Negative Lists – A Better Method of Creation

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Everyone knows that a key strategy with PPC is the creation of negative lists. You must have a tight list of terms you don’t want your ads to show for or your ROI will plummet. When you first build out an account part of your keyword research should be pre-empting the negative keywords you will need. However you will always miss many terms that are never going to convert (or through trial show they are not profitable). This is why it is best practice to regularly monitor search term reports in Google Adwords for search queries that you should ‘negative out’.

Google makes it very easy to simply tick the box next to each keyword and add it as a negative at an ad group or campaign level. By default it will be an exact match negative. Just as with normal keywords negatives can be broad, phrase or exact match. It can take hours to go through search term reports and you are never shown every single query your keywords will show for.

However by negative matching a word or small phrase that appears regularly you can ensure you block considerably more keywords thus improving your CTRs even further and bringing down your cost per click. Here’s an example:

Lets say your product is the hot new product: Big Purple Donkey (you’ve heard about these right? everybody’s talking about them!). Along with lots of well researched exact match keywords you might want to bid on their phrase and broad match equivalents giving you keywords such as:

“big purple donkey”

+buy +purple +donkey

These should soak up lots of search terms you hadn’t thought of or weren’t worth keywording individually. You have done your research and found lots of negatives such as ‘returns’, ‘faulty’ and so on. However after checking the Adwords search term report and you may see a few keywords you were matching for that you don’t like the look of:

purple donkey beach ride buy

free big purple donkey


Now you could just tick the box and have Google negative exact match them out like this:

[purple donkey beach ride]

[free big purple donkey]

But really there are only 2 words there that are the problem, and they probably appear in lots of other search terms. By negative broad matching ‘ride’ and ‘free’ you will exclude lots of other potential search terms you may not have even been aware of such as:

ride purple donkey

big purple donkey for free

However what if it is a combination of words that are always appearing and not just one offending word that always gives away a search term that you know you don’t want to match for? Going back to our example, what if the Purple Donkey’s full product name is Purple Donkey Toy Ride (I know what a lame name, I have no idea how it became so popular). In this case using negative broad match for ‘ride’ would prevent lots of relevant search queries from showing. However if we figure out that the phrase ‘beach ride’ refers to those popular purple donkey rides you can get at the seaside, then simply negative phrase matching that phrase will get rid of all the irrelevant search queries.

So using “beach ride” as a negative would prevent:

big purple donkey beach ride

purple donkey buy beach ride


But it would allow search terms that are likely to convert such as:

big purple donkey toy ride

toy ride big purple donkey

big purple donkey beach toy


To do this you can obviously add negatives at ad group or campaign level either through the Adwords web interface or Adwords Editor as normal. Or to save time you can just click on keywords in the search terms report and then edit them in the ‘negative keyword’ boxes before saving. Simply change each search term from its default exact match to phrase or broad match of the exact phrase or word that you want to prevent.

So there you have it, another way to make one of the more time consuming elements of PPC’ing a little quicker and more time efficient.


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