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Your Search Ads Are Losing Money: Stop The Bleeding!

Negative KeywordsWe all know the gig. You add keywords, also known as positive keywords, and then you create relevant text ads that users will see when they search using queries that trigger those keywords. Of course, you need settings, bids, daily budgets, and so-on and so-forth. After you put the ads online you go back and start adding negatives for the queries that are irrelevant and/or unprofitable, so that those queries don’t trigger your ads again.

The problem is – that’s the wrong way to go about it. Okay, my title isn’t as all-encompassing as it suggested. I really just want to delve into negatives and adding them preemptively. While there is nothing wrong with omitting search queries using negatives, that is being reactive, not proactive. You can stop a great deal of pain before it occurs. Just sit down and think about your industry for a little while, and some negatives will start to become obvious. However, many are not obvious. These are the deceptive drain on your spending that leads to unprofitability.

It is easy to find possible negatives by navigating to the Dimensions Tab and View Search terms. Some terms must be added very specifically, but some can be added broadly. Look for specific words that appear in a broad number of unprofitable queries, and add a one or two-word negative. Watch out how broadly you go through, because certain terms, like the word ‘free,’ may be used differently than as a simple price term.

Click the link to view the document: Google Docs Negative Keyword List

To help understand how best to use the spreadsheet, it helps to start by breaking down the search users in a more general manner. Remember that every business is different, so what has worked for my accounts may not work for your clients.

Queries Tab                                                                                                                

Adult Terms: Admittedly, most plumbing, software tool, or mortgage loan officer type keywords won’t be eligible to run on most adult terms, but it never hurts to add them. Even if it only happens once per month, I would rather avoid that one time. Imagine the search ‘I got scammed by an f$^$ing remodeling company.’ Appearing on that is not likely to garner you a new lead. Appearing on any pornographically related term may reflect poorly on your company, as well.

Job-Seekers: With unemployment high, users will search for your business looking for a job. Searches would include wages, career, application, salary, job, etc. If you are trying to hire people, you’ll still likely want to segment your potential users into separate campaigns.

Reference and Research: Search engines are wonderful tools for learning information. However, informational queries rarely perform well. Searchers who are looking for how-to, guides, manuals, charts, etc., are probably not in a purchasing mindset. Targeting them with ads is far less likely to bring in immediate results. While there are strategies to cultivate them like a lead source, like email, remarketing, and multi-touch attribution models, a lot of times they are better added as negatives.

Education: Classes, learning, university, etc. are clearly terms where the user is looking to learn to do a profession or perform a skill. In a similar vein to the Reference and Research terms, they are usually best avoided.

Pricing and Quality: Is your product or service cheap? Then consider blocking luxury, hand-made, brand name, etc. Do you display prices on your website? If not, consider blocking price, cost, calculator, estimate, etc.  Consider that terms like cheap, bargain, etc. are different than pricing terms. A website that sells budget items, but does not display the prices, may use one set of negatives but not the other. Some vendors succeed best by blocking pricing terms to avoid price shoppers, but this should be tested thoroughly.

Used: Are your items used? If not, try adding the negatives used, second hand, good condition, refurbished, etc.

Do It Yourself: In the same line as the Education and Reference and Research lists, block do it yourself, DIY, kits, create, and queries from additional research related terms.

Negative: Scams, awful, terrible, rip-off, etc. are rarely terms that would generate a profit from your ad. Furthermore, they would likely have a terrible CTR. I suggest adding those negatives, as well.

Automotive: I personally add car makes and models, radiators, engines, etc. to certain industries in which crossover terms might occur, like air conditioning companies and home windows.

Legal: Most industries won’t work with words like law, regulations, fines, etc.

Verticals Tab

There are so many miscellaneous terms that can be added as negatives, like YouTube, Craigslist, pics, videos, etc. that would apply to most accounts. However, each industry has its own set of specific terms that will not perform. Think about where you might not want to appear before going online.

In Summary

Just remember that Pay-per-Click at its core is about adding volume while removing inefficiencies. Just keep carefully stamping out those poor performing searches. Happy hunting!


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