Last week's Top 10 ways to save money with Paid Ads PPC was a bit tongue in cheek, but I hope you came away with the very solid point I was making. Negative keywords are the best way to save money on unwanted clicks. When you're after the lowest cost per conversion (as most ecommerce websites would be, right?) you watch where your ad spend is going very carefully.

If you're just coming into this series, you can back up and look at Can You Make Sense of Match Types, and/or Where Do You Set AdWords Match Type. Exact match keywords will trigger your ad to display only if the search term matches exactly what you've bid on (hence the name [exact]), and this is a very good way to control costs. But you miss out on a whole slew of potential sales by using only exact match because you're never going to know all the phrases someone may use to find your product.

Culling Irrelevant Traffic

You've gone to a lot of effort in building your keyword list. Because you want to capture as many converting clicks as possible, you're going to find that your keyword list is long, and that's good. If you're using broad match keywords, or even "phrase match," you're going find that due to Google's "Expanded Broad Match," you're going to catch a lot of irrelevant traffic. Being ever mindful of cost, CTR and conversion rates (and cost/conversion), you'll want to cull out the irrelevant keyword phrases that trigger your ad to display.

One easy way to start building your keyword list is to run a Search Query Performance report.


This little friend is going to return a list of all the keywords that not only triggered your ad to display, but that actually cost you money because someone clicked on them. The vast majority are going to be keywords you've bid on, butt you're also going to find some surprising things in there.

One of my clients has a campaign for plastic cards, and I found these terms were actually clicked:

toyota business cards
custom toy cars
disney cars toy
     toy cards
toy cars
toy cars & vehicles

To eliminate these search query's from triggering my ad (reducing my CTR) or actually being clicked on (increasing my cost, reducing my conversion rate and increasing my cost/conversion), I can use -toy and - cars as a negatives, or better yet phrase match -"toy cars."

The one thing I don't care for with the Search Query Performance report, is the vagueness of other unique queries, I mean really now, how unhelpful is that? With one campaign alone, running the report over a two month period, it found 4,744 other unique queries. If anyone can help me decipher that one, I just may have to buy you a coffee.

Bottom Line

Bottom line, run the Search Query Performance report for your entire account every month. After some time you'll find that you're eliminating fewer and fewer terms. That's a good thing, because you'll have more money available for the relevant clicks, pushing your cost/conversion down!

December 11, 2008

Diana Adams is a Pay-Per-Click Manager, SEO Specialist and all around "get-er-done" authority. Diana helps clients achieve high ROI with their PPC campaigns by providing detail oriented attention to their Pay-Per-Click ad management.

Outside the office, Diana enjoys rock climbing, skiing, hiking and camping, and has tried river kayaking. She and her husband were high school sweethearts, tying the knot 20 years later. They have five (nearly) grown children.


I've described one way to get around the "other unique queries" problem on the SEOptimise blog:

It needs Google Analytics but pretty much everyone has that now anyway.

Hi Richard - You're right about using Analytic's - Analytics are my friend. ... I've also found that if you run your search query reports frequently, that you get more actual search query terms and fewer 'other unique queries'

Ah, thanks for posting this. Kept slipping my mind to play with this a bit more, and now I remember. Awesome tips for developing a greater keywords list and improving CTR.

Hi Diana
you owe me a coffee.

I would buy you a hamburger and a cup of coffee is I am there... This is such a great read... I did never heard of negative keyword until today.. kudos!

Hey Scott -

THANKS! ... shoot me your email ( diana [at] PolePositionMarketing [dot] com ...

I'll send you a Starbucks ;-)

I usually don't use negative keywords. Instead I make very detailed campaigns, with many ad groups and only exact match keywords. Not only increases the CTR but I avoid also useless clicks.
Sam Nichols

I just read about neg keywords this week and had no idea what that meant. Thanks for giving me the next step in my ever progressing PPC regiment! from a newbie at marketing natural weight loss supplement


I am fairly new to PPC!
And reading this is a great read!
Thank you!
I have a question what would be the best search type to use - phrase exact or broad for your negative list?

Hi Angie -
Others may have other opinions/advice, but this is how I use negatives.

If it is a single word that I never want my ad to display (like anyone searching for used products and I only advertise new) then I'd use broad match for the one word: used.

I tend to use phrase match for "how to" because I don't want to pay for a click when someone is looking for instructions.

Longer tail phrases I'll use a phrase match on also

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Search Engine Guide > Diana Adams > How To Create a Negative Keyword List