Google Ads Negative Keyword Strategies

Google Ads Negative Keyword Strategies 2021

The ability to define and refine negative keywords can mean the difference between success and failure for any PPC marketing strategy. But what are negative keywords and how can they be used to get the most out of Google Ads? Hi, my name is Francisco, and I am the owner of Planet Marketing, a Digital Marketing agency. My company specializes in Google Ads, Facebook Ads and remarketing. In this article, I am going to show you how you can use negative keywords to refine the target audience for your Google Ads. The post is divided into the following sections;

  1. Importance of keywords in PPC advertising.
  2. What are negative keywords?
  3. Types of negative keywords.
  4. Best Google Ads negative keyword strategies.

Importance of keywords in PPC advertising

Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is all about targeting the right people. Frankly, ALL advertising is about targeting the right people. But how do you get your ads in front of these people? The answer lies in keywords.

Keywords are important, whether one is talking about Google Ads or about Facebook Ads. They are what define what people are doing in search.

When somebody who is looking for your services goes to Google, which search terms do they use to try and find what they are looking for? That's one question that you need to ask yourself when doing Google Ads. 

An example

As an example, let’s assume that John has decided that he needs to start earning passive income. He carries out research and discovers that a good starting point for building passive income is to create a blog. John then decides to build his own site. 

The first step on the way to that goal is to find a suitable web host. John goes to Google to look for a web host that answers to his pain points. How would they carry out such a search? The following are examples of the search terms that John may use in his quest;

Best web host 2021
Affordable web host
Web host for small businesses

Targeting these keywords

Now, let’s assume that you own a web hosting company that advertises on Google. Your task will be to answer to these queries from John. You need to show that you are able to provide services that meet his needs.

What questions are people asking Google in relation to your business?

What questions are people asking Google in relation to your business?

So you will be targeting these keywords in your PPC ads. You do that by including them in your header, text and URL. That way, you will have greater visibility on Google when John goes there to look for a host for his blog.

What are negative keywords?

Businesses target keywords when advertising on Google and elsewhere. That’s only understandable. They wish to answer to their target audiences’ pain points. But what are negative keywords?

Well, a negative keyword is a keyword that you do not wish to target with your ad. In other words, you do not wish to have your ads delivered whenever that particular search term is used. Let me give you an example;

Google's definition of negative keywords

Google's definition of negative keywords

Example of a negative keyword

One of the most often targeted negative keyword covers people who are looking for freebies. Price tends to be a major pain point for most people. They are therefore on the hunt for freebees, deals, offers and discounts.  

Now, let’s back to John. Let’s assume that price is also important for him. He will be looking for the most affordable hosting solutions that he can lay his hands on. That’s good.

Where the challenge arises is when John is so price conscious that he is on the hunt for free web hosting solutions. In that case, the following are some of the keywords that he could use;

Free web host 2021
Free web host
Free host for small businesses

In this case, the negative keyword is “free.” In most instances, you don’t want to target that. Why? Well, because if John is using that keyword, it means he is not willing to pay anything for the services that he is on the hunt for.

"Free," is a good example of a negative keyword

"Free," is a good example of a negative keyword

So, free is good from John’s point of view, but it’s not good from your point of view as a business. And believe me, you will be able to find free solutions to almost anything on the web. It’s the bane of the business world!

Types of Negative Keywords

Google has defined the following types of negative keywords;

  • Broad match
  • Phrase match
  • Exact match

Broad match negative keywords

This is the default type of negative keyword. If you choose this setting, your ads will not show on searches that have all your negative keyword terms. This applies whatever the order your negative keyword may be in. Let’s look at the negative keyword; “Bluetooth headphones.”

Search Term

Will your ad show

Wired headphones

Yes

Bluetooth headphone

Yes

Headphones Bluetooth

No

Bluetooth headphones

No

Black Bluetooth headphones

No

You can see in the above that order of appearance of the words in the search term does not matter.

However, your ads will appear even where there are the slightest of differences in the term. As an example your ads may appear for Bluetooth headphone in spite of the fact that you have defined Bluetooth headphones as a negative keyword. In this case, you will need to define both terms as negative keywords to exclude both.

Phrase Match Negative Keywords

In this case, your ads will be excluded on searches containing the exact keyword in the same order. Even where you have the all the words in your negative keyword but not in the same order, your ads will show. You can see an example below;

Negative keyword: Bluetooth headphones

Search Term

Will your ad show

Wired headphones                                           

Yes

Bluetooth headphone

Yes

Headphones Bluetooth

Yes

Bluetooth headphones

No

Black Bluetooth headphones

No

In the above example, your ad may still appear when somebody searches for “headphones Bluetooth.” All the negative search words are there, but the order is different. That’s the difference between negative broad match and negative phrase match.

