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Generate Better Sales by Using Negative Keywords in Your Advertising

By Chad Elbal on Oct 19, 2021

What are negative keyword lists and how do they help you target your group of potential buyers? This is an important aspect of search engine marketing. A negative keyword list adds a block against information-based searches on your ads and do not show up in results to those not concerned with buying anything.

By information-based searches, we mean those searches aimed at how to do something (rather than buying), such as building a bookcase. If you are selling designer bookcases, you only want people who are buying bookcases to click on your ad, not those who want instructions or blueprints on how to build one.

When you do a search on Google Chrome for a product or service, you will see ads listed first in the top rows of results. They are clearly marked as an ad above all other blue website links and may also show images of the product. The negative keyword list you added blocks people from ever seeing your ad who only want instructions, based on their search terms.

If you did not have your negative keyword list in place and these searchers clicked on your ad and then left, you would be spending a lot of money for no purchase results. The idea of using negative keyword lists is to help you save money and bring in only those buyers who want to purchase your product.

Google Ads are placed on Google Chrome search results as well as on the Google Display Network. Facebook and Amazon platforms also use pay-per-click targeting options but are different from the Google Ads in application, so this post addresses only Google Ads. Next is how to build that negative keyword list.

How to Determine Your Negative Keyword List

There are several ways to build your negative keyword list. The first way is to do it manually which will take some time to pull together. If you sell hand-made embroidered silk drawstring purses, your negative keyword list will include leather purses, leather handbags, cloth handbags, clutches and wallets, but not silk drawstring purses.

If selling lever-back diamond earrings with 22k gold, your negative keyword list would include diamond post earrings, lever-back diamond earrings with 14k gold, lever-back diamond earrings with 10k gold, lever-back emerald earrings with 22k gold, sterling silver lever-back diamond earrings, and more. That is everything not included in your offer.

For restaurants in local search, always include your city name in positive keywords for your ads to stay targeted at the local population. Build your negative keyword list by entering excluded areas beyond your city, such as in the next county. If your restaurant is in San Diego, California, your negative keyword list would include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Los Angeles.

If your restaurant focuses on Indian food, but not steak or fish dishes, then add steak and fish to the negative keyword/phrases list.   Now you can see what a negative keyword list is and how it can target your ad effectively to your customers. If you feel uncertain about doing local search engine marketing, but want to have it done correctly, use a PPC agency to get you set up and running efficiently.

Another manual process is if you already have your descriptive keyword (positive) list handy from your Google Ads account, begin adding each one in the Google Chrome search box. See what pulls up in the search engine results pages (SERPs). When you enter in a keyword or phrase, Google Suggest (Autocomplete) will show a drop-down list of possible queries you could be searching for. Choose those results that you do not want to trigger your ad for viewing and add them to your negative keyword list.

Applied Negative Keyword/Phrases List by Type

There are three types of negative keywords/phrases you use for viewer search engine marketing campaigns: exact match, phrase match and broad match. Here is what each one does for your campaign, according to Google Ads Help.

  • Negative broad match – if viewers search for a phrase which you have included in your list of negative keyword phrases, even if the words are not in the same position, your ad will not show to those viewers. But if one keyword included in your negative broad match is used (but not the others), then your ad will show.
  • Negative exact match – If viewers search for a phrase included in your negative keyword/phrases list, using the same position order of the phrase, your ad will not show. But the ad will show if there are other words included in that phrase.
  • Negative phrase match – your ad will not show if the search included the same negative keyword phrase in the same position order, even when there are other words included. If symbols are included, the ad will show. Include those negative keyword/phrases with symbols added, like ampersands (&), accent marks commonly found in French words (é), and asterisks (*) along with the same keywords without symbols, according to Google Ads Help.

Negative Keyword Lists for Display and Video Campaigns

When applying negative keyword/phrases lists to displays and videos, add on category exclusions to enhance blocking these from showing everywhere. This includes various websites and mobile apps with sensitive content that do not match with your campaign message. Learn more about content exclusions here. Here is more information on applying negative keyword/phrases lists to your campaigns, including the step-by-step process inside Google Ads.

How to Apply Your Negative Keyword List to Google Ads

Once you have a negative keyword list ready, go back into Google Ads and add the list to your campaign. Go into Google Ads, click on Keywords, click Negative keywords, and click the plus sign. Choose your campaign and enter (type or paste) each negative keyword in, check the box indicating whether it is a new list or existing list, and click Save. You can continue to edit over time as you monitor your campaign consistently to see what searches are working to bring interested viewers into your sales funnel.

Ways to Effectively Use Your Negative Keyword List

The Google Ads Help page provides excellent information on how a negative keyword/phrase list can be applied to your campaign. When you first build your campaign, link the Google Ad campaign account to your Google Analytics account immediately so you can track how well it is working.

You will see what search keywords or phrases were used to get to your ad and whether there was a click through to your ad and, better yet, a purchase. This becomes important when you need to structure or restructure your negative keyword list, based on data information you find in Google Analytics.

The second step after ad creation in Google Ads is to activate auto-tagging from within the platform When you get into Google Analytics, the auto-tag, which adds the Google Click Identifier (GCLID), will show you valuable information about your ad performance, including how well the negative keyword list is working to block unnecessary clicks. You can find your negative keyword list in the Shared Library in your Google Ad account as well. Check out the following steps on how to view negative keyword searches in your Google Analytics account.

How to Link Your Google Ad Campaign to Google Analytics

Before you link your Google Ad campaign, make sure you are in Editor role and have Administrative access. If you are still in Google Ads, you can open Google Analytics using the link from the Tools & Settings icon. There you see the link for Google Analytics. Click the link (sign in if you need to), then click Admin and go to the property you want to link. Here is a step-by-step process from the Google Analytics Help page (link below).

  1. Click on Google Ads Linking,
  2. Click + New link group,
  3. Select your Google Ad account, then
  4. Click on Continue.
  5. Expand the manager account and select the campaign you want to link, add a link group title, and click On.
  6. Click on Link accounts. Go to this Analytics Help page to learn more about the linking (and edit group) process.

How to View Your Campaign Data Information

After your ad activates and runs for a day or two, to view your campaign data (metrics), log back into Google Analytics and look on the left side bar for Acquisition. Click on it and then click on Google Ads to review your ad campaign. Click on Search Queries and select the dates relevant to your campaign. Choose the Secondary dimension and select Campaign to see your list of campaigns. Select the current campaign to view the dashboard.

Change the row view count (default is 25) so you can see everything related to the dates you selected. Download your campaign data to view the information about searches leading to your landing page. Look for any search strings (keywords, keyword phrases) that appear to be informational, such as like should, could, would, how, why, when, who, what and where.

These searchers are looking for information showing how or why to do something but have little interest in buying the relevant product or service from you. Now you can begin creating your negative keyword/phrases list from your data.

Short of Time? Get Help Here

You may not have the time to do search engine marketing or this aspect of it on your own, or you may prefer for a professional marketing agency to do it for you. Umbrella Local can help you with your local Google advertising which includes setting up your negative keywords list, too. Go to the Umbrella Local contact page, fill out the form at the bottom of the page, or call (872) 242-1231 to get help fast. Start today to save time and money while getting better leads and sales.

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