Excluded? Negative? It’s All Good.

Google calls them “€œnegative”€ keywords. Yahoo prefers to use the word “excluded”. I call them “€œfantastic”.

As an SEM manager, it is very frustrating to see click charges for keywords that are irrelevant to your client’€™s product or service. Although my first reaction is to blame the engine for taking too much liberty with the synonyms of my keywords, but the only way to block future unqualified traffic is to bulk up your negative keyword list. As a result of continually improving this list, the bounce rates have experienced a steady decline in a good majority of my accounts.

Build a Blocker

I like to think that building a negative keyword list is a lot like making a semi-permeable wall that is intended to filter out untargeted traffic. The higher you build the wall, the more junk traffic is obstructed. The great thing about AdWords is that it allows you to build that list just like you would your regular keyword list. Yes, negative keywords do count towards your total keyword quota, but you can always call up your rep to allow more keywords if you find that 50,000 is just not enough.

Levels Google Yahoo MSN
Account n/a 250 n/a
Campaign no limit n/a 1,022 characters
Ad Group no limit 250 n/a
Keyword n/a n/a 1,022 characters

Thank You for Including More Excluded

A dilemma I have always faced with Yahoo Search Marketing has been the lack of space for excluded keywords. Until February 2008, Yahoo has only allowed 50 excluded keywords and they have to be at the account level. I would have to look at my Google list and decide which keywords will build the strongest and tallest wall. With only 50 keywords to work with, I would usually only be able to add my master negative keyword list which includes words like Free, Myspace, wholesale, coupon, Wikipedia, and etcetera. This is a great foundation to start with, but the buzz in the PPC world is that we need more. Apparently the Yahoo gods heard our prayers because now accounts are allowed up to 250 excluded keywords at the account and ad group levels. This is great news! I have already added the additional 200 excluded keywords to many of my accounts and am anxious to see the results. I have always been somewhat weary of Advanced match because I felt a lack of control over my ad display and the traffic relevance. With this new development, I will definitely run more ad groups with Advanced match.

Tips for your List

Just like a regular keyword list, negative keyword lists needs to be constantly updated and requires continual keyword research. Here are a few ways I identify Negatives/Excluded:

  • Use the AdWords Keyword Tool. Not only does this tool show you what you should be bidding on, but it also can show you what you shouldn’t be bidding on. If any of the keywords generated don’t apply to your product or service, add them as a negative.
  • Use your Website Analytics to identify search phrases that are triggering your ads. I run monthly, sometimes bi-weekly, reports and sift through the list. Some programs will also show you the bounce rate for each phrase in a given time period. Identifying words that should be blocked is much easier with this metric.
  • Use the engines. Search your top keywords in Google, Yahoo, MSN, and any other engine you have accounts in. The irrelevant results on the SERP should give you clues on which words to add.

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