PPC Streamcap – Getting Negative

This week, our host Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) created a good set of questions on this week’s pay-per-click topic “Getting Negative”, which ended with a few humorous Search Queries that our PPC’ers have encountered. The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: How do you proactively conduct negative keyword research vs. solely being reactive?

  • Do a couple searches yourself. Look at the top 20 results. You’ll see potential landmines if you pay attention. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • Cut out the common sense crap from the beginning. Use keyword tools and perform searches on SE’s to see irrelevant searches. – Andy Groller (@AndyGroller)
  • Google instant can help determine where you don’t want to show up. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • Common sense is the best place to start, I think. Get rid of words you know you don’t want. Keep up with news, new products, trends. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • While conducting keyword research I have a separate document to add negatives that I come across which I know don’t make sense. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) ++
    • The separate negatives doc is key. – Michelle Morgan
  • You can use Google Instant to come up with keywords related to your search. Use those that aren’t relevant as negatives. – PurePPCCom (@pureppccom)
  • Start with a good client relationship, understand changes to their business/website, watch how searchers organically find it. – Steve Hill (@epiclysteve)
  • A lot can be done during the initial keyword research that is proactive. – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem) ++
    • I agree, initial keyword recommendations often show words you don’t want which can be added as negatives asap. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • Google Suggest is a good place to start finding common negatives for themed ad groups. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Look at google suggest keywords for variations of your terms that aren’t a match. – Jessica Cameron Ruud (@Camruud)
  • Manual searches are a good starting point, look for obvious misinterpretations. – Andrew Baker (@SEOEdinburgh)
  • Also, always add exact 1 word negatives for any location (i.e. “nyc apartments” add -[nyc]). You’ll thank yourself later. – Andy Groller ++
  • Find irrelevant keywords in your initial KW research process and add them. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Check IMDB – Keri Morgret (@KeriMorgret)
  • Sometimes you can find a good negative for one account in another if they have any relation at all. – Mark Kennedy +
  • Organic search term reports are usually a great indicator beyond reactive investigation via search query reports. – Steve Hill
  • Ask the client as well! – Matt Umbro +
  • Also, click the “Add Keywords” button in AdWords and sift through the suggested keywords on the right. – James Svoboda
  • Summary: common sense, keyword tools & initial research, actually searching, communicate w/ client… Got it! – Andy Groller ++
  • Overall I don’t like being so reactive when it comes to negatives, anything I can do to eliminate that traffic beforehand is good. – Matt Umbro +
  • I usually have to keep adgs keywords from overlapping. Using keywords from other adgs is a good source of negatives for me. – Michelle Morgan +
  • Yes organic KW research is useful, I sometimes use the new GA Webmasters SEO reports to find -tive KWs – Andrew Baker +
  • I have been using a lot less broad match & a lot more MBM. Keeping broad in own in ad groups so I know what kws to check for negs. – Bonnie Schwartz (@bonnieschwartz)

Q2: From data analysis to implementation talk about the process of reviewing a search query report?

  • ID if the query is relevant, proceed to performance stats (did it do well, not enough data or tanked), add as neg if necessary. – Andy Groller
  • A2 is too long for 140 chars… – Melissa Mackey ++
  • Step 1: Export to Excel. – Robert Brady
  • Some are no-brainers, but some need extra thought or testing, so I think there are different levels of negatives. – Mark Kennedy
  • I track the dates that I analyze QSR’s so as to not overlap my research on different occasions. – James Svoboda ++++++
    • I do a dupe check. – Chad Summerhill
      • Do the duplicate checks take into account the account level Negative Keyword Lists? – James Svoboda
  • Filter data to eliminate one click queries; review for obvious irrelevant terms & add negatives, Carefully review terms w/>10 clicks & no conversions. – Melissa Mackey
  • First, look for inappropriate words via the SQ report. 2nd, segment the SQ report by campaign to see what is & isn’t converting. 3rd, look for campaign and ad group negatives to move appropriate words into their appropriate campaigns & ad groups. – Harris Neifield
  • Avoid spending time on one-off searches w/ few impressions and look for common trends between queries as a start. – Steve Hill +
  • First thing I do is look for individual words that are driving clicks but no conversions. Use excel for that. – Michelle Morgan +
  • Start with highest impact campaigns, determine new negatives & exact match terms. Consider Ad Group structure w/ new keywords. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • I always sort by clicks to find the biggest pain points. – Bonnie Schwartz +++
  • And you need a predetermined standard to judge against. Then sort accordingly. – Robert Brady
  • I d/l AdWords SQRs & GA MSQs Reports to excel, then vlookup to make 1 table so I can see site engagement metrics aswell. – Andrew Baker
  • A key item is to make sure the search query is showing in the right ad group. – Matt Umbro +++
    • Pivot by SQ and count AG. – Chad Summerhill
  • Also keep in mind that if clicks are being generated for irrelevant searches, you might need to change your ad text. – Steve Hill
  • I also use SQR’s for adding good & negatives at the same time so as to not have to return for one or the other. – James Svoboda
  • Don’t block just the one bad query, see if you can find a trend and add more negatives that didn’t show. – Keri Morgret ++++
    • Agreed, generally when I add a negative I also add the plurals and other permutations. – Matt Umbro +
    • Neg Phrase Match. – Chad Summerhill
  • To be safe, roll out larger groups of negatives in shift. Don’t do it all at once. You might cut off top of funnel kws w/o knowing. – Michelle Morgan
  • Most underrated search query use is funneling ow to best ad group / copy. – Tad Miller (@jstatad)
  • If you sell only cars and see 1 motorcycle model in SQR, go find ALL motorcycle models for manufacturer, add to negatives. – Keri Morgret

