When seeking opportunities for improved cost-efficiency, one of the most highly recommended checkpoints is the search term report in your paid searchÂ interface.
Discovering a keyword spending well beyond its CPL threshold results in a mix of joy (â€śGreat! Another keyword to exclude!â€ť) and pain (â€śHow did this search term spend that much?â€ť).
As your excluded terms accumulate, they inevitably grow into a massive list to be reviewed constantly for any chance of a mistake. Did you once exclude a term that, upon second glance, might need to be considered for an exact match negative but maybe not a broad match negative? With a list of more than 1,000 excluded terms, this type of quality check can be a huge time commitment and long-term undertaking.
Luckily, the PPC gods have released the Negative Keyword List for our excluding convenience. Now you can easily create smaller, more manageable groupings of negatives and apply them equally to whatever campaign is deserving.
But does the use of negative keyword listsÂ really improve anything?
To answer that question, Iâ€™ve broken it down into three sub-questions for consideration:
1. Do Negative Keyword Lists Reduce Workload?
After years of mining through search queries and haphazardly adding keywords that looked suspect or were clear offenders, the list became somewhat unmanageable. Worse yet, I started to forget what Iâ€™d added or why I added it.
Then negative keyword lists came along, and my neurotic little brain was happy again. I began poring over my negatives and sorting them into categories that made sense for my clients. Although there are some General Term lists that will apply to most of us, there are many, many more that are specific to each and every business.
Although the internet waters run deep with lists of â€śthe 100 terms your PPC account should excludeâ€ť or â€śthe beginnerâ€™s list to excluding keywords,â€ť I find it much more beneficial to illustrate with examplesÂ than to tell you what works and what doesnâ€™t.
Some sample categories of Negative Keyword Lists:
Employment (a common set of exclusions for the majority of accounts)
Terms Related to Your Own Industry
Example: Business Loans
- â€śinterest freeâ€ť
- â€śpay dayâ€ť
- â€śstart upâ€ť
Product names (cross-contamination)
Example: Shoe Retailer
*Hot Tip: Creating a Google Alert for your clientâ€™s brand or industry will keep you looped into current events that may affect what prompts your ads to appear.
Branded Terms (For Non-Branded campaigns only)
Example: The Cheesecake Factory
- cheese cake
- â€ścheesecake factoryâ€ť
Upper Funnel Terms
Example: Travel industry
- â€śwhen to visitâ€¦â€ť
- â€śarches national parkâ€ť
- â€śthings to do inâ€¦â€ť
Example: Online retailer
- â€śconfirmation numberâ€ť
- return policy (Although you may want to verify that this is not being used as a successful comparison search query prior to excluding it)
These lists are not intended to fit you perfectly, but instead to compel you to look outside the â€śone list to rule them allâ€ť mentality and to specialize your categories. But thereâ€™s another logical question:
2. Do Negative Keyword Lists Improve Performance Transparency?
While the Shared Library interface makes creating and implementing Negative Keyword lists simple and straightforward, there is one major hangup:
Negatives arenâ€™t shown in the Googleâ€™s search term report.
The example below is a search query that has generated some interest:
What you canâ€™t see in the interface is thatÂ the term â€ścanineâ€ť has since been excluded and added to a negative keyword list. However, when we reflect on the search term report, it appears as though the term is still happily generating traffic. This kind of thing can create some confusion if youâ€™re not prepared.
The secondary downfall to negative keyword lists is the inability to view them in the AdWords Editor. How many times have I goneÂ to verify the addition of the negative term and panicked when it wasnâ€™t present in the Editor? Too many to want to admit.
However, as Iâ€™ve gotten comfortable with using the negative lists,Â itâ€™s a quick hop andÂ jump into the Shared Library to search for said negative. But acclimating to this layout certainly did take a moment.
More than anything, the burning question we all have is this:
3. Do Negative Keyword Lists Actually Contribute To Improved Performance?
One client was able to make extremely detailed use of the negative keyword lists in both Google andÂ Bing. The siteÂ was frequently affected by pop culture, celebrity news and new industry trends.
Without negative lists, we were almost running in circles with the lack of organization to our lists. We used (and continue to use) a few broad match modified keywords that frequently brought in great leads but also terribly irrelevant clicks, depending on the detail of the search term.
So we implemented some very distinct lists:
As more â€śpop cultureâ€ť terms came through, we would simply add them to their appropriate list at the most effective match type.
This saved our team time and energy and allowed us to focus on the right kinds of optimizations, based on the right traffic. This process produced an overwhelming improvement to our performance.
Because we were more effectively showing the proper ads to our most relevant users, our click-through rateÂ increased by 132 percent for the keywords in our account. While we saw an 8 percent decrease in conversion rate, the average cost per lead was cut in half.
Specifically, cost per lead plummeted by 53 percent, meaning the average cost per lead was 47 percent of the previous average. This not only allowed us to save $1.0M on overpriced leads, but we also were able to use budget that had previously been taken by these inefficiently covered search queries and invest it in top-performing campaigns and keywords.
Implementing negative keyword lists didnâ€™t change the types of negative keywords we use, but it did alter how we manage our lists, how we approach negative keyword mining and what applies to our industry. And by taking advantage of this, we were able to focus our real attention on the account as a whole and ultimately improve overall performance.