Recently we rebuilt and launched a PPC account for an Austin client that had over 3,000 negative keywords. In our 5+ years of search marketing, this was a record at TopSide. The research and collaboration with our client on negative keywords was very productive, and took about as many days as all the other components combined.

A quick definition of negative or excluded keywords is as follows: a filter that prevents ads from showing. They are used to exclude aspects in your business category that you don’t want to trigger an ad for your particular business. Negatives (or NKWs as we call them around the office) increase overall efficiency of online ads. Proper use of negative keywords increases the CTR clickthrough rate, and this an important indicator of efficiency and relevance. The search engine ad programs reward efficiency with a lower CPC cost per click. More relevant ads usually produce a higher conversion rate and lower cost per conversion also.

Although in many ways they are opposite, like “positive” keywords that are used to trigger PPC ads, negative keywords can be single words or phrases. In some PPC ad programs, such as Google AdWords, negative keywords have broad , phrase, and exact matching options. Once an account is built and launched, we use a report called a Search Query report to look for additional negative keywords and topics for additional refinement.

The example we referred to is a Business-to-Business advertiser. B-to-B companies, particularly those in technology, tend to need more advanced negative keywords and tactics. The reason: many enterprise technology products and services have consumer level counterparts. Some of these (a couple of examples would be anti-virus and data backup /storage) are even free. In addition to negative keywords, filtering text in the ads can help filter out individuals who are not good prospects for a specialized or more costly product or service.

In summary, to make the most of your search marketing budget, a significant number of refinements are necessary to the default settings in PPC ad programs. Some of these are done up front, and more need to be done as search and click data comes in.