Negative Keywords for your PPC ads

Ad Placement FailNegative keywords can be used to prevent your ads displaying when those keywords are contained in the user’s search query (or contained in the content, if your ads are showing on the content network).

Why would you want to do this?

  1. Avoid useless traffic
  2. Avoid embarrassment
  3. Improve your click-thru ratio and conversion rate

You can apply negative keyword at campaign or account level. Most of the keywords you’d enter will probably be best at account level.

For example, if you’re a travel company specialising in the world’s more ‘interesting’ locations, unless you’ve got some really good reasons you might want to start with a few words that you never want showing in conjunction with your destinations: war, unrest, insurgency, coup

Airlines would do well to avoid words like: delay, crash, drunk pilot, scandal, strike.

These are extreme examples but many brands and businesses have the potential to be dragged into situations that aren’t ideal, and advertising your product against a negative newspaper story or blog post is a good way to avoid the ridicule often poured upon such ‘ad placement fails‘.

The bottom line

The most common reason for using negative keywords however is to improve your click-through ratio and conversion rate, giving you a higher quality score and thus reducing the cost of customer acquisition through PPC.

Tighten up your PPC strategy

Many small businesses love Google’s self-serve Adwords programme. Just sign up, create an ad, choose some keywords or let Google choose them for you, get traffic, pay the invoice.

Not so fast!
That’s all nice and simple but there are a few things you could be doing to make sure you’re getting the maximum juice from the squeeze.

Google is your friend. Sort of.
Google wants you to get some traffic, Google even provide you with tools to measure that traffic optimally. They even push you to do the most you can with the traffic you’re paying for, but the last thing Google are going to do is voluntarily reduce the amount of revenue they make.

It’s all about the conversions
If you’re not paying attention to the conversions (whether that is orders or leads) that you get from your Adwords spend, you need to, right now. You can track things internally if you like – assuming your content management system’s lead forms or your e-commerce platform show you all the ways someone got to your site (for extra credit, not just last-click tracking too). If that’s not possible, Adwords provides conversion tracking for you. You set up a conversion, add a bit of javascript to the conversion page (final page of checkout or contact form sent page) and you’re done. Conversions will be tracked right down to the campaign, ad group, ad variation and keyword that brought you the sale or lead. Once you know what’s working, do more of that, and less of the keywords and ad variations that are bleeding you dry.

Coming in to land
Landing Pages are REALLY important. Seriously, so important that I’m going to say it again. REALLY IMPORTANT. Got it? Good, let’s move on.

A landing page is, very simply, the page that the user arrives at immediately after clicking on your Adwords ad. Your ad is a highly targeted ad for blue widgets. Do you bring the user to…

  1. your home page
  2. the contact us page
  3. a page about blue widgets, with a ‘buy blue widgets now’ button and a ‘contact us if you want to know anything more about blue widgets’ button

Is it 3?
Well done. Gold star. Bringing the user to anywhere that creates a disconnect between what they searched on and what is on the page is a bad idea for two reasons.
1) Google checks the quality of your landing page – that thing it does with the animated abacus when you enter your destination URL? It’s checking two things – one, that your destination URL exists and two – what’s on it. It also re-checks periodically in case you’ve changed it. Google uses the content of your landing page, and the behaviour of people who have clicked on your ad to determine a quality score. A higher quality score equals a lower cost per click.
2) Users don’t like having to work out where to go to find the information you were promising them. You have mere seconds to impress a visitor.

Apple and Pears
Imagine you’re at a market. You hear a stallholder shouting ‘lovely golden delicious apples, get ’em here, two euros a kilo’. You’re shopping for apples anyway so you go over to his stall, except he’s gone, and you can’t see the apples. Do you stick around, or go to another seller? Now why would you want to do exactly that to someone on the web?

Sure, it takes time, and sometimes money, to craft landing pages for every ad you want to run on Adwords but if you don’t do everything you can to get every click to convert, you’re wasting your money, and you end up chalking your Adwords spend down as some kind of Google Tax, where it’s your way of paying them for all that organic traffic they bring you.

For some quality tips on landing page design, read this from SEOmoz. If you’re having problems optimising your pay-per-click strategy, get in touch and I’ll let you know how I can help.

Image Credit: Paolo Camera via Creative Commons on Flickr