Five years ago I wrote a popular blog article on the use of negative keywords for Adwords, entitled Negative is Positive with Google Adwords.
Guess what? Negativity, in the form of negative search terms, is still a very useful tactic for refining your paid search campaigns, lowering your costs, and improving your conversions.
Both Adwords and BING provide easy-to-use tools to research and add negative terms to your campaigns and individual adword groups. Negative keyword search tactics are often ignored and underutilized, based upon my observations over the years... leading to large amounts of wasted effort and spending.
|Negative is Positive with Paid Search|
Why use Negative Search Terms?
Negative search terms help filter out people searching for things not relevant to your business.
One of the the challenges with paid search is that very different people may use identical or very similar search terms to access very different information and business solutions. Also called 'indirect search engine competitors', many bad things can happen to your search campaign if you find yourself inadvertently competing against indirect competitors.
For example, if your company sells 'brake shoe liners' to B-to-B industrial and mass transportation clients, your attempts to use paid search ads using search terms such as 'brake shoe' or 'shoe liner' may result in your ads competing against totally unrelated businesses selling 'shoes', 'brakes', 'liners', and variations of these keyword search terms. Not only will you pay more to be higher up in the rankings, but you may get clicks and 'leads' from confused or irrelevant visitors. You'll waste time, money, and harm your reputation as you attract 'garbage leads'.
Besides using more long-tail search terms, adding negative search terms will help cut back on the clutter and waste. If a potential searcher is looking for a search term which includes your negative keyword, your ad will not show. You just saved time, money, and reputation. Negative search terms to combat 'brake shoe liners' could include 'store', 'women's', 'sale', 'car', 'autoparts', etc. Your click through rate will climb, your quality score will climb, your conversion rate will climb, and more.
A well designed paid search campaign may, in fact, have more negative search terms than positive.
Google Adwords in particular has some great tools you can use to research both potential and actual search terms related to your keywords and your ads. You can actually review real Adwords search history for your adwords groups, select search terms which are not desirable, add and/or modify them to ensure there is no unintended problem with your positive search terms, and then load them as negative terms. You've just enhanced the performance of your campaigns.
One important word of advice regarding negative search terms... choose wisely, selectively, and sparingly. Try to keep to one-word negative keyword lists, as this will reduce the risk of accidentally filtering for good keywords. Better to use 'automobile' as negative term than 'automobile research', if your company conducts research for clients, for example.
Lessons Learned from Ten Years with Google Adwords