Q3: Do you share search query reports with clients? If so, what instructions do you give them?

  • Only if I find some really funny ones. They love that. – Mark Kennedy ++
  • I might ask management about certain words and how they pertain to our company. Sometimes they’re good +kws, other times -kws. – Michelle Morgan
  • Depends on how close the queries may be to potential products/services. If it’s questionable, I ask. I don’t send an entire SQR though; don’t bog them down with what we’re supposed to be doing anyway. – Andy Groller
  • Only if I need to clarify the word is relevant, they will know. – Andrew Baker
  • Hell no! Too hard for most clients to understand. I do share relevant findings if it makes a diff to their overall mktg tho. – Melissa Mackey
  • I’ll mention trends I’m seeing but I don’t provide many SQRs. They hire me to worry about it so they don’t have to. – Steve Hill +
  • Absolutely! Clients know their business best. If I disagree I will say something, but generally clients can help weed out terms. – Matt Umbro
  • No. – James Svoboda
  • Only If I want the client to stop doing PPC altogether. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils) +++
  • I don’t. Half the time clients don’t even know what negative keywords are so telling them about additions doesn’t make a diff. – PurePPCCom
  • Really surprised not more people ask clients about questionable queries from SQR’s. – Andy Groller
  • You clean up the report a bit, but I’ve never had a negative experience from sending a client a SQ report. – Matt Umbro +
    • Same here; real straight forward table/Excel with column for them to mark neg, use as keyword, etc. – Andy Groller
  • I group types of -KWs in to lists eg brands the client isn’t stocking but might do due to search trends, easy to remove. – Andrew Baker
  • I like to in the beginning so they see where we are adding value and to ensure terms I think are not relevant really are. – Bonnie Schwartz
  • No. Can often throw up red flags with clients and make them wonder why you weren’t more proactive in regards to negatives. – Nicole Mintiens +
  • If the SQ could potentially warrant a new ad group to test ROI, then yes. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • I’ve had too many clients think the negatives are terms we’re bidding on; makes for an unpleasant conversation. – Melissa Mackey
  • I share the negatives I find. Sometimes they never thought of them. – Robert Brady
  • If you’re creating a new ad group from KW finds in the SQR, then yes, I’ll talk to the client. But not about adding negatives. – PurePPCCom
  • In all seriousness it can certainly be a good idea 4 some clients to review a SQR. Just w/ caution for those on the fence about PPC. – Neil Sorenson
  • I can understand negatives of sending SQ reports to clients (though don’t agree with them), but will help campaign in long run. – Matt Umbro +
  • My clients don’t find it as funny when they realize they are spending money on bad clicks. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Sending a raw SQR to a client is usually overwhelming. I break out themes and highlight potential negatives and opportunities. – Aaron Putnam (@aaronputnam)
  • I’ve made assumptions on -KWs only for the client to tell me it’s an important word. – Andrew Baker
    • Conversion Rates tell me what’s really important. – James Svoboda
  • I tell clients that we are always looking for negative KWs but your feedback would help as well. – Matt Umbro
    • Client knows their biz best. – Andy Groller +
  • Unfortunately, sometimes the only people that don’t know which keywords are less important than users are clients. – Neil Sorenson
  • I don’t send entire report just a small simple list – are these relevant – 30 sec answer. – Andrew Baker ++
  • It’s truly case by case, but for questionable terms, an email could be very helpful. – Mark Kennedy +
  • I once sent an SQR to a client. He made the decision to not run any broad matches for 6 months. ROAS skyrocketed but volume decr. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • I usually show/go over SRQ’s with clients during the audit. Then they see what’s involved and let me make the best decisions. – James Svoboda

Q4: How can Google and MSN better emphasize the necessity of negative keywords? As an example, should these engines provide predetermined negative keyword lists by industry, vertical, etc. that you can add to any or all of your campaigns?

