Ashley Carter
Ashley Carter 9 December 2016

What Small Businesses Need to Know about Keyword Negatives

Contrary to what the name sounds like, keyword negatives (also called negative keywords) are great for your business. These keywords can save you money, reduce unqualified traffic, and allow you to focus on more important aspects of your marketing strategy.

Further, the value of negative keywords extend beyond SEM and can even help your SEO team as well. Find out what you need to know about negative keywords to get the most out of your organic and paid traffic.

How Negative Keywords Save Money

Google has multiple matching types that you can apply to certain Adwords bids. These tips range from exact match, where only people searching for the exact phrase see the results, to broad match, where similar words and phrases match. While broad match increases your audience, this match can also increase waste. By setting negative keywords, you prevent your results from showing on certain terms, saving your team money on unqualified traffic.

For example, many people refer to flip-flops as thongs. A sandal store could set “thong underwear” as a negative keyword to reduce confusion and make sure all potential customers are ones looking for shoes.

Use Search Terms and SEO to Find Negative Keywords

While some negative keywords are obvious (refer to the thong example in the previous section), you could be unqualified driving traffic to your landing pages that you don’t realize. Job seekers and students are two categories of this traffic, neither of which want to buy your product or service unless you sell career-training opportunities and job postings.

Pull the search terms report in Google Adwords to find which words and phrases are bringing people to your site. If you find terms such as careers, jobs, training, and certification, you will want to set them as negative search terms. These people aren’t customers; they’re job seekers. You will also want to send this report to your SEO team members, who can use the search terms to optimize certain words or phrases and remove others.

Factor in Plural Negative Keywords

You can't block terms only in their singular format. Smart SEM managers will also block negative terms in plural forms and possibly block multiple phrases that are driving unqualified traffic. The search terms report helps you here as well. You can narrow the time period to find new terms that you should block so that you are continually adding negative terms to your list and reducing waste. We recommend running this report weekly or monthly depending on your campaign size. In this way, your negative keyword list will continue to grow along with your regular keyword list as your customers find new and confusing ways to reach your brand.

You’ll be surprised by how much money you waste driving unqualified traffic to your website in your SEM campaigns. Many of the best practices for paid search involve reducing waste and spending money on highly targeted customers. Setting up negative keywords is one of the fastest and easiest ways to achieve that goal. As long as your ROI doesn’t take a hit, continue adding negative keywords to keep your searches clean and performing well.

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