The Power Of Negative Keywords In Getting Details Right

I’ve been doing a fair amount of online shopping for things lately. I tweeted over the weekend that I sometimes get distracted from my quest when the ads or shopping listings are crying out for better use of negative terms. Online shopping should be easier than traditional shopping – if a person enters a fairly specific query into a search engine, the results they see should match well the criteria they chose to include in their query. An example of what I saw that inspired the tweet:

Original search query – “over tub tray” yielded these results:

Over Tub Tray Initial Search

These results aren’t bad – I am looking for a tray/caddy that goes over the tub to put things on. After checking a few of these options, I realized I needed to refine my search because the tub is wider than average at 36 inches. So, I searched again, using “over tub tray 36 inches” as my query and this is what I got:

Over Tub Tray 36 Inches Search Results

You can see that some things that are not over tub trays/caddys are starting to creep into the results. What happens if I click on the Shopping Results to see more?

Search Query With Size More Shopping Listings

Yikes – most of what is showing here is not a match for my query of “over tub tray 36 inches”. Vigorous use of negatives for the companies selling the other products would have prevented their ads being shown to someone who will never click on them. Now, some may say this doesn’t really matter that much, because clearly I wouldn’t click on the shower pan links because it is nowhere near what I am looking for. And, this is true. BUT, your clickthrough rate (CTR) impacts a lot in your accounts and influences not only your QS (quality score) and what you will ultimately pay for clicks, but also your ad rank which rather opaquely impacts all of the above and then some.

As an aside, I like to think of ad rank as  the “other duties as assigned” portion of AdWords. Job descriptions often contain some type of line like “other duties as assigned” in them so that basically employers can change what they require of you and technically not be changing your job description. I find ad rank to be like that, it is AdWords’ wild card that they can apply as they see fit and don’t have to provide additional explanation about it to advertisers.

Second aside, Google has me located 30 minutes from my actual physical location…

So what would I do if I were these other retailers selling things that are not, in fact, over the tub trays or caddies? Full disclosure, I am not a Shopping Ads expert. However, I would start by adding some negatives to my campaigns like “over” or “tray” or “caddy” so that my ads would not show for a searcher like me. Also for the shower basin products that are not for a shower/tub combo, use “tub” and “bathtub” as negatives.

Regular review of search query reports will help to uncover some of these poor matches as well. It is easy to think “well, there is no way that someone would click on an ad or product listing that is way off from what they were actually looking for” but I can assure you that this is a false notion. The query reports will show you queries that resulted in clicks and not those which did not, but if you see even one click for something that is not relevant, take the time to add the appropriate negative term(s). As a programmer friend of mine once said, “you can never totally program around people just being boneheads” – words to remember when managing PPC accounts!

Also remember that with the application of “close variants” to all queries, being vigilant with SQR review and negative keywords is even more important. I have found that particularly for products that include a dimension. AdWords fuzzy matches/close variants dimensions in queries, so I would suggest negativing out figures that are close to those of the actual item. I have experienced this for many different items/searches recently as I was searching for items where I had a very specific dimensional need. The results (both in ads and within sites themselves) left a lot to be desired as far as only showing me true matches for my criteria. For instance for something that was 36 inches in width, I would negative out 30-35 inches and 37-39 inches as keyword phrases, so you don’t “close variant” your way into matching for dimensions that your product does not have. Trust me, if you need a 36″ towel bar and you keep clicking through only to find you’re looking at 24″ towel bars, it is maddening.

What about you? What are some of your favorite ways to find negative terms and manage in a post close variant world? As always, love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).




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