19 Jun 2012
Using Negative Keywords Effectively
Are you spending too much time deciding what should be excluded from your keyword searches rather than what should in fact trigger a match? It’s a trap that’s easy to fall into – and once you’ve gone down that rabbit hole it may be hard to climb back out. Now is a great time to reexamine your campaign strategies and really investigate where your focus should lie in regards to negative keywords.
Negative keywords are undoubtedly important. They are a specialized way to ensure that specific searches do not trigger your ad, and they can be set at the campaign or ad group level. While this tool is great to keep in mind, there is a possibility that you are putting entirely too much emphasis on this part of your strategy. You’re getting distracted by making sure that your ad does not display in certain circumstances, rather than securing the potential that your ad appears at all. After all, the only way you’ll get any exposure is if your ad is being seen by potential customers in the first place.
You can avoid running into trouble if you remember to utilize negative keywords at the right times. An example of a good way to use negative keywords would be when creating a filtration method to use in accordance with broad match types. Because broad match opens the possibility for more irrelevant matches, using negatives can be a great way to mold the eventual search results so that they appear to likely potential customers. It’s almost like building the query from the outside in.
Similarly, another way to effectively use negative keywords is by employing them to manipulate the way that ad groups behave. Again, because of the way that Broad Match keywords tend to work, it would be hard to limit when your keywords are triggered, especially if someone is searching by a universal brand name. For example, let’s say you are working on a display ad campaign for Del Monte Fruit Cups. You only want to show off the fruit cups product, but because of the nature of broad match, people searching for Del Monte Fruit Juice are also subject to seeing the ads. You can employ a negative to make sure that the ad will not be displayed if the words “fruit juice” exist within the query. This way, you can ensure that only your one specific product ad will be returned by the search rather than any similar products that exist under the parent brand’s name. Be careful when doing this however, because those folks who are interested in fruit juice may still be potential buyers of the fruit cups as well.
Now that you know how negative keywords should be used, you also need to know when utilizing this tool is not appropriate. First of all, many professionals feel that the negative should not be used as often on the campaign level. Because the campaign level umbrella is so large, it’s possible that you are greatly limiting the portion of keywords that are available for use. Some people jump to using negative keywords to make their AdWords skills look impressive. You should always remember to stick with the basics when in doubt. Once you have mastered this, then you can consider using the more advanced tools to reshape your campaigns. Don’t assume that you know which queries users will enter. Waiting for real data can be helpful, because you don’t want to automatically prevent people from seeing your ad. It’s possible that some of the queries you perceive as “wrong” will actually be ones that result in conversions. Be careful to make sure that you aren’t actually blocking search queries for which you would want your ad to appear.
The best thing you can do to build solid campaigns is to start with strong ad groups from the beginning. Be very detail oriented when structuring your campaigns, and build your groups out with plans to check in often. If you build sloppy ad groups from the start, chances are you are going to be implementing negatives for damage control. Although it takes more work, conducting your own trials and really examining how your ads are being triggered can help you to shape your keyword matches from the front end, rather than using negatives that may not have been necessary at all.
As with any tool in AdWords, simpler is often better. Until you are a master, be wary of using features that may limit your exposure and ultimately your ROI. When in doubt, review reports to see which keywords are performing well and which ones are not. Making changes to the actual keywords may oftentimes be more effective than implementing a negative keyword fix-all. Seeing how a campaign will perform takes time, so the best thing to do is be patient and practice using extreme attention to detail.
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