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Negative Keywords as Creatives
Basic ideas for newbies

 9:39 pm on Dec 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

This may be very basic and obvious to most of you, and if so, just skip this post. However, it seems that one of the basic topics I always find myself explaining to new clients, and folks new to AdWords in general, is the concept and critical importance of developing and constantly improving your negative keywords lists.

If you just spend some quality time thinking about how your keywords could be ever possibly be used in a phrase by a consumer, and think of any other words that could logically also be in that phrase, but would not apply to your product or service, that would give you a good starting point for your negative word list, even without seeing it actually used in a particular search. Unfortunately, many advertisers simply do not have the creativity to do this, or try to make the excuse that they don't have time to do it. Therefore, it is often necessary to scour web logs on a daily or weekly basis, to see what searches are in fact being used by consumers, and to develop negative keyword lists on the fly. Unfortunately, the reactive approach will generally not keep your ads from getting a non-relevant impressions, which means that the ad's creative (content) is the only barrier to non-relevant clicks. And while that may be OK, it certainly doesn't do your overall CTR rates any good.

For example: A consumer could do a search on "red fancy widgets with wings". I might have a broad match keyword phrase: fancy widgets, and my fancy widgets could be red or any other color, but would never have wings. There may really be red fancy widgets with wings somewhere, but I don't sell them, so I don't want my ad displayed for that search. So, knowing this, or if/when I ever see this in my web stats, the obvious new negative keyword would be -"wings". However, I would probably be more pro-active, and also make "winged", and "wing" and "winging" additional negative keywords, since a consumer could possibly use those variations as well, even though I didn't see it in a particular search.

The point is that the process of thinking about and implementing negative keywords has to be creative and proactive, to some extent, because you want to prevent the non-relevant impressions and non-convertible clicks from ever occurring in the first place. The only way to do that in a reliable way, is to make sure that your ad is never displayed for non-relevant consumer searches.

The desired end result of course, is that if your ads do not get impressions for non-relevant searches, two things will happen:

1) Total impressions are reduced, improving CTR, which we all now know (or believe) is one QS factor. The impressions your ads do get appear to be more relevant to the consumer, which is also the job of your creative.

2) Since your ad is not displayed for non-relevant searches, your overall AdWords costs would be reduced and conversion rates should be improved. Consumers who are not looking for your specific product or service, but perhaps one that seems similar, cannot click on your ad, because it isn't there in the first place!

Because of my proactive approach to this, plus long term experience in the vertical I specialize in, my clients tend to get very good CTR and conversion results quickly, which increases positive client references and referrals. And by reducing the time I would otherwise have to spend on daily web log evaluations for new campaigns, I can also do the jobs quicker and cheaper for my clients, and have more time to allocate to chargeable consulting services and personal recreation.



 10:58 pm on Dec 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

Good Post Ronnie.

Food for thought here.


 1:17 pm on Dec 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks Ronnie for the info. I'll give negative keywords a try. I notice I'm getting some clicks from content search , from web sites that have nothing do with what I sell, most annoying url's with porno names.


 2:37 pm on Dec 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Negs improve your CTR, which improves your position in the ranking auction and improves your ROI. Good targeting when using broad matching means you absolutely must have negs - lots of them. When using phrase matching, it's still very important too.

Google "dozer sandals" (a model of Teva brand sandals), see the ads there for earthmoving bull dozers... those advertisiers need to add sandal and sandals as negs!

Yahoo's new platform only allows 50 negs per, idiotic move. I have some in G with over 700 negs.

Fastest way to find the bulk of them? Go to eBay and Amazon, search for mainline words (the bulldozer company above should have searched for "dozer"), flip through hundreds of pages of stuff and pull the good neg words from the product titles and descriptions.

And mine your logs monthly for keywords culling good negs from there (keeping in mind this isn't ideal because the sandal searcher rarely clicks on the bulldozer ad - logs should be considered a sparse source for good negs).


 6:37 pm on Dec 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Therefore, it is often necessary to scour web logs on a daily or weekly basis, to see what searches are in fact being used by consumers

I also periodically check in Google (and Yahoo and MSN now) to see who else is running ads on some of my keywords - if they AREN'T competitors, then I know I might need to add to my ever-growing list of negatives.


 1:42 am on Dec 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

I notice I'm getting some clicks from content search

Huh? Content network is not consumer search driven at all. It is AdSense. AdSense advertisers decide what kind of AdWords ads can be displayed on their sites, and as far as I know, negative keywords only work in the search network. That's why I only allow my ads to run on the search network. Content network is simply impossible to control or target. I tried it for awhile, and it was a total waste of my advertising $.

I also periodically check in Google (and Yahoo and MSN now) to see who else is running ads on some of my keywords - if they AREN'T competitors, then I know I might need to add to my ever-growing list of negatives.

I also do that to some extent, and have been known to send emails to some of the inappropriate (and non-competitor) advertisers to let them know their ads are showing up when they shouldn't. They probably need to add some of my keywords to their negatives!

[edited by: RonnieG at 1:48 am (utc) on Dec. 16, 2006]


 6:47 pm on Dec 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

Content network is simply impossible to control or target.

Let me correct myself. As an AdWords advertiser, you can target specific AdSense sites, and/or prohibit others. However, it can be a tedious and time consuming process to be constantly identifying inappropriate sites that are displaying your ads and generating clicks that you don't want. I do target a couple of very specific forum sites for my vertical, and those sites only, for one of my specialty campaigns. However this is a rare exception. For the vast majority of my normal campaigns, I do NOT allow my ads to run in the AdSense "Content" network.


 12:54 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Negative keywords do actually help ensure that your ad is delivered only to relevant sites in the content network. While adding the negative keyword '-blue', for example, doesn't prevent your ad from showing on any site that contains the word 'blue', it does help change the theme of your Ad Group. As you add negative keywords to an Ad Group that reflect this theme of 'no blue widgets', your Ad Group will only be available for pages that do not contain that theme as a major principle.



 2:41 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I just don't see that this would or could help very much, when I have over 1000 negative keywords of many different types at the campaign level, and typically 8-12 additional negative keywords in each adgroup. There is no way this many dissimilar keywords can establish a particular "theme".

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