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A Guide to Negative Keywords

Published: November 20, 2012

Author: Bailey Lau

Today’s post is by Account Associate Bailey Lau, a recent UC-San Diego grad who loves playing softball and football and fueling herself by finding new places to eat.
When using broad, broad match modifier, or phrase match keywords, you are likely to get a good amount of irrelevant traffic. Negative keywords play a huge role in your account strategy. They save money and, more importantly, help drive more relevant traffic to your client by helping improve performance metrics.
Negative keywords are like weeds that constantly need to be removed from a garden because they steal nutrients from the flowers. Looking through and scrubbing for negatives in a search query report will give you the best idea of what kind of irrelevant queries are hurting your account.
So how do you cut out this irrelevant traffic and improve your performance metrics using negatives? Here are some tips to help you out:
1)      Scrub often: Because negatives are a frequently bringing you irrelevant traffic, you should be frequently be scrubbing for them. Depending on the volume and size of the account, a negative scrub should be performed either every week or every other week.
Weekly or bi-weekly negative scrubs will help optimize your account and reduce the amount of irrelevant traffic. This will also help keep the task relatively short. If you pull an SQR for the whole month and attempt to scrub for negatives, chances are that it will take you hours and hours.
search query report
Advanced Tip: If you’re dealing with a larger account, a weekly SQR is likely to contain thousands and thousands of queries that would take hours to scrub. When dealing with a large SQR, don’t scrub through the whole thing. Although it would be ideal to scrub through all of the queries to ensure that you catch all irrelevant traffic, focus on the queries that potentially are high risk to the account. Sort your SQR by CTR to find which queries are receiving few to no clicks as these queries are most likely irrelevant. It’s important to focus on these queries because they are likely bringing down the overall CTR of a keyword.
2)      Understand and use the right match type: Assigning the right match type to a negative keyword is a crucial part of doing a negative scrub. You have to be sure you are using the right match type to ensure you are cutting out irrelevant traffic without endangering your relevant traffic. Always use your best judgment when assigning a match type to a negative query. Making “shoes” a broad matched negative probably isn’t a good idea for a company that sells women’s clothing.

Advanced Tip
: Phrase and exact match negatives work the same as in phrase and exact match keywords, but broad match negatives are not quite the same as broad matched keywords. Broad match negative keywords do NOT cover variations, synonyms, or related searches. When going through and assigning a match type to negative keywords, understand how the match type will affect your account. If you sell shoes and you come across the query “origami paper,” you may not want to make “origami” a broad negative keyword, since you sell “origami shoes.” However, you might want to phrase negative match “origami paper” and broad match negative “paper.”
origami shoes
3)      Stay organized: Keep your negatives organized so that you aren’t uploading duplicate negatives. Google does have a cap on the number of negatives you are allowed to have in an account so it is important to make sure you don’t run into duplicates. You can stay organized by utilizing campaign-level negative keywords or negative keyword lists in the Google UI.
Campaign-level keywords are helpful to stay organized when you want to limit a negative keyword to one campaign. This is useful in mapping relevant traffic to the most relevant ad. Negative keyword lists are helpful for the same reason; you can create a list of negatives to apply to whichever campaigns you choose. Shared negative lists are a little more helpful in staying organized because you can apply negatives to new campaigns easily.
Advanced Tip: Use the shared lists to improve your mapping by creating a negative alpha list. When using the PPC Associates Alpha-Beta structure in an account, it is important to use negative lists to ensure that your mapping is complete.
If you find a query from a Beta campaign and graduate it into an exact-match Alpha, you want to make that same query an exact negative match in the Beta campaign. This is to ensure that when the query is searched again, it will go to the Alpha campaign and not the Beta campaign. This guarantees that when the query is searched, it will go directly to your Alpha campaign with your customized ad.
alpha beta negatives
Any tips to add? Leave a comment!
– Bailey Lau, Account Associate

1 S Wacker Drive
Suite 2250

Chicago, IL 60606(650) 539-4124


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