Why You Need AdWords Negative Keywords

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By Theresa Baiocco

IF YOU’RE PAYING $30, to $50, or even $100 for each click, you know PPC keywords are no laughing matter.

But sometimes they are.

One of our PPC specialists started a new tradition at the ConversionMax office: “Keyword of the day.” He lists the funniest and strangest search queries he uncovers in AdWords.

Like this:


Here are some of my favorite AdWords bloopers:

  • “Emergency pancakes” – Because sometimes breakfast is a matter of life or death.
  • “Survival Seeds in the Pantied Desert” – Yes, that’s “pantied,” not “painted.” It makes me wonder what grows there.
  • “Is Chief Keef locked up?” – This was a search query in a locksmith’s AdWords account. I had to Google it. Turns out, Chief Keef is a rapper. I’m a bit out of touch with pop culture, but apparently someone out there is concerned about his legal standing.
  • “Bruno Mars” – This was another search query in the locksmith’s account – and it had triggered ads that were clicked numerous times, costing up to $40 a click. The comedy of errors commenced when our ad manager, who’s even more out of touch with pop culture than I am, asked the client whether Bruno Mars was the name of an employee, or maybe a competitor … and the client affirmed that Bruno Mars was on staff (we’re still trying scratching our heads on where the communication broke down for THAT to happen!). Luckily, another PPC specialist, who’s more in tune with today’s hit music, quickly set us straight before any more money was wasted on that query. Bruno Mars, if you didn’t know, is the singer scheduled to perform at halftime during Super Bowl XLVII (2014), and he has a hit song: “Locked Out of Heaven”.  Since we’re bidding on the phrase, “locked out”, you can see how the problem started.

A key to AdWords success

As entertaining as search queries can be, it’s crucial to the bottom line that you scour through them regularly.

After all, someone searching for Bruno Mars’ song, “Locked Out of Heaven,” or Chief Keef’s current residence is probably NOT looking to hire a locksmith immediately (well, maybe a jail locksmith).

And no matter how compelling the locksmith’s ad, landing page, value proposition, prices, and offer may be … that visitor is not likely to convert. The ad should never show for people searching those terms in the first place. If you don’t make judicious and regular use of AdWords negative keywords, though, there’s a really good chance they will.

How to use AdWords negative keywords to improve your PPC results

You simply make terms such as “Chief Keef” or “Bruno Mars” or “Locked Out of Heaven” negative keywords. Obviously, the locksmith still bids on “locked out,” but the entire song title is a negative keyword phrase.

Adding negative keywords to your AdWords account is critical for cutting out “bad traffic” and wasting money on visitors who will never convert. And it’s not a one-time, set it and forget it activity. You can’t predict all the unrelated search queries people will use to click on your ad. If they aren’t looking for your products or services, you don’t want them to find you.

Smart PPC managers regularly review their AdWords search queries to consider the keywords that resulted in clicks. Unrelated terms should be added to the list of negative keywords.

But my ad has nothing to do with Bruno Mars

On one hand, we wonder why someone searching for “Locked Out of Heaven” would click on an ad that clearly describes locksmith services. But the truth is, that as much as we’d like to think people pay close attention to the titles and descriptions in our ad, many don’t read carefully at all, and some simply click on the wrong link by mistake (especially with mobile ads).

Only one thing is certain: If your ad isn’t showing, no one is going to select it. That may sound counter-intuitive, but — believe me — there are times when you don’t want your ad to show.

An AdWords case example concerning negative keywords

Case in point: I was recently speaking with a back-tax attorney. He helps reduce the tax liability of people who owe at least $15K to the IRS. The attorney’s ads clearly state he is a private attorney, and that he FIGHTS the IRS on his clients’ behalf.

Yet people often call the phone number listed in his PPC ad, thinking they are calling the IRS.

Go figure.

The moral of the story: You can’t always depend on your ad copy alone to weed out people who are searching for unrelated terms; you have to constantly add negative keywords to ensure your ad never shows up for those searches in the first place.

I truly hope Chief Keef’s concerned fan was able to find out where the rapper is currently residing, but he’s not going to find out on my client’s website — and certainly not on my client’s forty dollars.

Find out more about how to optimize your PPC ads and get better results. Call 888-659-2680 for your free consultation with the Conversion Max team.

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Theresa Baiocco-Farr

Conversion Strategist at Conversion Max
Theresa Baiocco-Farr specializes in helping mid-sized businesses increase their online revenues with conversion optimization. She's a top-rated conference speaker with a Master’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado and a Master Certification in Conversion Optimization from Market Motive. She’s a dog-lover, wife & mom, and a recovering travel-junkie.