  • Predetermined lists would rule. I’ve gotten these from Google reps before; would be nice to provide via interface too. – Melissa Mackey
    • Were the lists you saw from the rep pretty good?
  • Well, in general MSN/adCenter’s negative kw system could have a much better set up. – Michelle Morgan +
  • Eliminate standard broad match! – James Svoboda
  • Google provides suggest keywords. Why not suggested negative keywords? I like it. – Cassie Allinger (@_CassieLee_) +++
    • Yes, like in the opportunities tab, that WOULD be excellent! – Eric Farmer (@click_eric)
  • Would help but not seeing how it would be different from current keyword tool i.e. you still have to sort & ID negs. – Andy Groller
  • At a basic level I don’t think many advertisers (beginners) even know what negative KWs are! Engines need to educate better. – Matt Umbro
  • I don’t see Google or MSN pushing on negatives too hard. Potential loss of revenue for them. – Robert Brady ++++
  • It would certainly help to have the choice to apply or not, to pick & choose, it would help business owners enormously. – Andrew Baker
  • At a basic level I don’t think many advertisers (beginners) even know what negative KWs are! – Cassie Allinger
  • What if they factored it into Quality Scores somehow? – Steve Hill
    • Kinda like this idea & kinda scared of it at the same time. – Michelle Morgan
  • You gotta wonder how much Google wants to push neg KWs. The 156,236,263 accounts running without them are padding the bottom line. – Neil Sorenson
  • Both Google & MSN “hide” the negative keywords sections – and it’d be very easy for a newbie to never even know that they exist. – Cassie Allinger
  • I think Google needs to educate advertisers more on everything, not just neg kws. It would sure be helpful if they did though. – PurePPCCom
  • I think most advertisers understand they need negative keywords but fail at implementing them correctly. – Aaron Putnam

Q5: Is it solely up to advertisers to exclude KWs & placements or must Google better qualify traffic (ie: session based broad match)?

  • I think the “PPC ecosystem” is getting better. I’ve seen less need to use Job & Jobs as negatives across the board than in past. – James Svoboda
  • I hate session based broad match and think it’s one of the biggest match type fails ever. – Melissa Mackey ++++++++
  • Session-based broad match terms can die a fiery death and crawl back into where ever they came from. – Neil Sorenson +++++
  • I think the placements that Google chooses for you, even when you have keywords, is just as bad. – Matt Umbro +
  • Google wants to be the most relevant SE, but they also want to make money. Larger responsibility is on the advertiser. – Eric Farmer
  • Google can’t afford not to make aneffort 2 better qualify traffic 4 a competitive adv. No one is obligated to use their engine. – Steve Hill +
  • Session-based ruins my life! Definitely up to advertisers. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Would be nice if AdWords could learn from the type of negative keywords / placements added over time – intelligent SQ’s. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • I get angry with MSN when I notice they match my most $$ kws to broad one word phrases & you cant neg exact. not cool. – Bonnie Schwartz ++
  • Do we really want to put more responsibility on Google? Pretty sure that won’t tip in our favor. – Cassie Allinger
  • I think I end up making 95% of session-based broads negatives. They’re terrible. – Michelle Morgan
  • Problem w/ the session based broad match is that you cant get in front of em to exclude. Plus no transparency on their origin= fail. – Neil Sorenson +++
  • Google should also better qualify sites allowed to advertise, but that’s a different topic for a different day. – Matt Umbro
  • Google is in it to win it. They don’t care as long as they make money. It’s your job to ensure client dollars are well spent. – Nicole Mintiens +
    • I agree, but wouldn’t it help the service in the long run if Google was a bit more proactive with items like these? – Matt Umbro
      • Most definitely. I’ll take whatever bone Google wants to throw me. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Agreed on session based stuff. The client knows their needs for PPC the best followed by the marketer. Google doesn’t have the time. – Steve Hill
  • Maybe BMM was Google’s way of compensating for Session-based broads? – Michelle Morgan +
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if Google is already testing something like this. – Eric Farmer
  • How about a site-based broad match instead where G leverages what they already know about your site because they index it? – Aaron Putnam

Q6: How do you use match types with negative keywords both at the campaign and ad group level?

