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How to Build an Effective Negative Keyword List to Increase ROI

by Jill Solomon  |  
May 9, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • The importance of using negative keywords for your search campaign
  • How to find and use negative keywords to reduce CPC and increase ROI

Negative keywords can help you refine your keyword list and filter out unwanted traffic for your paid-search campaigns. Excluding specific words or phrases that aren't relevant to your product or service can help you reach your ideal prospects, reduce your cost per click (CPC), and increase your return on investment (ROI).

You might use a negative keyword list if you: have a limited budget, have low conversion rates, have expensive conversion rates, experience bad brand association, or want to improve your quality score.

So how do you find your negative keywords? How do you select your negative keywords? Why is it important to create a negative keyword list? Here are some answers.

How do you find negative keywords?

Negative keywords are a major factor in creating a successful keyword list. A well-targeted list can help lower costs and ensure targeted visits to your website. Ways to identify negative keywords include using Keyword Tools, website analytics tools, and Search Query Performance reports. Another great way is to look up synonyms for identified negative keywords.

How do you select negative keywords?

Though negative keyword lists help target and define your campaign, overusing them will result in a very limited advertising audience. Therefore, identify negative keywords that are particularly irrelevant to your product or business, including high-trafficked and high CPC keywords. One of the most common negative keywords is "free" because it has such a broad range and scope.

Here are some examples of general negative keywords:

  • You are a local dry cleaner. Negative Keywords: "laundromat," "tailoring," "self-service laundry"
  • You sell designer watches. Negative Keywords: "cheap," "batteries," "bands," "imitation," "accessories," brand names you don't sell
  • You are an orthodontist. Negative keywords: "teeth cleaning," "root canals," "teeth whitening," "cavities"
  • You sell new bicycles. Negative keywords: "motorcycles," "used," "helmets," "bike locks"
    In addition, it is important to look at the negative keywords that run on the different keyword match types: broad, phrase, and exact.

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Jill Solomon is online marketing manager at Direct Agents, a full-service performance-based interactive marketing agency.

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  • by Lynda St-Arneault Mon May 9, 2011 via web

    Very useful Post!
    Building a negative keyword list is too often forgotten while it's tactically so important to optimise your content strategy.

    Thank You for sharing your thoughts on this topic! -Lynda

  • by Samantha Tue May 10, 2011 via web

    Really interesting, will be sure to make use of a negative keyword list in the future.

  • by Jill Tue May 10, 2011 via web

    Thank you @Lynda and @Samantha.
    I hope that these tips help you with your search campaign but don't forget that this is just one way to start optimizing your campaign!

  • by Abornewords Tue May 17, 2011 via web

    Negative keywords may help or hurt your brand or purpose, so I would say stick to your gut feeling when it comes to promotion by being true to your intended purpose. Exposure will happen naturally and will eventually reflect the effort that is put into gaining results in sales or exposure.

  • by April Wiggins Sun May 22, 2011 via mobile

    I had never thought of the idea of negative key words. I will keep this in mind for my next digital campaign. Thanks for the article!

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