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How To Supercharge Your Google Shopping ROI with Negative Keywords

By Anthony Capetola on May, 5 2017

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Anthony Capetola

Tony is the Marketing Manager at Sales & Orders heading up our inbound marketing and advertising team. His latest adventure, though? Being a dad!

Google shopping listings are awesome. They’ve transformed the way retailers can advertise their products online. As part of our recent study, we discovered that Shopping Ads were as much as 8 times more ad spend effective for generating revenue.

But Google’s system is far from perfect. One of the main issues for advertisers is the lack of keyword targeting. This means your products can sometimes show up for completely irrelevant search terms. Some campaigns suffer from high spend to conversion ratios, low click through rates and low ROIs as a result.

But with a little negative keyword work, you can take back control of your campaigns and significantly boost your campaigns’ ROIs.

What will you learn from this post?

This post will teach you much of what you need to know about improving your Google Shopping performance with negative keywords. You will learn:

  1. Why negative keywords are crucial to Google Shopping campaigns
  2. How to find negative keywords
  3. How negative keywords can improve your campaign
  4. How to use negative keyword lists
  5. How to remove negative keywords
  6. Why you shouldn’t just rely on negative keywords

By the time you finish, you’ll be all set to start fine tuning your campaigns using negative keywords.

Why are negative keywords so important for Google Shopping?

Because there are no keywords in Google Shopping, retailers must rely on Google to find the most relevant keywords for your product. You can help Google by writing excellent product titles and descriptions. But Google isn’t perfect. And occasionally your ads will show up for totally irrelevant search terms.

This is a problem for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you’re going to lose money if someone clicks on your ad when searching for a completely different item or with a different intent other than making a purchase.

But Google is also concerned about giving users the best experience possible. That means if your ads aren’t getting clicked on, Google is going to use these statistics to lower your quality score.

As a result, Google isn’t going to show your Shopping Ads as frequently or in the best position possible.

why-arent-you-here.png

Negative Keywords can help

Just like in Text Ads, negative keywords when used in your Google Shopping campaigns can stop your ads showing up when certain search phrases are used. This will filter out unwanted clicks that are unlikely to turn into conversions.

The result?

Negative keywords save you money by getting rid of unwanted clicks. The performance of your product ads will also improve as the click through rate of your ads increases.

This means you won’t just save money; you stand to make even more profit in the future.

It is incredibly important, then, that you make full use of negative keywords in order to maximize the ROI from your shopping campaigns.

How to find Negative Keywords

There are several ways that you can find negative keywords to add to your Google Shopping campaigns.

Google AdWords SQR (Search Query Report)

If you are already running a Google Shopping campaign, you can use the data that you have already accumulated to guide your choice of negative keywords.

Google provides a search terms report that lets you see how your ads performed when they were triggered by actual searches.

To view your search terms report, log into your Google Adwords account and click the campaigns tab. Either select a specific campaign or click the keywords tab to view information for all of your campaigns. Then click the search terms button which is located next to the negative keywords tab.

You’ll then see data on the search terms that triggered impressions and clicks. You can download this data to view in Excel.

search-term-report-adwords.png

You can use the search term report from Google to see which search terms are associated with the keywords you have for your ad groups. You will then be able to see if some keywords are more or less likely to lead to conversions than others.

For instance, you may find that your ads are appearing for several buying research phrases that aren’t necessarily linked to buying intent. If your ads are appearing when a user searches “[product name] reviews”, for example, you will want to add “reviews” to your list of negative keywords if these searches are not converting.

Consider using Filters to set your desired KPIs to find specific groups of potential negative keywords which you can then add to your ad groups or at the campaign level.

Irrelevant Search Terms

The search report will also show you if your product ads are appearing for completely irrelevant phrases. As we have discussed earlier, Google uses your product’s title and description to decide which phrases to rank your ads for. While Google normally does a great job of choosing relevant keywords, sometimes things can go wrong

Checking to see whether every search term your ads are appearing for is important to make sure you aren’t wasting money on irrelevant clicks.

You’d be shocked at some of the random phrases your products can appear for. Seriously, if you are already running campaigns, check your current data and make sure your ads are only appearing on relevant searches.