  • Phrase or exact, hardly ever broad. – Andy Groller ++
    • Exactly … broad neg’s are dangerous. – Cassie Allinger
  • I tend to do most work at the adg level. Those are usually exact/phrase. Campaign level tends to be broad and less in number. – Michelle Morgan
  • Usually phrase covers enough but not too much. – John Lavin (@johnnyjetfan)
  • If G or M can’t hit correct target with BMM, how do I know they won’t negative out relevant traffic w/ broad negs? – Andy Groller
  • Mostly exact, some phrase, and like Andy said, no broad. – PurePPCCom
  • Lots of phrase & exact, some broad for terms like “free” when the stuff ain’t free. – Melissa Mackey
  • I love me some phrase match negatives! – Eric Farmer
  • Mostly broad in account level negative keyword lists due to account structure & keyword targeting with strict BMM & Exact. – James Svoboda
  • Campaign level negatives have to be used with more discretion than ad-group level ones. – Steve Hill
  • I prefer phrase over exact negative terms most of the time. & Usually at the adgroup level. – Cassie Allinger +
  • Yip in agreement, Exact & Phrase at AG level with a sprinkling of obvious Broads. – Andrew Baker +
  • So I use more phrase and exact at the campaign level than at the ad group level. – Steve Hill
  • I don’t think I’ve used broad negs in a few years. Call it a lack of trust. – Peter Hughes (@hughespjh)

Q7: Do you ever review your negative keywords & placement exclusions for accuracy? In other words, do you ever review negatives to make sure they are still applicable?

  • As part of an annual ppc campaign check up – yes. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Like everything, gotta keep an eye on it. – John Lavin
  • Do you mean cross-check? Absolutely! & occasionally find ads being triggered when they shouldnt, esp negative audiences. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
    • In this case the ad preview tool is very valuable. – Matt Umbro
  • Definitely! Things change over time. Gotta make sure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot. – Michelle Morgan
  • Due to client load only if click/conversion metrics seem to be dropping or are stunted. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Yes, typically reviewed quarterly to ensure still applicable. – Andy Groller
  • Absolutely in the context of whether I really want to be excluding something. Businesses can/do evolve so review is needed. – Steve Hill
  • Yes. Especially if more than 1 PPCer has their hands on the campaign. – James Svoboda
  • Yes. I like to review negatives once per quarter, or right after taking it over from a different PPC manager. – Bethany Bey (@Bethany_Bey) +
  • Periodically yes, as things change or if I see weird traffic trends, to make sure I didn’t negative out good queries. – Melissa Mackey
  • It’s also critical to make sure you’re in line with a clients offline marketing messages. You’d hate to miss out on that traffic. – Steve Hill
  • Absolutely. Sometimes products or biz goals change over time. Need to audit occasionally based on current reality. – Lisa Sanner
  • Yes part of account review (every few 3-4 months) or if new targets/goals or if performance issues with account. – Andrew Baker

Q8: Do you exclude products from showing in product listing ads? Why or why not?

  • Not ton of experience doing this, but margins would be a potential reason. – Andy Groller
  • Usually depends on conversion sand ROI more than anything. – James Svoboda
  • Yes, gift cards & parts/accessories are the 2 largest. but also may make sense w stiff competition or low margin products too. – Chris Kostecki
  • I use filters. – Andrew Baker
  • Yes, some products are excluded. Mostly based on Margin / GP and our ability to be competitively priced within our niche. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Q8.5: Strange Search Queries
    • Weird Search Query – Keyword: “Self Storage” Search Query: “Self Insemination Sperm Storage” – Nicole Mintiens
    • SQ: “laws for flying with glass bongs”. Keyword: “”aviation attorney” – Melissa Mackey
    • Search Query found doing SQR analysis yesterday: “call center recorder for wife cheating”. – James Svoboda
    • “vacuum cleaners f***ing” – Cassandra McClure (@imcassy)
    • Funny SQ: “sunglasses to wear inside to hide my drunk a** face” – Eric Farmer


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About the Author

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe, Search Manager at WebRanking in Eden Prairie, MN, #PPCChat Streamcap putterer togetherer, rarely an seo blogger, SEO Padawan, Tweeterer @PaulKragthorpe, and Google+’er PaulKragthorpe.

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