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How to Structure Negative Keyword Scrubs

Published: November 18, 2016

Author: Winnie Tsai

You’ve painstakingly completed your keyword expansion and ensured that your keyword mapping is accurate to a tee. However, that doesn’t mean that you can just leave your keywords and let them run until it’s time for the next keyword expansion. Equally as important as expanding your keyword coverage is limiting it and making sure that your ads are only being triggered by the queries that you deem relevant.

Playground equipment vendors would add this keyword as a negative.
Playground equipment vendors would add this keyword as a negative.

Routinely undertaking negative keyword scrubs will ensure that your ads are only being triggered by the most relevant search queries possible and that you’re spending your money efficiently. Here are four important factors in structuring effective negative keyword scrubs.

1.      Volume Density

The first thing to consider when conducting a keyword scrub is the account’s volume density. Larger accounts will have a significant amount of traffic coming in and may require a shorter lookback period to understand the search query landscape. However, an account with fewer keywords and less spend may require a much longer lookback to accurately understand which search queries are triggering ads. When in doubt, a longer lookback time is always better as you want to make sure that any irrelevant traffic is a pattern and not a one-off search.

2.      Search Query Quality

You may read the last sentence in the paragraph above and think, “Why wouldn’t you want to neg out every single irrelevant search query?” The simple answer is time. Undertaking a negative keyword scrub is a very painstaking process; reading through thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of lines of search queries to identify irrelevant ones is a tedious and laborious task. An irrelevant search query that has triggered $50 in spend over the past 30 days is more worth your attention than one that has triggered $5 in the past year. In order to better refine your search and make efficient use of your time, a good tactic would be to apply specific filters to the search query report to parse the amount of data that you need to look through. Typically, I’ll use a longer lookback, filter for queries that have not converted and have spent above a certain threshold, and then sort the remaining queries by cost from highest to smallest.

3.      Keyword Match Type

If a search query is truly irrelevant, you want to ensure that neither that specific search query nor any close variations will be triggered by your ad. Broad match may be too broad and unwittingly block out too much traffic while exact match is too specific and would require looking through a search query report with a fine-toothed comb. Phrase match is a good middle point and ensures the most effective and efficient keyword mapping.

4.      Keyword Scrub Scheduling

Negative keyword scrubs are part of routine account maintenance and as such, should be performed regularly. There are no shortage of ways for irrelevant search queries to trigger your ads and make your account bleed money. It is always important to keep a close eye and perform these regularly to make sure your account is as efficient as possible. The interval of scheduling should depend on the size of your account, as explained in the first point, but make sure it’s on the calendar to keep your spend as efficient as possible.
Good luck!

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