Almost every PPC campaign will start a collection of broad match keywords. You select a keyword and Google’s system will then trigger your ads when that term or any closely related term is entered. But if the system picks badly, the result is wasted budget and the possibility that you miss out on clicks that could lead to sales.


To be fair, Google’s system works pretty well, and in the majority of niches the matching system will get it spot on in approximately 60-80% of cases, but you’ll also find that a significant number of your ad impressions are coming from keywords that present no value to your business. The flip side of this is that a significant proportion of your ad spend could going towards clicks that aren’t qualified leads, and if you’re buying clicks that aren’t leads then you are wasting money.


In the past couple of months, I have witnessed the following examples of wasted ad spend:

– ‘fruit delivery’ broad matching with searches for ‘fruit picking work’
– ‘kickboxing equipment’ broad matching with searches for ‘boxing equipment’
– ‘office cleaning’ broad matching with searches for ‘office cleaning jobs’
– ‘soot damage repair’ broad matching with searches for ‘chimney sweeping’


Each of the examples above is a very subtle deviation from the intended message, but it has a significant effect on click through rates, and if clicks are generated then users are directed to landing pages that don’t adequately handle their query. The result is that the visitor leaves your site, and you make no money on that visit.


You can easily find out which search terms are triggering your ads. Simply navigate to the keywords tab within your Adwords account, click Keyword Details, and select All.


So, what can you do about these poorly targeted keywords?

Adwords account Keyword Detail

1. Make better use of phrase and exact matching. Phrase matching limits Google’s ability to deliver irrelevant keywords, but unwanted words can still be added to the beginning or end of your selected phrases. Exact match on the other hand ensures that ads are only shown if a user types in the exact keyword that you selected.


2. Use negative keywords to prevent ads from showing if a particular word or phrase appears within the user’s search query. You can add negative keywords directly from your Adwords account when you view your search terms by the selecting the queries that you wish to exclude, or for recurring terms such as ‘jobs’ or location terms that are outside of your target area you can enter these manually as negative keywords (set to either negative-broad or negative-phrase).


If you go through and add up the amount you’ve spent on clicks for unrelated keywords over the past month you may be surprised at just how high it is. This isn’t even just about the money. For every click you save on a bad keyword, you save a bit of money, and that bit of money can then be spent buying a click for a quality keyword, all it takes is some careful consideration of your search terms.

Many people write off PPC as a marketing channel on the basis of a poorly targeted campaign, but when you use negative keyword matching to remove this wasted ad spend, it cuts back your cost and increases the number of clicks you receive from qualified leads, helping to tip the balance in your favour at both ends of the equation.


If you calculate your return on investment from PPC, what’s the result? How much does this result change if you remove the amount you spend on poorly matched keywords?


Negative keyword matching is one of the most important things you can do with your PPC account, and it’s one of the things that we do for all clients within the setup stage of the campaign. Negative keywords are just one of the many things that make good PPC management, but in a lot of cases they have the ability to make or break a campaign.

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