By: Joseph Martinez

Negative keyword research is one of the best ways to lower your cost per conversion, increase your CTR and prevent irrelevant traffic from landing on your site. This blog will show you the tactics I use to prevent that irrelevant traffic from coming back. To better help explain my methodology I’m going to use Briggs & Riley, a client I’ve worked with, as my example for today to better explain this. I worked with them for quite some time to greatly improve the results of their PPC campaigns. Let’s see how.

Step One: Define Your Target Audience

Briggs & Riley is a luggage company that sells their product online and through various luggage stores around the world. They do not have any brick and mortar locations. So when you locate a store on their website, you will find results for the nearest luggage store partner near you. The goal of our partnership, defined from the beginning, was to drive online revenue. We were not focused on the users looking for information on where they can physically buy the product. Therefore, we agreed that these types of searchers needed to be excluded.

Step Two: Review the Actual Search Queries that Triggered Your Keywords

Under the Keywords tab in AdWords click on Details. Then under Search Terms, select all. Image example is right below.

ppc search queries

After doing this you will see all actual search queries during the date range you have selected, which will be the most lefthand column. My next recommendation is to sort by cost: highest to lowest. This will allow you to first view the search queries that are costing your campaign the most money. You can also add the keyword column to your view as well so you know which keyword you are actually targeting triggered each search query.

Step Three: Find the True Value of Questionable Search Terms

Again keep in mind that for Briggs & Riley, we wanted to make sure users who got on our site from PPC had the intent to purchase on the site, not find a location. So I created a list of all search queries that had city names in them. Here is one example below.

search query in adwords

Once I had the list of questionable search queries I wanted to potentially block out, I changed my search query filter to look at specific search terms. First go the the filter tab, then select the search term option. (See below). You can then enter in any word you want to see if that word appeared in any search query within the date range you have selected. Since our example above had “toronto” in the search query, that’s the word I want to type in my search term box.

adwords search term filter

After you select the search term you want to view, a list of all matching options will come up. If you scroll to the very bottom of the results, there will be two totals. The yellow bar is what we want because that will show you the results for just the filtered term we just searched for. For Briggs & Riley, the results we saw from almost all of location search queries were exactly what we expected. They were compiling lots of costs, but giving us nothing in return. (Another side note: In our AdWords account we only have the online purchase goal synched from Analytics. Remember our goal is strictly revenue).

adwords search query filter

search term filter results

So in the past year, Toronto queries accrued over $44.00 in cost. And this was just one search term. There were hundreds of these location terms. When they all add up think of how much extra budget we can now use to focus on converting terms, test new keywords, or just save money to lower our cost per conversions.

Step Four: Add Your Negative Keywords to the Proper Location (Remember Your Goals)

In this case we saw that certain location terms never had an ecommerce purchase in the history of the account. So it was an easy decision to add all location queries as negative keywords on the campaign level. Make sure that keywords you are adding as negatives won’t block out any of your target keywords.

Depending on what your goals are, ask yourself certain questions to make sure you don’t hurt your performance in any way. Here are just a few to consider…

  1. Should this negative keyword be applied to the campaign or ad group level?
  2. Should this campaign level negative keyword be applied to every campaign?
  3. Have you thought about what the goals of your campaigns are? (With Briggs & Riley we blocked out a lot of terms that had great CTRs, lots of impressions and lots of visits, but weren’t generating any revenue. If your campaign goal is brand awareness, you might think twice before blocking certain search terms).

Now Go…Optimize!

Negative keyword research is a very routine optimization tactic I use. It is on my schedule for all of my clients at least on a monthly basis. Getting rid of irrelevant users will increase your CTRs and lower your cost per conversions. I guarantee that. And this was just one example with an ecommerce client. Think of how you can properly perform this type of research based on your business goals. If you have some tactics you’d like to share please let us know in the comments!