Negative keywords are terms that are irrelevant for the product or service that you are promoting. For improving the effectiveness of your search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, there are sometimes terms that are best to avoid when helping find your core market.
By excluding irrelevant search terms, you can ensure that your ads are only displayed to the most relevant audience, leading to:
- higher click-through rates (CTRs)
- lower costs-per-click (CPCs)
- better return on investment (ROI).
Finding Negative Keywords
Finding negative keywords is a matter of conducting keyword research. This will help you identify the most relevant keywords for your business and the terms that potential customers are using to search for your products or services. There are a number of free and paid tools available for conducting keyword research, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Ahrefs.
Here are questions throughout your research:
- What are the most relevant keywords for my business and industry?
- What are the terms that potential customers are using to search for my products or services?
- What are the related terms that may not be directly relevant to my business?
- How do I prioritize the negative keywords to exclude based on their relevance and potential impact on my campaigns?
- What data should I use to identify the terms that are driving the most irrelevant traffic to my website?
- How can I determine the estimated cost-per-click and search volume for different keywords?
- How aggressive should I be in excluding keywords and what is the potential impact on my overall campaign performance?
- How can I ensure that my negative keyword list is comprehensive and up-to-date?
Finding your negative keywords 🔎
Once you have a list of relevant keywords, you can begin to identify potential negative keywords. These are typically terms that are closely related to your main keywords, but which may not be directly relevant to your business.
Here are a few examples of negative keywords in different industries that can help refine your SEM efforts:
A clothing retailer specializing in women’s clothing may use negative keywords such as “men’s clothing” or “children’s clothing” to exclude searches related to those products. 👕
An automotive dealership specializing in new cars may use negative keywords such as “used cars” or “second hand cars” to exclude searches related to used vehicles. 🚗
A wedding photography business may use negative keywords such as “free photography” or “cheap photography” to exclude searches related to budget-conscious customers. 📷
A travel agency specializing in luxury vacations may use negative keywords such as “budget travel” or “backpacking” to exclude searches related to budget-conscious travelers. ✈️
A dental clinic may use negative keywords such as “dental insurance” or “dental plan” to exclude searches related to dental insurance plans and not actual dental services. 🦷
Prioritizing keywords for SEM
After identifying potential negative keywords, it’s important to prioritize them based on their relevance and potential impact on your campaigns. This will help you focus on the most important keywords to exclude, and ensure that you’re not wasting time and resources on less important terms.
One way to prioritize negative keywords is to use data from your existing campaigns to identify the terms that are driving the most irrelevant traffic.
If you have an existing campaign, then see what terms appear to be the least relevant and drive unwanted traffic.
This can be done by analyzing your search query report, which shows the terms that people used to trigger your ads, and comparing these to your target keywords. You can also use data from your analytics software to identify the pages on your website that are receiving the most traffic from irrelevant keywords, and more specifically the search terms people used to find your website through paid traffic or organic search.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner and SEMrush offer tools where you can improve the terms you’re using based on what you’re advertising exactly. These tools allow you to see the estimated CPC and search volume for different keywords, which can help you identify the most expensive and least relevant keywords to exclude. SEMRush is a top pick since it provides you more exact figures whereas the Keyword planner only provides ranges of the product.
SEM and Finding Keywords to Exclude
You’ve found the negative keywords, you can now start excluding them from your SEM campaigns. This can be done by adding them to your negative keyword lists, which are used to exclude certain terms from your ad groups and campaigns. Google Ads have a negative keywords section.
It’s important to note that excluding keywords can have a negative impact on your overall campaign performance. Therefore, it is crucial that you are not too aggressive in excluding keywords, as it can lead to your ads not being shown for relevant searches and ultimately lower your overall performance.
How do you avoid being too aggressive with negative keywords?
- Avoid blanket exclusion of keywords, focus on exclusion of specific terms.
- Consider the potential impact of excluding keywords on your overall campaign performance
- Determine if the goal of your campaign is more broad for traffic or specifically geared to converting.
Although there are benefits to negative keyword exclusion, it’s a matter of finding a fine balance between your objectives, your efforts through SEM and whether or not exclusion of certain terms is in line with your objectives.
By excluding irrelevant search terms, you can ensure that your ads are only displayed to the most relevant audience, leading to higher click-through rates, lower costs-per-click, and ultimately, better return on investment. However, finding and prioritizing negative keywords requires a strategic approach, and it’s important to use data and tools to identify the most important keywords to exclude, while not being too aggressive in excluding keywords which can negatively impact your overall performance. Contact one of our specialists today to learn about how to implement a negative keyword strategy in your SEM