Keep Riffraf Out! Add Negative Keywords & Change Settings

Since I only have a limited amount of money to spend on pay-per-click advertising, I want to make sure only potential customers see my ads. If I am paying money each time someone clicks on my ad, I want to keep the riffraff out!
But isn’t it best if more people are exposed to my ads?

No! We don’t want exposure in itself (since we are paying for this exposure); we want exposure to potential customers.
There are really two challenges here:
1) limiting the exposure of your ads so as to save money
2) Only showing your ads to potential customers.
While you may not have experience in the pay per click field with this strategy, you have experienced it in your everyday TV-viewing life.

Filtering by Language and Location
The first large filter in advertising is language. When I am watching TV, I never receive ads from pepsi in Farsi. It is in English. Or your Lingua-Franca. The second large filter is location. I don’t see commercials for British restaurants. Though they speak the same language as I do, the physical distance is too great for me to be considered a potential customer.
This level of filtering in advertising is as simple as it gets. The same rules that apply to TV advertising apply to ppc advertising.

In many cases, you can go right now to your campaigns and click the “off” button for non-English languages, and countries outside the U.S. (or wherever you live). Your conversion rates will improve instantly. Check your settings now.

Filtering by Using Negative Keywords in PPC
Have you ever been watching a football game and there is a commercial for tampons? It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is pretty entertaining. This is an example of advertisers wasting money by targeting the wrong audience. This happens ALL THE TIME in ppc advertising.
One of the more difficult aspects of ppc advertising is deciding who I should block from seeing my ads.
I am currently running a campaign for a hotel in Minneapolis*. How would I describe it if I were to be honest with you: It is a small hotel, not luxurious or expensive, not what I would call a 5 star hotel or suite. It is not the type of hotel you would find valet parking or limos.
Notice that I listed several qualities that the hotel lacks. That is not because I am (necessarily) a negative person, it is because this is a tool I use in ppc.  I can now take that list of qualities that my product does not have and add them to the negative (also called excluded) keyword list.
-five star

Now if anyone does a search with any of those words, my ad automatically cannot appear. So if someone searches for “inexpensive Minneapolis hotel with limo” I don’t want to show my ad.
But I have so many of the desirable qualities this person is searching for. Maybe we should show them the ad just in case.

They will find an inexpensive hotel with limo services or they will perform a different search. Perhaps our ad will show up then. We do not want people clicking our ads for services we do not sell.

So, do your campaigns have negative keywords? Think of all the words that DON’T describe your product or business and write them down in a spreadsheet. Add them as negative words. Your conversion rates will improve, your quality scores will improve and you will be spending less.

*Details changed slightly

Using Your URL, Breadcrumbs and Navigation to Improve Quality Scores.

Due to the importance of quality scores in PPC advertising it is imperative that campaigns and adgroups be laid out in a logical order. One of the ways that the quality score is calculated is by examining the similarity between the keywords in any ad. Thus, if you sell shoes and boots you will need to have separate ad groups for each. Even if you only sell shoes, there are many different types of shoes, so we don’t necessarily want to put all our “shoe” keywords in the same adgroup.

While it is easier to stick all keywords into one ad it is not cost effective. Your ROI will be lower because you will pay more per click than a person who segments their ads. High quality ads are rewarded with lower costs per click.

Each of the Big three pay per click companies (MSN AdCenter, Yahoo Sponsored Search, and Google Adwords) use quality score as a way to reduce your cost per click. Most second-tier search engines use quality score as well.

Creating PPC Campaigns
Sometimes it can be hard to think of a logical way to create adgroups, especially for those new to PPC or for agencies that are working with a company for the first time. Here is one technique that I use that is very helpful:

Imagine that you have a client or you are a company with thousands of SKUs, across several verticals, like If I was asked to start their campaign from scratch, it seems like a very daunting task. So where would I begin? I would look at their websites’ navigation.


Selecting and Ordering PPC Campaigns
Just like PPC advertising, one of the aspects of good website design is grouping products into a logical order. Taking a look at the top-level navigation shows us the categories that the company uses to separate their products.

I would start by creating a separate campaign for each of the top level categories. TV & Video would be 1 campaign, “Audio” would be another campaign, etc. (The TV AND Video is a hint that these might be two individual categories as well. So I would create one campaign for TV and one for Video.)

Think of campaigns like the departments in the store. If the campaigns are the departments then adgroups are the rows. Keywords are the products.

Selecting and Ordering Adgroups
I want to select adgroups that are quite narrow so as to keep a high quality score. How narrow? For a large store like Bestbuy this can be a little tricky. The adgroups will consist of groupings that are smaller than campaigns but larger than keywords. Where can I find information on a big site like this?

Once again we are helped out by the fact that Bestbuy is a well-designed site.

Take a close look at the “breadcrumbs”:


The furthest down on the navigation level will always (usually?) be the product (or service to buy or product to download, etc). The trail of breadcrumbs shows the path we used to get from the category which is the most general group to the product. The levels in between the product and the category are good candidates for adgroups.

If a site doesn’t have breadcrumbs you might be able to use a similar “trick” by looking at the product URL. A site that does this well is Calloway Golf. Here is the URL for product called an “X tour Wedge”; a type of gold club:

Keyword: X tour wedge
Adgroup: Wedges
Campaign: clubs

If you have used the method I have described, this is the easy part. By that I mean, you will now know where to put those keywords you have been wanting to bid on!

In summary, these are not necessarily the recommendations I would recommend to Calloway or BestBuy, but this provides a useful starting point for tackling a large project. Using a websites’ navigation, breadcrumbs and URL are great tools to help create your PPC campaigns achieve high quality scores.