When businesses start the process of setting up an AdWords campaign most, if not all, of the attention often goes to determining the keywords that describe products and/or services in a way that will drive the greatest number of clicks and conversions. Negative keywords, on the other hand, do the exact opposite; they provide Google with a list of search terms that do not serve the objectives of the campaigns you intend to run. The implementation of these lists can prevent ads from being run for keywords that will result in clicks and expenses, but not conversions.

Google AdWords tips

Generally speaking, search inquiries will have a primary keyword supported by additional terms that describe or modify it. When ads are presented that show products/services that match searchers’ inquiries, conversion ratios improve and the cost per each click will likely be a worthwhile investment. The problem is that other modifying terms may describe a product, service or purpose that your company doesn’t offer, but an ad is presented anyway. In these situations, each click burns money in your advertising budget as searchers bounce away because they didn’t find what they were looking for.

Let’s suppose, for example, that your company sells only green widgets. As far as search terms go, the only modifier that has relevance to the products of your company is the word “green”. To eliminate paying for clicks with little or no chance of turning into sales because search engine users are looking widgets in red, blue, black, etc., you could build a negative keyword list for all colors other than green. The outcome would be that your company’s ads would be served only for inquiries that include “green widgets”, resulting in a laser-targeted campaign pointed at consumers looking exactly for what your business is selling.

In addition to refining your advertising messaging, implementing negative keywords can add value to your AdWords campaigns in 3 areas.

1) Increasing the return on investment from your advertising budget

The integration of negative keywords in AdWords campaigns can improve on the returns from your advertising budget in two ways. First, eliminating clicks that are not going to lead to conversions will keep funds in your ad budget that would otherwise be wasted. The second benefit is that these funds can then be put to work in campaigns that are hitting the right customers, delivering higher conversion ratios and generating more revenues.

2) Aligning your ads with your objectives

If your intention is to sell products and/or services, the last thing you want is to pay for people clicking on your ads to apply for a job. For example, if your company isn’t hiring, terms like “jobs”, “careers” and “interns” should be added as negative keywords to prevent the possibility of ads being displayed (and clicked) in response to search queries seeking employment. Using negative keywords in this manner will filter out irrelevant searches and bring your ads into alignment with what you’re trying to accomplish.

3) Targeting consumers that are ready to buy

The earliest stage of the research phase prior to a purchase is often characterized by searches using a variety of terms including “about”, “what is” and “definition of”. If you’re not interested in paying for early phase research-based clicks, add these terms as negative keywords in your campaigns. An example of this type of inquiry would be, “what is a front loading washing machine”. By adding “what is” as a negative keyword, you’ll avoid paying for clicks by consumers that are probably a long way from making a purchase. At the other end of the buying process, you can incorporate modifying search terms including “buy”, “best” and “find”, all of which indicate that the consumer is getting ready to buy.

Campaign Level vs. Ad Group Level

Negative keyword lists can be built in two ways; either at the campaign level or the ad group level. A negative keyword list built at the campaign level will exclude selected search terms from all of your ads in that campaign. For a company that doesn’t offer product promotions, negative keywords that could be listed at the campaign level might include “coupons” and “discount”.

At the ad group level, negative keywords can be used to block ads from showing up just for some keywords.

In ad campaigns where you’re paying for each click, driving traffic with effective keywords is only half the battle. By integrating negative keywords into your overall marketing strategy, you can make sure that your ads are displayed only to consumers who are searching for what your company offers. When executed properly, the results from this holistic approach include improved conversion ratios, the reduction of worthless clicks, efficient PPC spending and a higher ROI on your advertising initiatives.

Finally, another big benefit of using negative keywords is to improve your Quality Score. By only showing your ads for the most relevant keywords, you can improve your click through rates, which in turn improves your Quality Score, which means you’ll get better ad position for less cost per click.