According to DMR, advertisers spent more than $38 billion in 2014 to buy ads on Google through AdWords. With this amount of money being spent, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting for your investment. Metrics like cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion are crucial because everyone wants to know how much they cost.
There is a less glamorous feature in AdWords called negative keywords, which is often overlooked. It can, however, have a significant impact on your budget.
What are negative keywords?
Keywords are terms that you tell Google you would like to bid on, and negative keywords are just the opposite. When you add a negative keyword to your AdWords campaign, you’re telling Google this term or phrase isn’t worth your time or money.
Paid search is one of the highest costs within a marketing budget. There are, so often, huge opportunities like negative keywords to greatly reduce the cost and inefficiency of that spend. Eliminating terms that don’t make sense for your business and do not create sales or shopping behavior can save thousands of dollars.
Be sure to ask your SEM manager, paid search vendor, or marketing agency to be certain this action is done for you.
So, how do you find useful negative keywords that will save your company money? There are a few ways we recommend—both before your launch your campaign and after it’s been running, using historical data. Here are a few tools that can be a helpful place to start for your AdWords campaign. They are extremely useful for someone who has an existing campaign, and because they don’t rely on your campaign data, they’re also a smart option if you’re preparing to launch a new campaign.
1) Google Autocomplete—Do a few test searches for terms that relate to your business as well as keywords you plan to use. Since we’re a marketing agency, I started typing “marketing” in the Google search bar. As you can see in the screenshot below, we might want to buy “marketing strategies”, but “marketing definition” wouldn’t lead to many conversions (f a person doesn’t know what marketing is, they’re most likely not looking for an agency…yet).
2) Keyword Planner—For this tool, you’ll need an AdWords account, but you won’t need any historical data. Once you’re logged in, there are a few options: using “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category” is my favorite because it may bring up variations on a keyword or phrase you hadn’t considered.
Keeping with the “marketing” example, I did a search in Raleigh, NC, and the screenshot below is the result. There are some great variations on the term like “marketing services” or “website marketing”, but “free marketing ideas” isn’t one we’d see an ROI from—so let’s add that to our negative list as well.
Ok, now you’ve hopefully gone through these tools, searched for some keywords you’d like to show up for, and started a list of negative, related keywords to narrow down what you’re paying for.
Let’s fast-forward to when your campaign is running. You’re looking to fine-tune your operation. So often, people simply look at cost-per-click in measuring campaign success, but the much more important metric is what is the cost you are paying per sale, lead, or action on your site that correlates with sales. One factor in that high cost may be showing up for searches that don’t apply to your business, causing people to leave your site without converting.
Here are a couple tools to help fix that:
1) Search Queries—Under the “Reports” tab in Google AdWords, there is an option for Pre-defined Reports. Click that and find the “Basic” dropdown menu item: a report named “Search Terms” will be listed there. From there, you can see the search terms people used when your ad showed up.
Lots of potential negative terms can hide here if you’re only looking at the keywords report in AdWords. For example, your “marketing” keyword may look like it’s performing great, with thousands of impressions and a healthy click-through rate. But what if people are searching for “marketing definition,” like in the screenshot above? You’d easily miss this detail by only looking at how your keywords are performing. Make sure to scroll through the list carefully, thinking through what terms aren’t worth paying for and add them to your list!
2) Google Analytics—Integration of Google AdWords and Analytics is a beautiful thing. In most cases, AdWords tracking stops when a customer clicks to your site, then Analytics takes the wheel. Remember your keyword list in AdWords? It’s also in Analytics under the “Acquisition – AdWords – Keywords” tab. Take a careful look through your top performing keywords based on clicks. Make sure you have set up Google Analytics goals, and measure how your campaign is performing based on actual site shopping behavior. Maybe we’re getting hundreds of “marketing” clicks but no one is converting once they’re on the site. Based what you’re hoping to accomplish with AdWords, this word may be worth adding to a negative keywords list.
Overall, each of these tools is a helpful step in refining your ad campaign and is critical for those looking to maximize their budget for conversions and traffic. There’s far more to running an efficient campaign in AdWords, but narrowing your campaign to keywords and search terms that will benefit your business is a big step in the right direction. If you are not managing your paid search campaigns in house, be sure to ask your paid search vendor or marketing agency if they are doing these things for you. If they aren’t, it may be time to start looking or a partner who puts a greater focus on the efficiencies of your marketing investment.