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The Secret to a Successful Search Campaign

Posted by Mary Clayton Shearer on May 15, 2019 9:38:00 AM
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SearchCampaignNetsertive saved one of our customers nearly 96% due to wasted ad spend on a search campaign compared to another provider. Our secret? Negative keywords.

Creating ad groups with relevant ads, keywords, and landing pages is critical for a successful search campaign, but to take PPC to the next-level, you need a negative keyword strategy.

What is a negative keyword?

A negative keyword prohibits search ads from showing for certain words or phrases. It works by adding the negative sign (-) in front of a keyword. Say you created an ad group with the positive keyword “car” and the negative keyword “-old.” When someone searches for “old car” then your ad would not show for that search query.

Tips for a good negative keyword strategy 

1. Strategize from day one

When creating a new ad group, one of the first things you should do is plan your negative keywords. You should never create an ad group without at least ten to twenty negative keywords. To plan, look at Google’s Keyword Planner to see recommendations for similar keywords, and add negatives for the suggestions that don’t make sense for your business. Also, pretend to search for your positive keyword and review some of Google’s suggestions. If you notice any that aren’t relevant for your ad group, add it as a negative keyword.


In the search above, I tested my positive keyword: +digital +marketing agency. Notice “salary” is being searched frequently. That search query is irrelevant for my campaign, since my goal is to capture those looking for a digital marketing agency; therefore, I would add “-salary” as a negative keyword. 

2. Evaluate your search terms

Once your campaign launches, the best way to refine your negative keyword list is through the Search Term report in Google Ads. There, you can analyze search queries that have triggered your ad to show. If you notice any that are irrelevant or don’t lead to an action, you can add the term as a negative keyword.

3. Keep it short and utilize match types 

One of the most common issues advertisers see when managing negative keywords is the misuse of match types. Match types can be your best friend or your enemy. There are three match types you can include with negative keywords: broad, phrase, or exact.

Broad match type will limit your ad from showing from a search query containing the entire negative keyword, regardless of the order. Negative phrase and negative exact match won’t show your ad if the search contains the negative keywords in the same order. The difference is an ad won’t show if additional words are included before or after the negative phrase match but would show for an exact negative match.

This seems confusing, right? That’s why I suggest keeping your negative keywords as short as possible - ideally one word. In the example above, if a negative keyword was added for -”manager salary.” An ad would still show for the search query: salary of a manager. To avoid this, just use -salary as a negative keyword because it will exclude your ad from all salary searches. The shorter, the better - and easier to maintain.

4. Monitor and optimize 

As with all changes to a campaign, you should always monitor the performance following the update. If you’ve added negative keywords, check 30 days later to compare the performance to the previous 30 days. If the cost per conversion decreased, for example, then you know you made a good decision.

Time to get started

Nearly half of marketers worldwide report that at least 30% of their budget is wasted on ineffective campaigns or strategies (Source: emarketer.com, 2018). Challenge yourself for your next (or current) PPC campaign to focus on negative keywords to reduce irrelevant traffic.

Topics: Healthcare, Tech, Automotive, Home Goods

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