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July 15, 2015

How Negativity Can Improve Your AdWords Performance

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/

As a follow-up to my last post, ‘Questions Before Starting a Pay-Per-Click Campaign,’ ( question 3 related to what Google calls Negative Keywords. This is one of the best tools you can use to improve your AdWords campaign performance.

Before we jump in, let’s look at what Google refers to as Match Types. With the keywords that you use in an AdWords campaign, Google allows you to control the amount of traffic you get from a search by allowing either a broad focus, a narrow focus or somewhere in between. Most often this control will determine the overall success of your campaign.

There are five different Match Types to consider:

1. Broad Match Term: Wooden Pallet

This type, as its name implies, is the broadest of all the keyword selections. This will typically give you the most traffic of all the types, but if you are not careful can cause a lot of unwanted traffic. With a broad match keyword, Google will show your ads for just about anything related to your keyword. It will show plurals, synonyms, misspellings, or any term that might closely relate to the keyword phrase you have chosen.

For example, if you use the term “wooden pallet”, your ads could show for “wooden pallets,” “cardboard pallet,” “color pallet,” “wooden crates,” or even the term palettes (for eye shadow). We even had many occurrences of the term related to “pellets” with an “e,” as in a pellet gun.

2. Modified Broad Match Term: +Wooden Pallet

A modified broad match is the next step to minimizing the wrong type of traffic and is signified by adding a plus sign in front of a word that must be included in the search. In this case, the word “wooden” must be included.

For example, if you use “+wooden pallet” as the keyword you will eliminate searches for “cardboard pallets” and “color pallets” – thereby cutting back on unwanted traffic. You still might get searches for wooden pellets (with an “e”), but more on that later.

3. Phrase Match: “Wooden Pallets”

The phrase match cuts it down even further. By using the quotation marks, any search that is done must include the phrase in that specific order between the marks. It can have words before it or after it, but none in between.

So you will show up for someone who searches for “buy wooden pallets” or “wooden pallets in Michigan,” but not for “wooden makeup pallets” (for someone who doesn’t know how to spell “palettes”) or “wooden brick pallets.”

4. Exact Match Term: [Wooden Pallet]

This match type is the most restrictive of them all. The only search you will show up for is exactly what is in the brackets and nothing else. Depending on the relevance of your keyword, this can be a gold mine.

A best practice when starting any Google campaign is to use the broad, phrase, and exact matches all at the same time and closely monitor which one is bringing you the most qualified traffic. In the end, you might decide to pause the broad match and keep the phrase and exact match or some other combination.

The ability to use Match Types in Google further demonstrates why Google AdWords is highly controllable and, if managed correctly, allows you to effectively achieve your desired results.

5. Negative Match Term: -palette, -color, -cardboard

But what about keywords you don’t want to show for? Yep, that’s the Negative match indicated by a minus sign in front of any given word or phrase. By adding the three keywords above into the Negative Keyword List, you can effectively eliminate unwanted traffic for irrelevant searches.

As another example mentioned in the previous post, if your company provides plasma spray coatings that provide a thermal barrier for machined parts, even by carefully choosing your keyword match types you could end up with a lot of traffic for people searching the term “Blood Plasma”. By making the word “blood” a negative keyword from the start, you will eliminate unwanted clicks and costs.

By monitoring the “Search Terms” report, you will be surprised at the number of negative keywords you will need to add. However, the benefits of diligently adding negative keywords far outweigh the time spent, and your campaigns will improve dramatically.

Consistent success from Google AdWords can take time, but making the right adjustments to a campaign as you go based on performance data will ensure that your AdWords efforts are worth the investment.


Vince Kostelnik is a Google Certified Professional and oversees all of Warren Strategies pay-per-click and Google AdWords efforts. He has seen AdWords generate an overflow of qualified leads for companies when done right. He loves managing and tweaking campaigns so that his clients are getting most for the PPC Dollar. E-mail Vince at