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How Negative Keywords Can Improve Your Market Share in SEM

Search engine marketing is a crucial way of driving sales and encouraging customers to follow through with purchases. It depends on getting your SEM ads in front of those most likely interested in your products or services. You don't want your page's posts buried in search engine results pages behind similar but unrelated keywords. That's where negative keywords come in.

Negative keywords help keep you out of search results that aren't relevant to the consumer. For instance, if you are an eye doctor selling prescription glasses, you don’t want to show up in searches for “wine glasses” or “drinking glasses.” Negative keywords make your SEM more efficient by ensuring your ads appear to the specific customers you're trying to reach.    

An Overview of Negative Keywords  

When a user searches for a product or service, the latest search engine algorithms look at the search words and try to extrapolate the intent. For instance, most users who enter only a store name in a search are looking for either their website or a brick-and-mortar store near them. The search results will reflect that based on intent, not explicit search terms. You want to ensure you include the keywords for your products or services that represent that intent.  

Similarly, you want to ensure your products or services don't show up on some results pages as you may not offer the same thing another business owner offers. Negative keywords are how you accomplish that. Let's look at a roofing company as an example. Your primary keywords should indicate the core services you offer. However, in roofing, you can be a residential roofer or a commercial roofing company, or both. If you are strictly a residential roofer, you want to make “commercial roofing” a negative keyword so you don’t waste your budget on a service your business does not offer.

The Benefit of Negative Keywords 

Every merchant with an online presence can benefit from using negative keywords. As a business whose primary objective is selling a product or service, your SEM efforts focus on presenting your business to relevant consumers to encourage them to purchase. Negative keywords can help reinforce buying intent, such as "free" or "complimentary," to filter out users that aren't interested in paying for a product. Similarly, if you sell vintage albums but not digital music, using "download" as a negative keyword will further ensure you show up only in relevant search results.   

Specify Ads to Customer Intent 

If you think about your personal history with search engine results, you know the frustration of wading through erroneous or useless results and repeatedly adding criteria to your search term to make it more specific. Effective SEM should serve up ads for your products based on the user's intent. When a user enters a search for auto sales, the terms are generic enough to indicate that they intend to get the best deal on a new vehicle. You want to ensure that your trucks feature in-display ads and search results along with sedans.  

Make Ad Spend More Efficient  

You pay each time a user clicks on your ads, so you need to ensure you don't present those ads to the wrong people who may click on them accidentally. When that happens, you are essentially paying money to entice the wrong people to your site who will not purchase anything. You have lost money on a missed opportunity and paid for an erroneous click. Negative keywords prevent that from occurring by making it more likely that only the most interested parties will see your ads. 

How  to Gather a Negative Keyword List 

To gather your keywords list, start by listing the ways interested parties will search for your brand or product online. Negative keywords take that further by thinking of how those who aren't interested in your product will search for it. Using our previous example of a landscaping service, some potential customers may need weed control, plant replacement, landscape design, or maintenance other than grass cutting. You can make sure you show up in the right results by using negative keywords in Google or Bing ads by listing them with a minus sign on either side.  In addition, looking at your monthly search query reports will help you be more specific and weed out any keywords you are currently showing up for that you may want to avoid. 

Think Like Your Customers and Use Negative Keywords To Match Their Intent

The more specific your ads, the more people interested in what you offer will buy your products. It saves you money by preventing a lost opportunity and paying for erroneous clicks by getting your ads in front of the right people. You can improve your market share by using positive and negative keywords to show up in the right SERPs and present your digital ads to interested consumers. A digital partner can help you meet your goals with more effective SEM.  


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Shannon Allen

Written by Shannon Allen

Shannon Allen is the Chief Revenue Officer for Federated Digital Solutions. She has over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing and over 15 years more specifically working in the digital world. Her passion for digital marketing is what drives her to find the best digital solutions for clients as well as for FDS. Shannon believes that true marketing starts after the sale with strategic campaigns and detailed reporting to help all FDS clients with an ROI, so they see the value in digital marketing.

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