Effectively Layering Negative Keywords in PPC Accounts

944d0d09a546263c317e39e186e6dac4Negative keywords are a powerful tool in your PPC arsenal. They allow you to save money on your ad campaigns by heading off low quality clicks at the pass. Recently, I’ve seen a few hiccups with the implementation of negative keywords with users using the wrong layering tools to achieve their negative keyword goals. For my own management style, I’ve come to find that implementing a hierarchical strategy works best for long term management. Here is the best way I’ve found to utilize negative keywords in a PPC account.

Negative Keyword Lists

Starting at the top, keyword lists should be where negatives live that are completely outside of the realm of what you’re looking to target online. This is where you’d ad a keyword like “tvs” if you sell paper. If you’re not looking to find new employees to hire, “jobs” and “careers” can be good negatives to add to this type of list. (For more examples like this, check out this list.) I’ve found that using a single list of keywords you never want your ads to show for has the highest level of impact with the easiest management. Simply add this one list to all campaigns you create in your account.

The key reason I only use one list is simple: ease of ongoing management. Unlike campaign or ad group level negatives, negative keyword lists cannot be access in AdWords Editor. When creating negative keyword lists or conducting regular audits of your negative keywords you’ll need to work in the AdWords interface causing a little extra headache. Only having one list means you’ll only need to add a keyword or audit the list once to get the full effect.

Campaign Level Negatives

The second highest layer comes at the campaign level. These keywords should be used to prevent irrelevant searches for the individual campaigns as well as prevent competition or cross serving between campaigns within your account. Here are some examples:

    • If you segment your campaigns by products, use this layer to exclude all other product types except the one advertised in this campaign as well as irrelevant queries that have some feature overlap with your products.
    • If you segment by geography, it may make sense to add negative keywords that include terms relating to other geographic locations.
    • If you segment by brand vs non-brand or between multiple brands, again, this is a great place to add your brand name or other brand names as negatives as these keywords aren’t relevant to keywords housed in the campaign.

Ad Group Level Negatives

The third and lowest level of negatives are ad group level negatives. Although ad group level negatives can be used for the same purpose as the other two levels (excluding irrelevant traffic based on search queries), I find their most powerful use is to prevent intra-campaign serving of keywords between ad groups. Depending on your match type selections, it’s not uncommon for queries that perfectly match one ad group’s keywords to trigger an ad from another ad group.

For this strategy, I recommend using both a proactive and reactive strategy. First, be proactive, add the exact match variation of each of your keywords to all ad groups except the one it’s housed in. This will prevent that exact query from triggering an ad in a less relevant ad group.

Second, be reactive. Use pivot tables to look for high cost queries and to find those queries that are triggering ads in multiple ad groups. Proper query mapping will give you more confidence in your keyword to ad copy relevance as well as improve the investigation process when stat fluctuations occur.

What are the best ways you’ve found to use the different layers of negatives keywords in your PPC account? Share with us in the comments!