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Three Ways to Find Negative Keywords

by Larry Kim  |  
September 14, 2010
  |  4,485 views

Keyword discovery is a huge component of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. You need to find relevant keyword opportunities so you can create topical ad groups, text ads, and landing pages, and then bid for ad impressions when people search using those keywords.

When you "win" the ad auction and someone clicks on your ad, you've begun to see some return on your PPC investment—assuming some of those visitors stick around to make a purchase.

However, for truly cost-effective, high-ROI PPC campaigns, it's equally important to find negative keywords—in other words, keywords that aren't relevant to your offerings or your customer base.

Negative keywords allow you to restrict who sees your PPC ads so that those ads reach only your best potential audience and you don't waste money on clicks that won't convert. Because negative-keyword discovery reduces wasteful ad spend, it's just as important to your profits as traditional keyword discovery.

Even if you've got traditional keyword research down pat, you may be unsure how to approach negative-keyword discovery. Here are three basic approaches to identifying negative keywords to use in your PPC campaigns.


1. Your Web Analytics

Some people come up with negative keywords by brainstorming. For example, if you sell baseball caps, your starter list of negative keyword candidates might include "cap gun" and "small cap fund."

Negative keywords allow you to take advantage of the broad-match option—meaning you can capture a greater variety of queries and more long-tail traffic—while still restricting your impressions to some degree.


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Larry Kim is the founder/CTO of WordStream Inc., provider of the AdWords Grader and 20 Minute PPC Work Week.

Google+: Larry Kim

Twitter: @larrykim

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  • by Kevin Tue Sep 14, 2010 via web

    Isn't it easier to pick better "positive" search terms, rather than something generic like "caps"? The latter seems like make-work, in that i now have to worry about a million negative key words... ? Plus, I would imagine generic key words like cap and notebook are mighty expensive.

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