Ineffective search terms

It’s not just irrelevant keywords that you need to look out for. If you have search terms that are severely under-performing compared to other search terms, it may be a good decision to add them to your negative keyword list in order to keep your budget focused on the most profitable search terms.

If a keyword has any of the characteristics below, it may also be a good candidate for your negative keyword lists:

  • Queries that have a large spend and a very small amount of conversions
  • Queries that have no clicks but high impressions
  • Queries that have a lower than average click through rate for the ad group
  • Queries that have a higher than average cost to conversion ratio

ctr-conversion-filter-adwords-negative-keywords.png

The Keyword Planner

 

While the AdWords planner is meant to help you to find keywords to bid on, it can also help you find negative keywords to exclude. Search for phrases around your product to see if there are any irrelevant terms that appear on your product searches.

keyword-planner-adwords.png

You can find a list of suggested negative keywords at the end of this post.

How to set up negative keywords in Google Shopping

Adding negative keywords to your Google Shopping campaigns is incredibly straightforward.

Simply head to the appropriate campaign and find the keywords tab. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the negative keyword section.

Click the plus sign to open the list.

Add negative keywords to the ad group or the entire campaign. Make sure to select whether you want the negative keyword to be exact match, phrase match and broad match.

  • Exact match: Only the phrase you put in will be excluded
  • Phrase match: The exact phrase and close variations will be excluded
  • Broad match: The exact phrase, close variations and similar phrases and misspellings will be excluded.

Let’s show an example of each of these modifiers.

Negative Exact Match:

Negative keyword: Adidas shoes

Search query

Ad status

Why?

Adidas shoes

Blocked

The ad won’t show because the search query matches the negative keyword exactly. The order of the words is the same as well

Adidas shoes for running

Ad served

The search query has additional words - ‘for running’

Adidas trainers

Ad served

The ad will show because the search query doesn’t exactly match the negative keyword. Even though trainers is a synonym for shoes it will still show.

 

Negative Phrase Match:

Negative keyword: Nike shorts

Search query

Ad status

Why?

Nike shorts

Blocked

The ad won’t show because the search query matches the negative keyword exactly. The order of the words is the same as well

Women’s shorts by Nike

Ad served

The search query has additional words and the phrase is in a different order.

Nike shorts for running

Blocked

The ad will be blocked because the search query contains the phrase in the correct order, even though there are additional words.

 

Negative Broad Match:

Negative keyword: Reebok t-shirt for boys

Search query

Ad status

Why?

Reebok summer t-shirt for boys

Blocked

All of the words are present in the search query regardless of the additional word in there.

Kids Reebok clothes

Ad served

The word t-shirt and the word boys is missing from the search query.

Reebok t-shirt for boys

Blocked

The ad will be blocked because the search query is exactly the same as the negative keyword.


Once you’ve selected the type of modifier and clicked save, you’re done.

That’s it, adding negative keywords is that easy. Now let’s delve into some more advanced tactics.

Getting the most out of Negative Keyword Lists

If you really want to boost the effectiveness of your Google Shopping campaigns, you’re going to want to have several negative keyword lists set up.

Advanced users won’t just want to have campaign-wide negative keyword lists. While some negative keywords will be appropriate for every ad you run, others will only be relevant for specific campaigns and product categories.

Let’s take a clothing store as an example. If a store runs several Google Shopping campaigns to promote certain clothes ranges (sneakers, boots, jeans, t-shirts, etc.) they can create a universal negative keyword list to remove completely irrelevant keywords. However, you will also want to create specific campaign negative keyword lists to keep campaigns laser focused. When advertising sneakers, the store won’t want to appear for boots and vice versa.

Let’s dive into more detail about how and when to use different lists.

Universal Negative Keyword List

As in the example above, universal negative keyword lists will include negative keywords that are completely unrelated to all of your campaigns or your products.

This list is going to stop your product ads from being triggered for totally irrelevant search terms.  No matter what ads you run, you won’t want your ads to appear for any of these search terms.

What does a universal negative keyword look like?

For a store, this might include keywords such as:

  • Free
  • Cheap
  • Voucher
  • Trial
  • Review

These types of keywords may be commercial, but they don’t show buyer intent. Of course, this is just an example and this may not be relevant for your business. For example, if you are a discount store you may want to target ‘cheap’ searches.

