Using Ad Group Negatives to Control PPC Traffic


Daniel Akers


It is well known that if left alone, broad match keywords can waste huge amounts of money and seriously affect click-through-rates. It is for this reason that broad match modified keywords are far more popular in PPC Adwords campaigns. However, although you can be more confident of relevant searches coming through, broad match modified keywords still have an often overlooked problem:

The Problem

Say we have a campaign with broad match modified keywords based around dresses. Here are some example search terms for a keyword of +dresses:

Example PPC Data for Dresses

There are hundreds of search terms triggering this one keyword. Although many of them are actually already keywords in the account, they are still being picked up by the broader term.

This will lead to various unwanted problems:

Poor Click-Through-Rates
If search terms are triggering broader or incorrect keywords you’re not going to be showing the best Ads available. This is going to lead to poorer click-through-rates than you could be getting.

Poor Landing Pages
Poor adverts probably mean poor landing pages, which will often lead to a reduced conversion rate.

Lower Quality Score
Keyword relevance, Ad relevance, click-through-rate and landing page quality all effect quality score. A reduced quality score leads to a higher cost per click and lower ad positioning.

Incorrect Keyword Reporting
If the best keyword isn’t triggering the correct search terms then reports on keywords will be completely inaccurate and affect other decisions.

Bad Bidding Decisions
All of these problems can lead to bad decisions when bidding on keywords. When bidding on keywords, conversion rate is incredibly important. Not only will conversion rate be reduced by poor landing pages but also similar keywords can have vastly different rates. We would expect the keyword ‘+ black maxi dresses’ to convert very differently to ‘+dresses’, but if this search term is just being pulled in by the head term keyword then we are going to be bidding the same amount for both. On a large scale this will greatly affect the account and could even lead to the other problems getting worse.

This is a common problem and can have a very negative effect on an account. It often also goes unnoticed, as when performing a search term report, people are far too hooked up on looking for irrelevant search terms they don’t notice where the relevant traffic is being directed.

The Solution

A good solution to this problem is the use of ad group level negative keywords to control search terms.

Say our Dresses campaign is split out into the ad groups Brand, Colour, Quality, Style and Head Terms which all contain relevant broad match modified keywords.

Keyword Data from PPC split by intent

We need to prioritise our ad group level negative keywords in order to best place a keyword such as ‘cheap red gucci maxi dress’, which could be placed in any of these ad groups. Although in this situation it may be best to further split out ad groups, at some point a decision has to be made as to where keywords such as this are going to be placed. If it were a keyword itself, it would no doubt be marked as low search volume, the best way to tackle this is to come up with some sort of pecking order:

Brand > Style > Colour > Quality > Head Terms

In this situation we know that:

-‘gucci’ can be added as a negative to the Style, Colour, Quality and Head Terms ad groups,

-‘maxi’ can be added as a negative to the Colour, Quality and Head Terms ad groups,

-‘red’ can be added as a negative to the Quality and Head Terms ad groups, and

-‘cheap’ can be added as a negative to the Head Terms ad group.

This way we know that ‘cheap red gucci maxi dress’ can only go to one ad group, as ‘gucci’ is negated in all the ad groups other than Brand. Also our ‘+dresses’ keyword in the Head Terms ad group won’t be picking up any of the search terms best placed in other ad groups as it has a comprehensive list of negatives, avoiding all the problems we had earlier.

Although it may not seem to be such a great problem, over a large account or a long period of time, lack of control can really negatively affect the account. Through some well thought out ad group negatives we will see better CTRs, Quality Score and Conversion Rates. This will lead to better bidding decisions and an overall better performing account.