The Power of Negative Keywords

Utilize Negative Keywords to Improve Quality Score, Lower CPCs, Boost CTRs & Also Utilize Google’s new Negative Keyword Lists!

Negative keyword expansion plays an essential role in optimizing your paid search account. The benefits of successful negative keyword expansion boost click through rates, which leads to higher quality scores, which leads to lower average CPCs and overall cost, higher conversion rates, lower cost per conversion…the possibilities are endless!

Looking over search query reports and adding the broad match and session-based broad match query “randoms” as negative keywords is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to negative keyword expansion.  Listed below are some other strategies for effectively expanding negative keywords to get the most benefit for your account.

Say you have an ad group that overspends. Instead of pausing the ad group, you would likely dive further into the ad group data and troubleshoot the keywords to see if any specific keywords are overspending.

Now let us say that there is one keyword that is overspending in particular. Lo and behold, it’s a broad match! You notice that this keyword has a lower than average quality score for the ad group. You also notice that it has a high CPC, a lower than average CTR, and is overspending like crazy. So what is your first instinct? Bid that keyword down!…But wait.

First you should pull a search query report. Preferably for a time period greater than 14 days (this way you will definitely have enough data). And then do this:

1. Sort by Impression:

  • The Google AdWords tutorial states that a lower CTR means a lower Quality Score. This means that any random search query that is populating your ads for a broad match term, and isn’t driving many clicks, is lowering your CTR and quality score.filter-by-conversion
  • Assuming that you are tracking conversions, filter your search query report to only show queries with no conversions. Then sort by impressions. You will probably see something like this:

Look at those terrible click through rates! Your ad has shown thousands of times and has barely been clicked on because of these broad matching search query terms. They are hurting your quality score! Add all of these as negatives. (If you really think they are good keywords for your account, perhaps ad them to a different ad group with more specific ad copy). For every query you add as a negative and stop receiving impressions for, your CTR will increase and your quality score will steadily improve.


2. Sort by Average CPC & then by Cost:

  • While keeping the search query report filtered to include only queries that drove no conversions, sort by average CPC and thenby cost. Look at these high average CPCs. In the past 14 days they have driven no conversions, and are so expensive compared to the average CPC!  Add these as negatives.sort-by-cpc
  • Next sort by cost. Look at all this money  that can be saved and reallocated by adding these queries as negatives:

3. Prevent Ad Poaching:


  • Make sure you are adding negatives for search queries that should be triggering ads in other ad groups.
  • Google created a new negative keyword tool this year that lets you group lists of negative keywords. This is a great tool to use when you build a new campaign, because you can add all of the previously accounted for keywords from different ad groups you suspect might broad match to terms in your new campaign.
  • A tutorial for this tool can be found here.
  • For example, say you have a “cheddar cheese” campaign and decide to create a “goat cheese” campaign, because you are getting a lot of queries around goat cheese. Chances are that if you have “goat cheese” as a broad match term in your new campaign, Google will end up matching this term to any type of cheese. (cheddar, blue, even swiss!
  • This is where the new negative keyword grouping tool comes in handy. If you are using the tool, you will have already created a “Cheddar Cheese” negative keyword list. This list would contain all the keywords you have specifically written ad copy for in the cheddar cheese campaign, (“cheddar cheese”, “buy cheddar cheese”, etc.) and you can add this group of negative keywords to all the other ad groups in your account to ensure that these keywords only trigger Cheddar Cheese ads. You wouldn’t want to confuse a person wanting cheddar cheese by showing them a goat cheese advertisement! Let’s just say they probably won’t be buying their cheese from you.


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