Clearing Up Negative Broad Match in AdWords

If there’s one topic in AdWords that seems to confuse all sorts of folks, it’s negative keyword match types, especially negative keywords on broad match.

Since regular keywords on broad match can cast a fairly wide net, people are worried about using that match type on their negative keywords. People are scared to use broad match on their negative keywords because they’re worried about potentially filtering out traffic they’d want.

The main thing to remember is that negative keywords set to broad match behave much more like modified broad keywords. Every word that you have in the negative keyword will need to appear in the query for the negative keyword to filter it out.

For example, if we used the negative keyword –nike basketball shoes, our keywords could still trigger on queries like:

  • adidas basketball shoes
  • basketball hoops
  • tennis shoes nike

The negative keyword would filter out queries like:

  • nike jordan basketball shoes
  • boston basketball shoes store nike

Other points to remember about negative keywords:

  • Negative broad keywords won’t match on synonyms or similar words like they can for regular keywords.
  • Negative keywords, even on broad match, won’t match on close variations or plurals.
  • For single-word negative keywords, there is no difference between broad and phrase match.

If you think a bit about it, you can understand one of the reasons why Google would not want broad matched negative keywords to behave like regular keywords on broad match – to prevent AdWords users from accidently killing their account performance when they’re looking through their search queries and adding some queries in as negatives. Google doesn’t want you to kill your traffic (especially your ad spend!) accidently.

Armed with this information that negative keywords on broad match don’t cast as wide of a net as you may have thought – should you start setting a bunch of negative keywords as multi-word broad match? I still wouldn’t recommend it as the primary way to set negative keywords, but for other reasons: When possible, you can usually be more effective adding negative keywords in as single words. With most queries you see in your search query report or QueryStream that you’d want to avoid in the future, you can usually find just one of the words that doesn’t fit your business offering. Plucking out that single word as a negative is usually the best way to eliminate future unwanted queries surrounding that theme.

Using our previous example, if I didn’t sell Nike shoes at all, I’d be better off just setting –nike as the negative keyword than coming up with several multi-word combinations.

If you have more questions about negative broad match, let me know in the comments!

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