Be Ruthless with Your Adwords Keyword Search Terms

Now that the month of March is just about over, I can begin to travel freely again. I got dismissed from jury duty a week or so ago and will be leaving for Hawaii on Wednesday. So, expect some more travel posts and YouTube videos coming up. However, I do want to continue my writings about different aspects of making money online. I have already created a basic overview on how to get paid while traveling but I want to get into more detail about marketing and advertising your blog and/or business.

Probably the most popular method for online advertising, is through Google’s near ubiquitous, Adwords program. This is what runs a ton of the ads that you see on your favorite websites, as well as being the ad platform for YouTube. Quite frankly, if you have an online business, you’re probably going to need to run ads at some point through this program.

As someone who has been running Adwords ads and running an account for a retailer for nearly a decade, I have come to learn that there are usually some simple fixes, to creating a high conversion advertising.

One of the most effective and simple things that an Adwords account holder can do, is to get a grip on the keywords that their ads are showing for.

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Culling Your Search Term List

Whether you’re using Adwords or Bing Ads or both, you have to understand that when you begin a campaign, it’s like the Wild West. These platforms will often show your ad for either completely irrelevant or only semi-related searches and not correcting this will cost you a lot of money.

There have been times where in my accounts or within the retail account that I manage, that between 10-20% of the clicks for a given day have been utterly useless.

Imagine that your ad campaign gets 100 clicks each day and that your online retail store derives 10 sales through these clicks. Your conversion rate is 10%.

That’s nice. The problem is that if 10-20% aren’t particularly relevant, you are not only paying for each click, but you are costing your business an extra 1-2 sales each day! That’s hundreds of sales each year lost due to waste, which can mean massive revenue for some types of retailers.

Every click that is wasted means that your ads aren’t going to show to a potential customer, who actually is searching for something relative to your business.

While this may seem obvious to plenty of those reading this, you’d be surprised just how often people fail to take the simple steps, with their online advertising. Hell, when I took over my retailer’s account, the previous manager didn’t do a single thing in terms of setting the parameters of keywords. This was one of the first things that I corrected in that account, to stop the hemorrhaging of money each day.

Seriously, the previous account manager was losing money on ads, nearly every month. This was all just due to sheer incompetence and laziness on his part…and it cost the company tens of thousands of dollars in the short-term.

Make it a habit, that each time you log into your advertising account, to go over what search terms your ads showed for. Then, make sure to put the worthless ones on the negative keywords list.

How do you do this?

  1. Log in to your Adwords account.
  2. Click on the Campaigns tab on the left side of the page.
  3. Click on the campaign you want to look at.
  4. Click on the Keywords tab on the left side of the page.
  5. Click on the Search Terms drop down menu and select Search Terms.

Now you can see all of the keyword searches that triggered your ads to show during a certain time frame.

Depending on the size of your campaign, it may be useful to set the time frame to a week by week basis, and comb through each search term.

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What to Look For?

  1. Irrelevant Searches

Google’s algorithm is pretty good about being relevant to what your ad is actually about. Bing on the other hand, can be an outright pain in the ass.

For example, one product that I had advertised for, was specific to left handed people. Now, Bing took that to mean that the ad should be shown to people looking for ‘left-handed guitars’ and ‘left-handed gun holsters’. Nope, none of which was a product I sold, and yet somehow these ads were clicked.

The two possibilities of those clicks are that: stupid people click irrelevant ads or the advertising platforms are creating phantom clicks that never took place. Regardless, if you are really getting a lot of these irrelevant clicks, contact the company and get yourself a refund for that portion of your budget that was spent.

Whichever advertising platform that you end up using, pay attention to the irrelevant stuff that your ad is being shown for.

Click the little check mark box by each of these irrelevant search terms that you find and then hit, “Add as negative keyword”, on the bar directly above the list of search terms.

Next, hit the tab above that says, “Negative Keywords”. Click on the big blue button with the plus sign to add negative keywords to a list. Negative keywords tell Google Adwords, what terms or search phrases not to show your individual ads for or campaign as a whole.

2. Non-Buying Keywords, Eliminate ‘Free’

If you run a retail store, you are trying to get people to your site who are somewhere on the sales funnel. Ideally, you want your ads to show to people who are actively looking to buy that product or service right now.

The problem is that, your ads will often show for people who are relevant to the topic, but aren’t going to buy anything. Maybe they will down the road, but in my experience it’s usually a low percentage proposition.

The worst of the lot are the ‘free’ searches. These people are looking for a free or bootleg version of your product or service and will still click on your ad, hoping to not have to pay any money. This might be great is you have a free trial version, but is utterly aggravating, if you do not.

Lots of these searches, use the keywords: “free”, “download”, “PDF”, “pirate”. This can be especially true for book sales or online programs. There are a ton of people who want to read the book that you have in stock, but have zero intention of ever paying for it.

If they aren’t on the path to purchasing, don’t let your ad be shown to them.


3. The Product, Not the Topic

There are times in which you will encounter searches relevant to the topic of a product by not specific to the product itself. So, one ad that I have curated for a few years now, is a specific book title.

What Google Adwords does, is shows the text or Google Shopping ad for that book, when someone searches for books on that topic. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, just because people are looking for a book on that topic, doesn’t mean that they are looking to buy that book in particular. In fact, I have years of data suggesting that it’s actually a very low proposition.

As such, I have had to remove the ad from appearing whenever people are searching for the general topic, since it just wastes budget and leads to fewer conversions. I only want people who are looking for that specific book.

Sometimes there is a balancing act between being too specific and too general. You can get a lot of clicks by being general but with testing you might find that you’re actually making more money by becoming more granular with your advertisement parameters.

This can take time to develop the full picture, as to what course of action you should follow. However, I generally air on the side of specificity to the actual product, because there are too many related topics for just about every category or niche.


4. Good Click, Wrong Ad

Similar products can sometimes trigger the wrong ad to be shown. A person may be searching for Product A and be shown an ad for Product B. When they click on Product B’s ad, they aren’t being taken to the most optimal page.

Sure, there are many people who will search around your website in order to find the specific product that they want, but there are also those who will not.

The fewer pages that someone has to crawl through to find what they are looking for, the more likely a sale will occur.

Don’t only pay attention to the search term that was used to get to your website, check out what Ad Group was shown for that term. You can also use negative keywords at the Ad Group level and not just the Campaign as a whole.

Make sure Product A’s ad is only shown to people who are looking for that specific product and not Product B. This is an extremely common occurrence and can lower your conversion rate.



Don’t ever run a sub optimal ad campaign, that is only failing because you haven’t made some simple fixes. As I wrote, I have taken a campaign that was losing money, and made it profitable based solely on changes to keywords and by pausing a few dumb advertisements.

Even if you can just get an extra 1% conversion rate by culling all of the irrelevant or misdirected search terms, it can mean huge money for one’s business. For something so easy to take care of, it’s entirely negligent not to do so.





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