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Negative Keywords: The unsung heroes of Paid Search

Despite the fact that negative keywords work tirelessly to harmonise all areas of our accounts, appeasing any conflict between ad groups and preventing the inevitable CPC inflation that would follow, many consider them a really boring part of what we do in our PPC accounts.

So, after realising the injustice of how little credit negative keywords get for the work they do, I plan to set that right by proving they are the unsung heroes of paid search.

When we’re first introduced to negative keywords, their role is to mercilessly stand in the way of any undesirable impressions. The fears of your insurance client’s ads appearing for a “worst car insurance” search are kept at bay, because negative keywords have your back. You sleep well at night knowing that your confectionary client’s ads won’t be appearing when someone is furiously searching to buy chocolate because every swear word under the sun is blocked by negative keywords. Whilst this is all great and I do not wish to undermine the importance of this process, not many people are actually searching to buy a box of f***ing truffles (and even if they were, would your ad appearing here be the worst thing in the world? It sounds like they really want those truffles!).

Contrary to popular belief, the real importance of negative keywords lies elsewhere.

Here’s why: when you have multiple keyword variations across two or three match types, conflicts are inevitable. When a user makes a search, you will have a crowd of keywords standing to attention, all wanting to generate the impression. Along the route to victory, algorithms assess a number of factors to decide who has the highest ad rank, and order the search results accordingly. The winners will be the ones with the best quality score and the highest bids.

So, when the algorithm has to assess various eligible keywords within the same account, the candidate with the highest bid will likely be the winner. This results in the CPC inflation I mentioned earlier.

To stop this issue occurring, negative keywords are used to block every instance of conflict throughout your account. They will stop your own keywords competing against each other and raising the price of an auction, and they will direct traffic to the most relevant part of your account. The advantages of this technique are two-fold:

  1. 1. A benefit to CTR and Quality Score

  2. 2. A reduction in CPCs

I understand that you might not share my enthusiasm for negative keywords, I’d probably be worried if you did. I do hope, however, that this post encourages you to appreciate the work they are – or should be! – doing for your PPC accounts. Negative keywords sit behind the scenes, taking no credit for the fact that they are quietly directing all traffic to the single most relevant part of your account.

This is the real beauty of negative keywords.


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