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How to effectively use negative PPC keywords

Keywords are used to determine which searches will trigger your pay-per-click (PPC) ads. Having a solid understanding of how keyword bidding works will help you to reach your target audience and move closer towards your PPC marketing goals.

For smaller businesses or brands with a very niche audience, being visible for the wrong search terms could mean quickly running out of budget. That is why your PPC keyword optimisation strategy is key.

Building a negative keyword list and having a clear keyword strategy can ensure you’re not showing for those unwanted terms; meaning you will get the best returns.

Firstly, what exactly are negative keywords?

When used correctly, negative keywords will benefit your business and keep you within your marketing budget. So, what exactly is a negative keyword?

They are essentially the opposite of your target keywords. By adding a negative keyword, you are informing Google that you do not want to appear for a specific search query. So, if a user includes your keyword in their query – your ad won’t appear.

In case you want a quick recap of how keywords generally work in PPC, you can access our blog here.

Different types of negative keywords

  1. Negative broad match

This is the default type of negative keyword. As long as a search query contains all of your terms, then your ad won’t be triggered by the search. Your ad still won’t be triggered if your terms are in the wrong order or part of a sentence. 

Here’s an example:

Your negative broad match keyword is “Marketing agency.”

You won’t appear for:

  • Marketing agency
  • Agency in London marketing
  • Digital marketing agency 

 You will appear for:

  • Digital marketing
  • Marketing London

2. Negative phrase match

For negative phrase match, your ads will not appear if a user searches your exact keyword terms, in the correct order. If a query includes your keyword phrase (in the same order) along with additional words – it still cannot appear. If your keywords are in the wrong order, then they can appear. For example:

Your negative phrase match keyword is “Marketing agency.”

You will not appear for:

  • Local marketing agency
  • Marketing agency 
  • Digital marketing agency 

 You will appear for: 

  • Agency marketing
  • Agency specialising in marketing
  • Marketing London

3. Negative exact match

For this type of negative keyword, your ad will not show if a user searches for your exact terms, in the correct order, without any additional words. If you’re worried about appearing for a specific query, then you can add it as a negative exact match. So here’s how it works:

Your negative exact match keyword is “Marketing agency.”

You won’t appear for:

  • Marketing agency

 You will appear for:

  • Agency marketing
  • Marketing agency London
  • Digital marketing agency  
  • Marketing

How to choose your negative keywords 

There are different ways you can find and research negative keywords. Sometimes your negative terms will be obvious – but it’s still best to use a tool to ensure you’re not missing any. 

In fact, it is almost impossible to think of every single negative keyword that users might search for, so starting with a negative keyword online tool is a great way to make sure your ad campaigns are cost-effective and precise. 

We’ve listed a few of our top tools and techniques below:

Keyword Planner 

A great tool that most businesses will benefit from using is Google Ads Keyword Planner. This tool allows you to look at real user query data and understand how people are searching online.

How exactly does it work? You can search for a term of your choice, and the tool will display a list of related keyword searches. You’ll also be able to find out the search volume and competition for each suggested term. 

This is also a way of gathering new keyword ideas – but is equally as useful for spotting those terms you want to exclude.

We suggest looking through your list and noting any terms that you wouldn’t want to appear for. Once you’ve found those irrelevant terms, you can add them to one of your negative keyword lists to avoid driving the wrong traffic to your site.

Search Terms Report

A Search Terms Report provides you with a list of search queries that have triggered your PPC ad, again, so that you can highlight any low-relevance terms. This is another way of avoiding spending money or showing your ad to people who probably won’t be interested. You can find which users are seeing your ad but not engaging with it. 

You might find that some keywords predicted as high-performing are not actually generating the results you expected. So, if you find a term that is relevant but not driving clicks or sales – you may want to add that as a negative.  

WordStream Free Keyword tool 

WordStream provides a free online tool that helps you to generate a negative keyword list. It works by simply entering a broad term that has some relevance to your brand, selecting your industry, and selecting your country. Then, the tool will populate the results with keyword suggestions. Those that are irrelevant to your business can be added as negative terms.

Do your own research too

There is no harm in doing some extra research, for example:

  • You can brainstorm with your team about any search terms you don’t want to appear for.
  • You could perform an organic Google search using your keyword to find more negative terms. Everything that appears as a result of your search is considered relevant by Google. So, you can look through the first few pages and spot any terms that you don’t think are likely to lead to a conversion. This can help to find those ‘exactish’ terms.

A few things to remember:

  • Track the performance of your PPC campaign and make adjustments throughout – things are always changing within Google and other search engines.
  • Update your keyword list regularly. Using the above methods can help you narrow down your negative keywords, helping you to reach high-quality users through SERP (search engine results pages).

How to add your negative keywords

Once you’ve got a list of negative keywords that you’re happy with, you’ll need to add them to your account. 

Google Ads have got a helpful step-by-step guide to help you add keywords to your Search and Display campaigns. You can find it here

If you need us to step in and audit your keyword list, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What next?

Adding negative keywords is a great way to ensure you are maximising your PPC budget and only driving those valuable clicks. Contact us if you want help with your negative PPC keyword research or your PPC marketing to ensure you’re not wasting any budget.

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