What if I told you that, on average, over 75% of paid search ad spend was wasted bidding on the wrong keywords? As crazy as it sounds, it’s true.1 Results from a comprehensive digital audit analyzed over 2,000 accounts, accounting for $320 million in ad spend, 90 billion impressions, 500 million clicks, and over 26 million keywords across a multitude of industries. The results were absolutely astounding — the average AdWords account wastes 75.80% of its budget. Can you afford to waste over three quarters of your digital ad budget? Can anyone really?
Dealerships are always looking for ways to cut costs and increase profits. What if I told you that you could drive more digital traffic, generate more leads, and maximize your digital ad budgets, without any additional spend? Would you be interested in finding out how? Well you’re in luck – you can, and I am about to tell you exactly how to maximize your digital ROI. It all starts with negative keywords.
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What are negative keywords?
Most people nowadays are at least somewhat familiar with how paid search ads are served. A user types in a particular search query, and then ads are populated based upon whatever the user searched for. But how do we filter out irrelevant information? That is where negative keywords come into play.
Google defines negative keywords as “a type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.”2 The whole purpose of negative keywords is to prevent ads from being served to the wrong audience.
Let’s assume that you own a Honda dealership. It would logically make sense to bid on certain keywords, such as “honda”, “honda dealership”, “honda civic”, etc. But Honda also has a motorsports division that sells motorcycles, ATVS, scooters, off-terrain vehicles and much more. You don’t offer those vehicles at your dealership, so would it make sense for you to serve your ads to an audience looking for “honda motorcycles” or “honda atv dealers near me”? Of course not, and that is where negative keywords should be utilized. Negative keywords can be added for “motorcycle”, “atv”, “powersports”, “scooters” or any other terms that you wouldn’t want to be associated with.
The Good News: Your Competition is Wasting Money – The Bad News: You Probably Are Too
So now that we briefly went over what negative keywords are, you’re probably thinking “OK, so what does this mean to me? How can I make sure I’m not wasting my ad spend?” Well, it all starts with an audit of your current account. By analyzing the search terms (user search queries that result in ad clicks) you can determine whether your click traffic is relevant. Evaluating the search terms will help you further refine the keywords you are bidding on, but more importantly help you determine which keywords you need to include as negatives.
Additionally, it’s best practice to create universal negative keyword lists. There will always be keywords for any particular campaign that won’t make sense, but there will also always be a universal list of keywords that you won’t want your ads serving for as well. Sample universal keywords may include “free, job, employment, training, school, classes, etc.” Basically, anything that you can think of that you know is not relevant to your dealership should be included in a universal negative keyword list.
Negative Keywords Also Have Different Match Types
Let’s refresh your memory on the different match types available: Exact, Phrase, Broad, and Modified Broad.3 Basically, exact match keywords would need to match the user’s exact search query (including plural variants and misspellings), phrase match keywords matching close variants of a user’s query, and broad match keywords matching broad variants of a user’s query. These match types can also be applied to the negative keywords as well. Yet, you should think twice before using different match types for negative keywords. You might accidently negative match a keyword that you want to bid on.
Going back to our Honda dealership example. Say that you want to stop serving ads for people searching for “honda motorcycles”. Your initial thought might be to negative match the modified board match type, +honda +motorcycles or the phrase match type, “honda motorcycles”. If you do this, you’ll have the potential unintended consequence of blocking any search queries containing the word “honda”. Your next thought might be to the exact match, [honda motorcycles]. While this will stop you from bidding on people searching for “honda motorcycles”, you might miss people searching for a keyword that contains the keyword “motorcycles”. That’s why you should negative match the broad match of the keyword “motorcycles”. This will prevent your ad from showing up for any motorcycle related searches and ultimately, you’ll waste less money moving forward.
How Your Dealership Can Win with Negative Keywords
So how can you win with negative keywords? All you have to do is review the search query report and add needed keywords on a regular basis. At a minimum you should do this at least once month per month. Ideally, you should do this bi-weekly or weekly. The longer that you wait, the more money you’ll waste on irrelevant search queries. After performing this exercise the first couple of times and realizing how much of your ad budget you are wasting on irrelevant search queries, you will most likely inspire some motivation to continue this practice regularly.
If you take away one thing from this blog, remember that the more quality negative keywords that you add, the greater digital success you can expect. You’ll experience higher clickthrough rates, lower cost-per-clicks, increase your quality score, and ultimately generate more traffic and leads at a lower overall cost.