Lesson 1. Not all traffic is created equal.


 Once upon a time, Jess (not her real name) set up a Google Search campaign to promote her rather amazing Fairtrade coffee.

Things started off pretty well. Jess was getting loads and loads of clicks through to her site, generating (she thought) lots of interest and brand awareness.

Over time though, a worrying trend began to emerge. Lots of clicks, true. But also a pretty high bounce rate. Those clicks definitely weren’t converting into sales at the rate Jess had hoped. And her cost per click was high and showing no signs of dropping.

The problem was that, while Jess was using a good number of short and long-tail keywords, she had hardly any negative keywords in the account.

Looking at her search terms report, she found that her ads were showing for searches which were only relevant to her in that they contained the keyword “coffee”.

Searches for coffee machines, coffee shops, coffee cups, pictures of coffee… Jess’s ads were eligible for them all.

And so. Even though the wording of her ads was specific enough to weed out the most irrelevant searches, Jess was getting – paying for, in fact – a lot of clicks from people who just didn’t want what she was selling.

Worse, it was affecting how much she was paying to get those clicks.


Relevance – A Search Engine’s Holy Grail

Google loves relevance.

It needs to give searchers the best results, so that they won’t decide to use one of its competitors next time.

So… if Google thinks your ad isn’t providing relevance, they’ll penalise you with higher costs and poorer placings.

But the beauty of Google over, say, Facebook is that a search indicates intent.

You just need to make sure you’re showing for the right intent.


The Solution? More Negative Keywords.

What’s a negative keyword?

As you know, AdWords is an auction.

You choose a set of keywords to bid on, and you set the level of your bid.

When someone types in a search containing one of your keywords, if your bid is competitive and your ad is relevant, you’ve got a chance of showing on the search results page.

Happy Days!

Sometimes anyway.

Some searches might contain your keywords, but not be relevant to your product or service – and this is where negative keywords come in.

Just as your keywords tell Google which queries you want to rank for, negative keywords tell them which queries aren’t for you.

They stop your ads showing for searches which aren’t relevant to you, cutting wasted ad spend and improving your relevancy.


The benefits of using negative keywords


Weeding out irrelevant searches means that your Ads have a better chance of being shown to people who are actually interested in what you’re offering – and this means:

– Higher click through rate

– Higher conversion rates

– Lower cost per conversion

– Less wasted spend

– Higher Ad Rank


Examples please?

OK, so let’s say you’re selling office chairs.

A simple Google search for office chairs throws up suggested searches including “Ikea Office Chairs”, “Used Office Chairs”, “eBay Office Chairs”.

So you’d look at adding “Ikea”, “Used” and “eBay” as negative keywords on your account, and then your ads won’t show if the search contains those terms.

Another example. You’ve produced your own range of notebooks – so “notebook” is a primary keyword.

Looking at the Google related searches shows search terms containing competing brands, like Paperchase and Amazon. So you might want to add those as negative keywords.

You’d also get people looking for notebook laptops, and checking out the 2004 romantic drama “The Notebook”, starring Ryan Gosling.


They probably wouldn’t click on your ad, but hey – who knows? One slip of the hand and you could be paying for a click where the intent was to gen up on Ryan Gosling’s back catalogue (hey, not judging!).

Common Negative Keywords

Some negative keywords are common across lots of different products and services. 

A good example of a common negative keyword is “free”. Unless your product or service is free, showing up for these terms is going to leave your searcher frustrated and you out of pocket.

Other usual suspects include the likes of “cheap”, “eBay”, “craigslist” and a variety of xxx terms – there’s a great list available here, with thanks to Techwyse.com.


OK, got it. So how do I find negative keywords?


The best tip I can give about choosing your negative keywords is to spend some time thinking about the intent of your buyers.

What do you think they type in when they’re looking for you?

Who would be disappointed to land on your site from the search queries they’ve put in?

And what particular term or terms would just get rid of that type of search, and not affect genuine queries.

Here are 3 free places to get started with some negative keyword inspiration: 

1. AdWords Keyword Planner


Great for suggesting positive keywords – great for finding negatives too.

Here’s what came up when I typed in “notebook” (and no, I’m not sure what “adult ideas” I’d get for notebook either…)


So there are loads right there – “Acer”, “netbook”, “core i7”, “intel”…

2. The Search Terms Report

The Search terms report shows you exactly what people typed into Google to trigger your ads.

A quick look through will show you the irrelevant searches – just add the specific terms to your negative list.

3. Google Search 

Just do a Google search for your main keywords.

Check out the dropdown (i.e. what shows up when you start typing in the search bar), the related searches at the bottom of the page and anything that pops up on the first couple of pages is likely to be seen by Google as relevant to you.

Great. I’ve done a list – how do I add them?

Once you’ve got your list, you need to decide which match type you’re going to use, what level you’re going to add them to (at campaign or ad group level) and then upload them to your account.

Here’s Google’s guide to choosing negative match types – and here’s the guide for uploading them to your account.

Do exercise a little caution when choosing which level to add your negative keywords.

A campaign level negative keyword will apply to all the Ad Groups in the campaign, and accidentally adding a negative keyword here when it should only apply to one of your Ad Groups can easily result in underperforming ads.

A tip for using negative keywords at Ad Group level is to use them to make sure your ads trigger for the right query. 

Let’s say you sell premium denim jeans. You’ve got an ad group for black denim jeans, and one for blue denim jeans. You could use each colour as a negative in the other group to make sure your ads showed for the right search.

And then just keep on adding them…

To give you real ROI from your Ad spend, don’t just do the exercise once and forget about it – take a look every couple of weeks and keep adding them in to make sure you’re sculpting your traffic and cutting out wasted ad spend.


I'd like to help you get more leads from your online marketing. If you want to find out more, please get in touch!

10 + 11 =

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Sharing is Caring...

If you enjoyed this post, please share!