Negative Keyword Research Tips

We all want to improve our results to either get more conversions or improve our cost efficiencies. Negative keyword research is one of the best ways to improve results without increasing your spend. If anything, you can get more out of your budget if you use negative keywords correctly.

But how do you add the right negative keywords?

In this article, we’ll share useful tips on how to use negative keywords effectively in your Google Ads campaigns. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know exactly how to get the most out of this crucial tactic. Let’s get started!

What are Negative Keywords?

The use of the word negative can be somewhat sinister at first (like Nega Scott from Scott Pilgrim). As you might have guessed, negative keywords are the opposite of regular, everyday keywords. They are used to tell Google which terms you don’t want to show up for. Unlike keywords which are used to tell Google which terms to show up for.

This is a really useful tool that is very positive for performance.

Negative keyword research allows you to save money on terms related to the terms you’re targeting in your campaigns. Here are some common examples:

  • “Cheap”
  • “Free”
  • “Salary”

Like keyword research, which we go over in our prior article, we need to figure out what your target audience is searching. Then consider what your target audience isn’t searching.

Overtime you can create a negative keyword list in your account to add to all of your campaigns vs select campaigns. This will allow you to iterate on what terms you don’t want to show up for in general vs in specific campaigns.

The Basic Approach to Negative Keyword Research

Even if you only have 5-10 minutes, you can get a basic negative keyword list in your account to get more out of your ad spend.

Negative keyword research tends to fall into two categories:

  1. Keywords that are irrelevant to your business (services you don’t offer, locations you don’t serve, types of products you don’t have, and so forth).
  2. Underperforming terms that eat away at your budget without giving you any conversions.

Irrelevant Keywords

The first category is really simple at first. You should consider what terms you wouldn’t get new business from and what isn’t relevant to what you’re offering.

You could probably brainstorm a list of negative keywords right now in a word document based upon what you already know about your business. This is a large part of effective negative keyword research.

Some basic negative keywords to include would be the following if it’s relevant to your business:

  • Lower cost terms if you don’t offer free or cheap services in the market (free, cheap, low end, etc).
  • Materials that you don’t offer in your product or that you don’t offer a relevant alternative for (ex. waterproof, cotton, silk, etc).
  • Product sizes/shapes you don’t offer (ex. 25 gallons if you only offer 10 gallon water jugs).
  • Locations if people constantly look for your services in a particular region you don’t have a brick and mortar location in.

The list can go on, the point is that you can probably cover the basics with initial brainstorming.

Underperforming Terms

The second category is underperforming terms. You should have 90 days of performance data in your search campaign or a few hundred clicks (ideally more) in your campaign. Then you could benefit from negative keyword research to weed out underperforming terms.

To see which terms are underperforming, you will need to pull your search terms report. To do this, click into the campaign you want to review, under the keywords tab, then click search terms. From there, you will be able to download your search query report with the download button on the right side of your screen (basic example below).

Unlike the screen shot above, you should include the following metrics to see which terms are performing well or poorly:

  • Conversions
  • Cost/Conv
  • Clicks
  • Impressions
  • CTR
  • CPC
  • Conv. Rate
  • Conv. Value & Conv. Value/Cost if you’re in Ecommerce

There are few different ways to look at this data which is why it’s great to have a paid media expert do this for you (regularly). We’re happy to help if you need support. For now, here are a couple of basic tips.

Look for any term that has spent substantially without generating results. This one is fairly easy. You can look for terms that you spent more than $50 (or a meaningful amount vs your budget) and negate those terms.

You can also look for terms that generated results but increased your cost per conversion (CPA/ROAS). You could add these terms as negatives in a particular campaign then work on them in a different campaign. Or you could just negate these terms if you have a limited budget to spend more on terms that get better results.

Negative Keyword Lists

This is a very basic, yet important topic which is why it has its own section. After completing negative keyword research, you should consider whether you want your negative keywords applied to all your campaigns or particular campaigns/ad groups. Negative keyword lists are great because you can create one master list for general negatives for things that always apply to your business.

You can also create lists for particular campaigns. We won’t get into this more advanced topic but you can create a list of your brand terms to negate from your non-brand campaigns to get rid of any keyword cannibalization.

If you go to the Tools & Settings section in your account, in the shared library section you will see the option to create negative keyword lists.

General Tips When You Do Negative Keyword Research

Here are few useful tips on negative keyword research to help you get started:

  • Consider how much data you have before negating terms in your account. A term that hasn’t been converted in the past could be converted later on with different creative.
  • Consider the match type you use for your negatives. A term like automatic might not apply for one of your products but could be a great term for another one. Using exact match vs phrase match can help you get the best of both worlds.
  • Consider search intent vs your budget. If you don’t have a lot to work with, it can be great to focus on more transactional terms. Whereas if you want to expand more, you could negate select terms on one campaign that’s more performance based vs another which is consideration based. This can be helpful for high ticket items like an ATV or college degree.
  • Keep your list organized and reassess your negatives on a quarterly/monthly basis. As you do more negative keyword research, some past terms might not apply anymore and it can be easy for negative keyword lists to get out of hand.

Final Thoughts

If you follow these basic tips, you’ll master the art of adding effective negative keywords in no time! But if you need more help, we’re here for you. Book a free consultation with us today and we’ll go over how to get started on Google and how to get better results.

Centaur Consulting Group

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