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Negative Keywords in Google AdWords for Apartments

Posted by Jacob Gerber on December 18, 2013 / Posted in Google AdWords for Apartments

Jacob Gerber


No Unqualified Keywords in Google AdWords for ApartmentsNegative keywords are a tool that help keep you from wasting money on unqualified clicks. Now, before we talk about how to use negative keywords, we want to be really clear that negative keywords are not the same thing as “negative advertising,” a marketing strategy that profits through smearing competitors. If the terminology is concerning you, check out this post we wrote on the subject: “Negative Apartment Advertising vs. Negative Keywords.”

Instead, think of negative keywords as the opposite of normal keywords. When you build your AdWords campaigns, you select keywords to target, letting you bid on precisely the keywords that you think your customers are most likely to type into Google. Negative keywords let you un-target search queries that are close matches to the keywords you have targeted, but that are obviously unqualified for your purposes.

Examples of When to Use Negative Keywords

Let’s say that you are the manager of Mountain Brook Apartments in Evanston, IL, and let’s assume that you have a Defensive Campaign protecting your own community’s name. Without negative keywords, your defensive campaigns would trigger your ad to run for the following search queries:

  • mountain brook apartments fax number
  • mountain brook apartments pool hours
  • mountain brook apartments wifi password
  • zip code for mountain brook apartments evanston il

Although all of these search queries are related to your community, none of them seem likely to be queries related to searching for a new apartment. Mainly residents would be looking for your community’s pool hours or zip code, so your marketing would waste clicks.

Or, let’s say that you have campaigns targeting your location value proposition (“evanston il” and “northwestern university”). Without negative keywords, these search queries would trigger your ads:

  • jobs in evanston il
  • vacation rentals in evanston il
  • on-campus apartments at northwestern university

The first two queries obviously have nothing to do with renting an apartment. The third query is a bit more complicated. Yes, someone is looking for an apartment, but they are looking for an on-campus apartment at Northwestern University.

Obviously, you might be able to convert that person into living in your community instead. But if you are trying to do that, it’s best to design a campaign targeting on-campus apartment searches specifically. Then, your ad copy can say, “Find Out Why Students Prefer Mountain Brook Apartments to On-Campus Apartments”, which is highly relevant and intriguing to someone who had begun their search looking (they thought) for an on-campus apartment. The link, then, could go to a page discussing the head-to-head comparison.

Additionally, if you just run a normal location-based ad, people might think that your apartments are on-campus, and they will likely leave your website once they realize that you are not. Or, all those people will ignore your ad (since you aren’t on-campus), lowering your clickthrough rate (and therefore, your Quality Score), and increasing the average cost-per-click on that campaign.

Little by little, these small mistakes add up in PPC, reducing your efficiency, wiping out your budget, and keeping you from reaching the customers who actually want to find you.

So, let’s fix them!

How to Create Negative Keywords

First, click “Campaigns” on the big, green menu at the top of your AdWords dashboard, and then click “Keywords” from the menu beneath the text “All Online Campaigns.” You should see this at the top of your screen:

AdWords Keywords TabThen, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and click “Negative keywords”:

Negative KeywordsFrom there, select whether you want your negative keywords at the Ad Group level or the Campaign level, and then add whatever keywords you want, using the match types that you want.

Tip: Phrase match is really handy for eliminating specific keyword phrases in a way that won’t hurt valuable queries. So, “pool hours” and “wifi password” would eliminate searches from current residents trying to figure out when the pool is open or what the password is. Those keywords would not, however, prevent your ad from displaying for searches that prospective residents might perform, such as “does mountain brook apartments have a pool?” or “does mountain brook apartments offer free wifi?”.

How to Discover More Negative Keywords in Google AdWords for Apartments

Part of the fun of optimizing campaigns over the long term is figuring out what sorts of strange things people type into Google that you don’t want to trigger your ads. You can do some brainstorming, planning, and strategic thinking to eliminate several unqualified keywords before you launch your campaign, but you can’t really know what’s going to happen until you actually put your campaign into the wild.

Thankfully, Google provides a tool that reveals the actual search queries that have generated ad clicks. (They do not provide all search queries that generate impressions, but all that generate clicks.) Here’s how to discover search queries that you might want to suppress through negative keywords.

Again, under the Keywords tab, click Details, and under Search Terms, click “All”:

Details - Search Terms - All

If you check the box beside specific keyword(s) you have chosen, you can alternately choose “Selected” and look at only the search query/queries triggered by that/those particular keyword phrase(s):

Details - Search Terms - SelectedFrom there, you can work through all the search queries, determining whether those queries are valuable, or whether they should be suppressed through negative keywords.

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