Slash Pay‑Per‑Click Costs Using Negative Keywords

March 21, 2008

For anyone who is reasonably new to the world of Pay-Per-Click (PPC), let me share a few words of wisdom — if you don’t have an extensive list of negative keywords, you’re probably paying too much for your traffic.

Suspect you might be one of those advertisers who is feeding the Google piggybank? Well, let’s put a stop to that! In this post, you’ll learn what negative keywords are and how you can generate a starter list of negative keywords in no time at all.

So what are negative keywords? Let’s start with an analogy. When you do pay-per-click advertising, it is like throwing a party. You’ve created a guest list of people who are invited to your party (these are your keywords), but you’ve also hired a bouncer to keep out any undesirables (these are your negative keywords).

Here’s an example. Let’s say I offer French lessons. My keyword list likely has a number of keyword variations that users might type into a search engine, like “French lessons”, “private French lessons”, “French language lessons”, and “French language instruction”.

But what if someone types in “private French Horn lessons”? Or “French language instruction online”? Or “French language lessons on DVD”? Without negative keywords, you will be showing your ads to all these types of bad traffic — inadvertently lowering your quality score and overpaying for your traffic as a result.

Now, you’re probably wondering where you get your negative keywords from? Do you have to pluck them out of thin air by sheer ingenuity? Am I going to ask you to brainstorm negative keywords while sitting in the bathtub, or keep a notebook on your bedside so you can think them up as you’re drifting off to sleep? No, no, no — there’s a much easier way!

Here’s what I want you to do. Just as you probably use a keyword tool to help you develop keyword lists, I’d like you to use a keyword tool to develop negative keyword lists. And if you don’t have fancy tools at your disposal, don’t worry — for our purposes, the free keyword tool in your AdWords account will do just fine!

First, you’re going to type one of your keywords into the keyword tool:

Then, scan the list for “bad traffic” terms:

For each “bad” search query on the list, find the offending word in the phrase and add it to your negative keyword list. (Below is a screenshot of adding a negative keyword in AdWords using AdWords Editor, but this works for whatever search engine or interface you happen to be using.)

Adding Negative Keywords in AdWords Editor

See how it works? It’s not hard at all really and is well worth the effort.

Good luck and remember — don’t feed the Google piggybank!