5 real world examples where negative keywords are costing businesses money

Chris Dunkerley
January 12, 2017
Google Adwords
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5 real world examples where negative keywords are costing businesses money

Chris Dunkerley
April 24, 2018
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Understanding negative keywords and how they work can be the difference between making and wasting money with Google Adwords.

It really bothers me how many businesses are wasting money due to poor management of Google Adwords. Sadly, this waste of money is something that could be easily avoided with a little knowledge and even less effort. It is not just the small companies who make these mistakes. Some of the UK's biggest organisations are making mistakes regularly and likely at greater expense. The examples highlighted here show that these adwords management mistakes are happening with businesses of all sizes.

One of the most costly aspects of bad Adwords management is NEGATIVE KEYWORDS

What are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are words that you don't want your ad appearing for. You can create a list within your adwords campaign to ensure that your ad doesn't appear for non-relevant search queries. Click here to find out more about Negative Keywords.

Negative keywords are costing businesses a lot of money and they are also are putting people off using Google Adwords as a marketing tool.

Below, I have gathered some real world examples where businesses could do better. 

I should say that I have nothing against these organisations and this article it is not an attempt to throw any negativity in their direction. In fact, I am actually a happy customer of some of the organisations mentioned here and therefore has no reflection on what they are like to work with. The below examples were all valid at time of writing.

All 5 examples below showcase where negative keywords are likely costing businesses money and lining Google's pockets:

1. EON Energy - UK Energy Supplier

Search query - 'eonclothing'

Negative Keyword - 'Clothing'

In this example, the user searched for 'eonclothing'. They are looking for a company that sells clothing - not an energy supplier. However, in the screen shot you can see that EON Energy have an ad displayed at the top of the search results. Many users will click this ad assuming it is the clothing retailer they are looking for. Many of you might think this is daft - Why would they click that link? It is an energy supplier and not a clothing company! Trust me, the stats are clear - users don't read all the information on the search results page. They expect the first result to be relevant to what they are looking for and this case it is not.

If someone is looking for clothing and clicks that link, the click will cost EON Energy money. It is very unlikely that someone looking for a clothing retailer will suddenly be interested in an energy supplier. It is therefore a wasted click and a waste of money. A professional adwords company should be analysing the search market before starting a campaign and ensure that all businesses with similar names have been added to their negative keywords list. This means that the ad would not be displayed when people are searching for a completely unrelated company/service.

EDIT: I should say, that since capturing my screenshot, EON Energy have updated their negative keywords and this is no longer applicable. So well done EON Energy. Still, it is a useful example for others.

2. Anglian Home & CSJ - Home Improvements

Search query - 'Microsoft Windows Scotland'

Negative Keyword - 'Microsoft'

When a user searches for 'Microsoft Windows Scotland', they are presented with two big expensive ads at the top of the search results. Both have diddily squat to do with Microsoft Windows. Each click from the searcher here will cost the companies money and the visitor is not the slightest bit interested in buying windows for their home. For me, this is a no brainer and a perfect example where negative keywords have been neglected. This is disappointing, I would love to see their negative keyword lists. If Microsoft isn't on the list, then what is!

The third ad displayed is much more relevant.

I might just have to make a personal video to each of these organisations to explain why this is bad.

3. First Mortgage - Mortgage Broker in Scotland

Search query - 'worst mortgage broker in Dundee'

Negative Keyword - 'worst' 

This example is perhaps a good lesson for anyone managing adwords campaigns, in any industry and in any geographical location. When people are searching for negative things related to your service, product or industry, you DON'T want to present your business alongside that negativity. You should make an effort to hide your ad from these types of search queries. This can perhaps damage your brand as the user may associate your business with that negativity.

I should say that i believe there are some rare occasions where you might want to display your ad in these circumstances and use it to your advantage but that requires a plan. It would also require a different blog article to explain why.

4. Giuseppe Manzoli - Personal Chef

Search Query - 'Self Catering Scotland'

Negative Keyword - 'Self' 

This is an example of a small business negative keyword. Here, we have a personal chef promoting his business via Google Adwords. The ad is being displayed for queries that don't relate to the business offering. Again, this a perfect example where a keyword is being included in an ad campaign where it shouldn't be. But hey, Ka-ching for Mr Google.

5. Gillette - Shaving Razors

Search Query 'loreal shaving cream for men'

Negative Keywords - 'Loreal' & 'Cream'

Now, there is an argument that Gillette are trying to monopolise this search market place, and this may be the case, but I believe they are making a mistake even if it is an intentional strategy. In my view, both 'loreal' and 'cream' are negative keywords for their offering. A quick litmus test would be to visit the landing page (the site link displayed in the ad) and if the content contained there has nothing to do with the keywords within the search query, then you can confidently question whether they should be added to your negative keyword list.

Hopefully this article has been helpful in some way. If you are struggling to manage your adwords campaigns effectively then I would strongly recommend you seek out a professional that can help.

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