If your ads display on irrelevant searches, then either you get clicks and waste money (as the searchers are very unlikely to convert), or you don’t get clicks and CTR drops (which affects Quality Score and therefore your CPC).
So how do you stop this? Part of the answer is choosing keywords carefully – be careful with general terms and use modified broad-match where appropriate – but for the best performance possible you need negative keywords to target your traffic properly.
1. Search Query Reports
The most obvious way, but also the most important. Look at your search query report and see what terms your ad is actually displaying for.
Look for patterns. See if there are repeated words or themes that are irrelevant. For example, say you sell red shoes, and as such have ‘buy red shoes’ as a keyword on broad match. If phrases like ‘buy blue shoes’ and ‘blue shoes for sale’ appear in your search query report then adding ‘blue’ on broad-match negative rather than excluding the searches individually with exact match is preferable: not only will it exclude the searches you’ve noticed, but it also excludes long tail searches you haven’t seen.
This may be a simplistic example, but you might spot a trend in your search queries that leads to other new negative keywords. Seeing ‘blue’ may make you think to exclude other colours. Seeing ‘jobs’ may make you think to exclude ‘recruitment’.
Also try to think about what the searcher is looking for with their query. Is the search term actually the name of a book or film? You may want to search for stranger terms on Google yourself to make sense of them.
2. Use Someone Else’s List
Some negatives come up all the time, so it can help to look at something like KoMarketing Associates’s list of negative keywords for inspiration. Don’t add terms to your account without thinking – some might be relevant for you! – but it is a good starting point.
3. Use Keyword Research Tools
Google’s Keyword Tool shows you what Google thinks is relevant to your keywords, so if someone searches for a term it suggests it’s likely to display your ad. So see if you think the highest traffic suggestions are actually relevant, and if they aren’t then exclude them.
Something that scrapes Google Instant suggestions (like Über Suggest) can also give you ideas of popular searches that start with your keywords, to include or exclude as you see fit.
4. Your Positive Keywords
You’ve worked hard to structure your account, sort keywords into the best possible ad groups, and write adverts specially tailored to those groups. You don’t want to lose this work by having searches display the wrong ads.
If you’ve got a general ad group for ‘red shoes’ and a more specific ad group for ‘shiny red shoes’ you’ll want to exclude ‘shiny’ from the former so that it doesn’t steal the latter’s traffic. Making sure searches go to the most specific ad group possible means that they see the most specific ad possible. Also, it’s easier to track performance – you can’t as easily tell how well ‘shiny red shoes’ searches perform if they are split over multiple ad groups and mixed up with other terms.
5. Competitor Research
Whether you should bid on competitor terms is beyond the scope of this post, but even if you do then you should keep them separated from your other keywords (as searches with a brand attached will behave differently to searches with no brand at all), and so competitor terms should be used as negative keywords. Don’t just think of the brand name: think of their product names as well.
If you know of brands who have a similar but different market you could exclude them as their audience will be uninterested in your product: for instance if you sell women’s clothing you could use as negative keywords brands who specialise in men’s clothing.
Looking at Analytics gives you behavioural information on searchers for some keywords, although this is limited to keywords you already rank for organically and people who found your site relevant enough to visit (and soon it will exclude people who search Google while logged in). If there is a keyword with high traffic and no conversions, then it could be a good negative keyword.
7. Monitor the Media
Using social media monitoring or Google alerts can show if your brand terms have uses unrelated to you which you didn’t previously know about.
Another thing to bear in mind is that you never know when there will be news or a trend that’s related to your keywords but not your business – and that could be expensive if there’s a sudden explosion of searches that your advert appears on. If you advertise in the travel vertical, for example, then you may need to react to disasters and current events in destination countries, either by adding negative keywords or (in extreme cases) pausing ad groups.
8. Misspelings adn Typiong Mistaakes
People don’t have to type carefully into search engines or use precise spellings – they may even be searching to find the right spelling! So you should expect there to be searches with misspellings and typos. If you have ‘cheap’ as a negative keyword, even on broad-match, you can still find your ads appearing on searches for things that are ‘chep’ or ‘ceap’ or ‘chap’. So when you’ve found an important negative keyword you may want to think of its misspellings too. Typo generators can help.