Exact match negative keywords

This is the final type of negative keywords available for those doing Google ads. In this case your ads will show on search term containing all of the words in your negative keyword in the same order and with no extra words. If there are extra words in the search term, your ads may appear. You can see what we are talking about in the example below;

Negative keyword: Bluetooth headphones

Search Term

Will your ad show

Wired headphones                                           

Yes

Bluetooth headphone

Yes

Headphones Bluetooth

Yes

Bluetooth headphones

No

Black Bluetooth headphones

Yes

Best Negative Keyword Strategies for Google Ads

Hopefully, you now have a pretty good idea what a negative keyword is. It’s those keyword and key terms for which you do not wish to have your ads appear.

When running your Google Ads campaigns, it's important not only to know what to target, but also to know what not to target. The following are some of the best negative keyword strategies for the year 2021;

1. Monitor the Search Terms Report to see where your ads are appearing

One thing that you will want to do is to constantly check out the Search Terms Report in Google ads. Why is this section important? Well, it’s where you can see the terms under which your ads are appearing. Based on this information, you can then decide which keywords are not relevant for your business. 

As an example, you may be an immigration attorney advertising your business on Google. If you check this area, you may notice that your ads have been appearing for the search term; personal injury attorney. If you are an immigration attorney, you would use this information to narrow down on the target audience to which you wish to have your ads appear. In this case, you would then include "personal injury attorney" in your negative keywords list.

So, this section is important. It should be at the core of your negative keyword strategies. From it, you can see where your ads are appearing. Based on this information, you can then choose to include some of these search terms in your negative keywords list.

2. Use Keyword Planner to find more negative keywords

Use Google Keyword Planner to identify negative keywords

Use Google Keyword Planner to identify negative keywords

The Keyword Planner tool is an integral part of Google Ads. Not only does it provide unparalleled service to advertisers in terms of finding the right target keywords, but it can also be used to identify negative keywords.

You will see a lot of keyword suggestions while using Keyword Planner. These are based on queries that are related in some way to the search terms in which you are interested. Go through these suggestions and find any negative keywords that you may wish to add to your list.

As an example, Keyword Planner may tell you that a lot of people are looking for “free,” or “cheap,” goods. You may want to exclude these, depending on the nature of your business.

3. Make management of your keywords an ongoing process

One mistake that I have noticed as far as negative keyword strategies are concerned involves taking a laid back approach to the whole issue. And I am not only talking about negative keywords here. A lot of people put up their ads on Google and they then forget about the entire issue.

They don’t go through their reports. Neither do they try to check out the intricacies of how they are performing in terms of their target keywords. With regards to keywords, either positive or negative, it’s important for you to constantly keep on eye on your performance.

You should constantly be working to add to your negative keywords strategy. Try out the various types of negative keywords that we gave at the top. Find the one that works best for your particular business as far as excluding irrelevant terms is concerned. The point is, it’s an ongoing process. Advertising on Google is not a once off thing.

4. Never add too many negative keywords at once

Let’s say you have used keyword planner or the Search Terms Report in your account to identify lots of keywords that you think should be included in the negative keywords list. One thing that you should avoid is to add too many negative keywords to your list at once. But why is that the case?

For one thing, there is always the risk that what you think is a negative keyword has actually been generating meaningful leads for you. What then happens if you add it to your negative search terms is that your performance may fall drastically.

Where that becomes a problem is if you cannot identify exactly the keyword that’s responsible for this fall in performance. So, you need to be conservative here. Nobody is chasing you. Add a few negative keywords to your list at a time. Watch how that affects your performance. From there, you can add a few more.

5. Create negative keyword lists

I have already mentioned negative keyword lists a couple of times in this article. They are something that you should employ, particularly if you have lots of negative keywords. These lists can be applied across your campaigns. Having lists simplifies your tasks.

7. Fully understand negative keyword types

This is an area on which I have already dwelt in the first part of this article. Just to sum up, negative keywords when doing Google Ads have three types; broad match, phrase match and exact match. Please check out the section at the top to find out how they differ.

Understanding the different match types means you will be able to precisely target your audience. As an example, if you want to reach people using a specific keyword, you will be better off going for exact match type. However, note that your ads may not show if there are slight of variations.

7. Audit your negative keywords

This is something that's really important. Managing your keywords is an ongoing process. Every now and again, you need to carry out an audit of your negative keywords. That way, you will be able to identify any that may have become relevant to your business.

Summary

Those are some of the Google Ads negative keyword strategies that you can use to enhance performance of your ads. In this article, I outlined the importance of negative keywords. They are useful in that they enable you to limit appearance of your ads only to instances that are most likely to lead to conversions.

I gave the example of a web hosting company that may add the word “free,” to its negative keywords list. What it means is that this company’s ads will not appear in cases where people are looking for freebies.

What do you think? Do you need help with your company’s Google Ads account? If yes, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. It’s what I do on a daily basis, so I should be able to help you!

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