Best Practices for Negative Keywords

Michelle Greenberg
By Michelle Greenberg Director of Operations

Are you adding negatives into your marketing campaign accounts? If not, you definitely should be. Negatives help cut costs on irrelevant search queries for your business as well as keep your account on track by letting the keywords do what they were intended to – get you conversions. Below you will find some of the top tips in implementing negatives in the most efficient way possible, advice on how often to do them, tricks for how to use them for things beyond irrelevant queries, organizational best practices, and then ultimately how to fix issues with negatives.

First and foremost, how often should you be doing negatives? The answer is: it depends. Did you just launch your account? Has it been running for years and already has a solid foundation of negatives? If the account is brand new we often suggest doing negatives daily, especially if you have a lot of broad match running in the account. After a few weeks once the irrelevant queries become far and fewer in between you can switch to weekly, and then after another period of time (you’ll know when you have less queries to sort through) you can switch to monthly. We recommend keeping up monthly negatives even for your oldest accounts as 25% of queries on google are BRAND NEW every day – this means negatives for infinity unfortunately. Definitely you can work smart not hard in some cases. If you have an account with a ton of different SKUs and phrases and it seems like you have nearly 10,000 or more queries that are not added or excluded in your campaigns then by all means filter your report. We like to filter by cost (if a query is only costing you 1 cent per month, it may not be worth your time adding it in as a negative). The same goes with filtering impressions, if a query only gets 1 impressions or even only 3 per month – it’s probably not worth your time adding it as a negative either. In this way, you will cut your 10k queries down to 1-2k and save you time and in the end money since you are only focusing on the high volume + high cost queries.

Another major factor of negatives is how to apply them. There are two main ways to apply negatives on an individual level such as ad group or keyword level, or you can make use of the shared library folders. We HIGHLY recommend the shared library route as this is a much more organized way of keeping track of your negatives. Some will argue that negatives are more impactful at the individual level but we will get to the strategy that helps us achieve the same results in a more functional way in a little bit. The shared library folder is slightly hidden in the newer google ads interface, you have to hit tools and in one of the columns that pops up you will see shared library. There you can create a new list which will prompt you to enter your negative keywords, but make sure to not forget to apply it to the campaigns you want – this is a simple mistake we see happen all the time – apply your negatives to your campaigns!

A key tip to your negative lists in your shared library folder to keep in mind is separating out the exact match negatives and the broad match negatives. You can absolutely combine these lists if you wanted, especially your “general negatives” that apply to all campaigns – however we recommend you separate them out. Exact match negatives are less likely to harm you down the line if the business changes or adds a new product that could have been listed as a negative since exact match negatives are usually longer tier and specific. Broad match negatives are one to two words and can impact a lot more queries at once. By having your broad match keywords in their own list, you can quickly see what should stay and go based on your ever-evolving businesses.

Beyond separating our broad and exact match negatives in your shared library folder there are a plethora of other lists we recommend for every account to have. Cross match negatives are a great tool to help match types do their jobs as well as keep campaign categories in check. For example, we recommend applying cross match branded exact negatives to your branded and non-branded phrase and broad match campaigns – that way your branded exact match campaign is the only one pulling those exact keywords. We also recommend applying non-branded exact match campaigns to all of your non-branded broader campaigns. You can even go further and apply competitor exact match keywords to your branded and non-branded broader campaigns as well as the broader competitor campaigns. Lastly, we recommend separating shopping and search negatives into their own lists as each channel performs differently.
If at any point you feel you’ve lost track of all the negatives going on in your account be aware that both Bing and google will quickly alert you if you implement a negative that is conflicting with a live keyword – this is a good safety to keep your business in check. Good luck with your new negative strategies, we hope to have saved you tons of marketing dollars that you can now spend elsewhere!

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