KoMarketing's Andy Komack goes even deeper into industry-specific negatives. While directed at B2B businesses, his insight could be translated into other opportunities for e-commerce retailers.

Campaign-level negative keywords

Keywords in this list may be inappropriate for one campaign but not for another.

For instance, you may be advertising a range of sneakers, but not other shoe terms. As a result, you may want to add ‘sandals’, ‘boots’, ‘flip flops’ and other types of footwear to a campaign-level negative keyword list.

These lists can be applied to one or several campaigns, depending on how relevant and broad your negative keyword list is.

Avoid these Negative Keyword mistakes

You should start seeing a positive impact on your campaigns as soon as you start employing a negative keyword list. Don’t get carried away, however. Just adding keywords to a list isn’t enough. Make sure you’re using negative keywords correctly and avoid these beginner mistakes.

  • Only using exact match modifiers: It’s good that you only want to remove very specific keywords to make sure your product listings still have a high number of impressions. And for some keywords, using exact match modifiers are the way to go. On others, however, using broad match modifiers are much more effective. So, when do you use each? Well for irrelevant terms, use broad match modifiers. This is because if a phrase is completely irrelevant, anything similar phrase is likely to be completely irrelevant to. For negative keywords that are more closely related to your products, exact match modifiers ensure you don’t cut out any relevant searches.
  • Forgetting to review and modify your lists: Like any campaign, setting and forgetting your negative keyword lists is a sure fire way to send money spiraling down the drain. Of course you don’t need to spend time each day, or even each week, to review your negative keyword lists. But you do need to review all of your keyword data each month to check that:
    • There are no new search terms that you need to add to the list; and
    • There are no search terms that you need to remove from your negative keyword lists.
  • Not creating extensive enough lists: Okay, this is a hard job. We get it. But there’s no point making it a half-hearted effort. If you’re going to make negative keyword lists, then make sure you go the whole gamut and try to list every possible negative keyword. Start with the methods listed above, such as using your current data and the keyword planner. From there you can spread out, use third party tools or even a thesaurus to find negative keywords.
  • Adding a positive keyword to negative keyword lists: If you start adding a lot of negative keywords, it can begin to get hard to track all of your search terms. As a result, it can be easy to add a positive search term onto a keyword list. Obviously, this is a huge problem which can have a serious impact on your campaign’s performance.

Don’t just rely on Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can be a great way to improve the cost-effectiveness of your campaigns and boost your ROI. But don’t rely on them alone.

You still need to create great product ads with descriptive, keyword-rich titles and descriptions.

Choosing the right keywords will critical because 70 characters will only be displayed in most cases. Avoid the use of adverbs (lovely, luxury, etc.) and keep your descriptions laser focused on keywords.

ad-triggers.png

Of course, you can go too far. Avoid keyword stuffing (using too many keywords). Otherwise your descriptions will seem unnatural and robotic.

Putting it all together

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. Now let’s put it all together.

Start by going through the data from your current campaigns. Google search trends reports is a great place to start. Make a note of any irrelevant or uncompetitive search terms to add to your negative keyword list Set up multiple negative keyword lists to account streamline your campaign even more. Add universal negative keywords and campaign level keywords.

Improve the rest of your Google Shopping campaign to take advantage of the benefits negative keywords will bring.

Wrapping up

Now it’s time to put what you’ve learnt into practice. Follow the steps outlined above to start improving the cost effectiveness and ROI of your Google Shopping campaigns.

If you need a little help getting started, refer to the list of negative keywords below. Feel free to copy and paste!

Potential negative keywords:

  • about
  • definition
  • example
  • examples
  • sample
  • samples
  • what are
  • what is
  • Guide
  • News
  • Review
  • Reviews
  • Statistics
  • tutorial
  • Tutorials
  • Bargain
  • Cheap
  • Clearance
  • Discount
  • Discounted
  • Free
  • Inexpensive
  • Price
  • prices
  • Quote
  • Quotes
  • Create
  • Craft
  • Handmade
  • Make
  • How to make
  • Import
  • Export
  • Drop shipping
  • Rental
  • gift

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