Negative Keyword Strategy for B2B Paid Search (PPC); How to Determine


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When we at NuSpark Marketing put together strategic B2B pay-per-click Adwords or Bing Ads campaigns, we carefully implement a negative keyword strategy as well. A negative keyword is a term that is used within a query that includes one of the keywords you are bidding on, but prevents your ad from showing because that “negative” keyword is not relevant to your product or service.

negative keyword

For example, if you sell CRM software to enterprise firms only, and your keyword term you are bidding on in Adwords is CRM Software, then a negative keyword could be SMB (small or medium sized business). Thus, if a buyer searches for CRM software for SMB, your ad will not show for this query.

The benefits of adding the proper negative keywords to your paid search accounts are obvious:

  • Your ads will show to prospects most likely to click on them
  • Because of the potential of increased click through rate, your keyword quality scores will increase, and that means better ad positioning at less cost, and that means better campaign ROI
  • You can avoid paying for audiences who click on your ads but not really in the market for your services or products

Determining negative keywords

The first thing I do is review the Adwords Search Term reports. The search term report gives me a list of actual search queries that caused audiences to click. For any terms that showed significant clicks but not relevant to your product, those terms can be easily assigned as negatives.

Second, enter some queries of the keywords you are bidding on in Google, and see if Google’s suggest feature identifies negatives as below.


Additionally, for any of the major keywords you are bidding on, you can also use a keyword suggest tool like Ubersuggest to view not just potential negative keywords, but also longer-tail keywords you could add to your Ad groups.


Thirdly, meet with product managers or similar colleagues, and have a brainstorm meeting. Review the needs of your products or services and solutions they solve. Make a list of the targets and attributes of your product, then start developing a list of terms that do not apply.


Examples of one of these brainstorming sessions:

  • Target geography: United States

Negative keyword examples: Canada, Mexico, North America

  • Target business size: Enterprise

Negative keywords: SMB, small, start-up

  • Target operating system: Windows, Android, PC

Negative keywords: Apple, ios, iPhone, iPad. MAC

  • Target Industries: information technology, software, professional services, accounting, financial

Negative keywords: healthcare, insurance, retail

Fourth, as we further understand your products and services; who they are for, and who they are not for, we implement additional keyword lists that apply to your campaigns as negatives. Since this post is on B2B, we’ll focus on B2B negative keyword research. Let’s continue to assume we’re planning for CRM Software for enterprise.

You’re not targeting job seekers:

Negative keyword examples: jobs, careers, employment, developers, programmers, internships

You’re not targeting deal seekers:

Negative keyword examples; cheap, discount, free, bargain, prices, quotes, retail

You’re not educating (unless you have specific white papers or content downloads, targeting top of funnel educational queries):

Negative keyword examples: information, tips, techniques, strategies, tactics, approaches, white papers, pdfs, guides, reviews

You sell within your own country, with employees from your own country:

Negative keyword examples: off-shore, overseas, international, export, import

You provide the product or service, but you do not provide training:

Negative keyword examples: colleges, schools, training, lessons, courses, classes, education, resources, consultants

You’re not targeting audiences looking for key competitors, unless that was a targeted strategy:

Negative keyword examples: Salesforce, Netsuite, Oracle, SAP, Dynamics, Sugarcrm

Our goal is always to generate quality traffic and leads to websites as efficiently as possible. The optimal negative keyword strategy is mission critical in order to not spend budget on irrelevant queries, and build positive ROI. If you have any categories of negative keywords you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Paul Mosenson
Owner of NuSpark Marketing Helps B2B and B2C companies market themselves through integrated tactics, (traditional advertising, internet advertising, SEO, social media), conversions, and sales through lead nurturing/marketing automation.


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