts today to find out how to build on your online success using Google Ads.

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