17 Jan 2012

Using Negative Keywords Across PPC Platforms

January 17, 2012PPC Advertising

Last year, the PPC world became a bit narrower when Microsoft’s adCenter and Google AdWords took the center stage as the two main PPC platforms. Though the two platforms are similar, they do have some distinct differences. One of which is their handling of negative keywords. A negative keyword is a word or phrase that is excluded from ad serving. Setting these negative keywords in your PPC accounts can help you reach your most relevant target audience and can lead to successful conversions.
In the past, it was difficult to make changes across a series of platforms in regards to negative keywords. The formats were drastically different, so it took careful thought whenever changes were implemented.
Google had the widest variety of options for negative keywords, allowing you to use an unlimited number of keywords and apply keywords at the campaign or ad group level. Microsoft’s adCenter presented a more complicated set of limitations. For example, adCenter only allowed one kilobyte of negative keywords, or the equivalent of about 1024 characters, which could be applied at keyword, ad group or campaign levels.
Today AdWords and adCenter are more similar than they were in the past. Both platforms allow you to apply negative keywords at campaign and ad group levels, but only adCenter allows negative application at the keyword level. Keep in mind, that if you choose to apply negatives at the keyword level in adCenter you will still be subject to the 1024 character limitation. It is speculated that the negatives at the keyword level may be discontinued in the future.
In AdWords you can apply all match types to negative keywords, while adCenter only allows negative match types on the phrase level. Because of this, you will have to be very careful about adding plurals, misspellings and synonyms of the words that you would like to exclude in adCenter. For this reason you also have to be careful to add all specific word orders that you want to exclude.
Another thing to be aware of is how adCenter ignores conjunctions and prepositions (words like about, what, on, or, with, of, etc.) when used within keywords. Knowing this, remember that you can choose to exclude prepositional phrases within AdWords, but this cannot be applied the same way in adCenter.
Finally, the hierarchical application of negative keywords differs in Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter. In Adwords, campaign and ad group negatives work in a cumulative fashion, meaning they work in tandem. For example, if you have 25 keywords on a campaign level, and 35 on an ad group level, then there are a total of 60 keywords being effectively excluded for that ad group. They work together so that all keywords cover on the ad group level.
As for adCenter, negative keywords are considered to be “cascading,” meaning that the negative keywords will only apply at the lowest level where these keywords exist. This can be at campaign, ad group or keyword level, depending on which of these is the lowest level where keywords have been applied. For example, if you apply 25 keywords at a campaign level, and another 25 at keyword level, your campaign level keywords will be ignored, since the coverage has “cascaded” down to keyword level. You need to be careful to recognize the hierarchical difference in platforms because if you used the same negative keyword application in both AdWords and adCenter, it is likely that your click-thru rates would suffer. This would happen because the negative keywords would be handled differently, and possibly less accurately, in adCenter.
The most important thing to remember when managing your PPC campaigns across different platforms is to stay current. Make sure that you stay on top of any changes that may be applied to the rules in AdWords and adCenter. Keep your campaigns up to speed so changes can be made across platforms seamlessly. Using negative keywords across PPC platforms is possible; it just takes a little extra planning and monitoring on your end. The end result of your efforts is hopefully a large number of conversions and healthy click-thru rates.