Embrace the negative


How Negative Keyword Lists and Matchtypes can make your PPC life easier

Avoiding wasted impressions and clicks is an important part of PPC strategy. Irrelevant traffic can drain your PPC budget and increase bounce rates while decreasing CTRs. Creating a robust negative keyword list for campaigns (or even adgroups) aids paid search advertisers in their struggle to avoid the dreaded irrelevant traffic. Adding negative keywords to your campaigns allows you to use phrase, broad and modified broad match keywords more liberally while avoiding a lot of irrelevant traffic.

When first creating a PPC campaign, it can be difficult to come up with a truly exhaustive list of negative keywords to add. There are negative keyword tools around the web that can help you gauge what types of searches a keyword might trigger. Once your campaign starts getting some traffic, it’s a great idea to check your search terms report to see what queries are leading to clicks on your ads.

The search terms report can be found from the keywords tab under details. From there select whether or not you want to see search terms related to a select number of keywords or if you want to see all the search terms for all your keywords at once. Remember to select an appropriate date range as well. Running search terms reports is great for coming up with negative keywords as well as for keyword expansion ideas.

Like regular keywords, there are different match types for negative keywords, which are negative exact, negative phrase and negative broad match. Below is a handy chart for your convenience.


Negative exact match keywords only prevent the exact query that you negative. So if you negative [tron legacy] then a search for tron legacy dvd could still trigger your ad even though the query tron legacy dvd contains your negative keyword [tron legacy]. Negative phrase matches prevent a certain phrase from triggering your ads. For example, negativing the phrase “tron legacy” would prevent queries like tron legacy dvd or imdb tron legacy. However, if someone searched for Legacy Tron, a negative phrase match wouldn’t prevent that query from triggering your ad because despite the words “tron” and “legacy” being in the query, they aren’t in the proper order that the negative phrase match is preventing. Negative broad match is the most powerful of all the negative matchtypes as it prevents any query from triggering your ad so long as the query contains all the words in your negative broad match regardless of the order in which they appear. For example, a negative broad match for the words Tron Legacy would prevent search like legacy tron, tron movie called legacy, or tron videogame before legacy. However, the negative broadmatch keyword Tron Legacy would not block queries containing the word tron without the word legacy or queries containing the word legacy so long as the query doesn’t contain the word tron. For example the query tron imdb would not be blocked by the negative broad match for tron legacy but tron imdb legacy would be blocked.

Negative keywords can be added at the campaign or adgroup level. Generally, I’d suggest setting up your negative keywords at the campaign level unless you have a good reason to add them at the adgroup level. It’s a good idea to continually revamp your negative keyword lists as time goes on to fight against irrelevant traffic as your campaigns change.

Josh Schafernak

Joshua Schafernak is a SEM/PPC Analyst at Dealer Product Services. Before working at DPS, Joshua spent several years as a SEM/Web Content Specialist. In his personal life, Joshua enjoys video games, science fiction/fantasy, graphic novels, comedy, music, weightlifting, creative writing and vegetarian cooking.


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