So you just set up your first (or thousandth) Google Shopping campaign and you can’t wait to see the traffic these new product listing ads will attract.
Sure, not all of them will convert, but if you see plenty of clicks, you'll know they’re on the right track... right?
This all-too-common approach to Google Shopping campaigns can be costly.
The good news is there’s a great campaign feature that can—and should—drastically reduce suboptimal clicks and help you avoid wasted spend: Negative keywords.
What Are Negative Keywords?
Google isn’t perfect.
Despite its many impressive abilities, the world’s most popular search engine can still make mistakes... as most using Google Shopping without using negative keywords will eventually learn.
Unlike text ads, Shopping campaigns rely on matching search queries to elements in your product data. Because Google Shopping doesn’t use keywords for targeting, it’s up to Google to decide which are most relevant to each of your products.
Your titles and descriptions definitely help, but ultimately, it’s up to Google to decide whether or not a shopper is looking for your item.
This can result in a few... or many wrong decisions.
Shoppers looking for something loosely related to a term relevant to your product may be served up ads for your product—and may then likely (and unsurprisingly) completely ignore it.
For example, lets say you sell physical planners. Someone searching for a “digital planner” because they want an app for their phone should not be shown your listing. It’s simply not a good match for what they want.
But lets say it shows up for them—after all, Google doesn't explicitly know you don't want it showing up for them.
They may actually even click on your ad before realizing their mistake. Now, you’ve wasted money on a lead who was never going to convert.
That's bad, but it often gets worse.
If this scenario happens repeatedly, not only will you continue to lose money, but Google may eventually decide your ads don’t deserve a high quality score. As that score helps decide when your ads are shown, lowering it means also dropping your potential conversions.
That's where negative keywords shine. They explicitly define what you don't want to rank for.
Going back to our planner example:
That physical planner of yours would greatly benefit from having "digital planner" as a negative keyword. With Google knowing exactly what terms don't match your product, they're one step closer to more accurately displaying your ad.
Why Negative Keywords Are Necessary for Successful Shopping Campaigns
Negative keywords tell Google which search inquiries should never trigger your ad.
This will protect your budget from clicks that would otherwise never add to your bottom line.
Of course, it also means greater profits as your conversion rate is no longer swimming upstream against all that unwanted attention.
Remember, Google Shopping campaigns (unlike text ads) don’t call for keywords. That makes it all the more important that you influence results by using negative keywords.
4 Ways to Find Negative Keywords for Your Google Shopping Campaigns
Now that you know what negative keywords are and why they are essential for successful Google Shopping campaigns, let’s look three simple ways you can find them.
But first, a quick caveat:
You must know your products and categories well enough to understand how the average shopper searches for your products. If you don’t have this knowledge already then... research, research, research.
This is especially important if this is your first Google Shopping campaign and you don’t have campaign search history to aid you.
A good negative keyword list may be dense, as your research should yield a hefty number of related keywords/phrases that don't directly match what your customers would be looking up to find your products.
The most straightforward and accessible route is one that is right under your nose.
Doing simple organic searches of some of your keywords will give you a good idea of what Google associates with them.
More importantly, look at the search suggestions provided by Google. Those may contain words or phrases that should be added to your negative keyword list to preemptively keep Google from thinking they should trigger your ads.
This is the best first option, as it's simple and extremely accessible... but don't limit yourself to just this route. This is a great first step in the right direction.
Quite possibly the most straightforward and accessible "advanced" option, Neil Patel's Ubersuggest is a great free resource.
Through it, you can search for a keyword or phrase to yield all relevant queries commonly associated with your entry. That should yield a long list of phrases both relevant and irrelevant to your target.
You can then select all irrelevant phrases (even if they contain relevant keywords within) and export them to build a greater list.
Neil Patel also offers two other nifty free tools that you should check out, an SEO Analyzer, and an A/B Testing Calculator.
3. Google Ads Keyword Planner
Only slightly less accessible (as you need to log into a Google Ads account), but as straightforward, Google Ads Keyword Planner is equally useful.
With Google's Keyword Planner, you can also build a list of irrelevant keywords and export it to CSV to add onto your negative keyword list.
Even though the process is virtually the same as Ubersuggest, they both yield different data sets that work wonderfully together.
Both yield strong data on their own, but you'll want to look for negative keywords in as many ways as possible to build one solid comprehensive list.
4. Your Own Data
If this isn’t your first Google Shopping campaign, then you should already have plenty of data to pull from.
Just log into Google Ads and view the campaigns tab. You can look at individual campaigns or the queries related to all of them.
Click the “search terms” button to see all the queries that have triggered impressions for your PLAs. From here, you'll want to expand the view to show as many rows as possible. Next, organize the list by pages per session.
This should give you a view that emphasizes bounce rate. Everything with immediate bounce is prime negative keyword content.
Don't stop there though, look at the queries around when the bounce rate starts to pick up—there should be weak queries in there too.
How to Avoid Costly Mistakes with Negative Keywords
While implementing negative keywords can immediately improve your Google Shopping campaigns' ROI, there are certain mistakes you must avoid.
The first mistake to avoid is never checking back on your lists of negative keywords.
Each month, you should review all of your keyword data to ensure there aren’t new examples to add to your list of negative keywords. Remember, each of these irrelevant searches could cost you money.
The second mistake is using nothing but exact-match modifiers.
While that’s fine for keywords that are related to your product, you want to use broad-match modifiers for terms that are completely irrelevant. This way, you’re not cutting off searches that may still be beneficial, but you’re also not having to think of every single irrelevant term you want to avoid.
Regardless, use the methods listed above to compile as many negative keywords as possible.
With your initial list in place, it’s just a matter of conducting those monthly reviews to improve it over time.
After you’re comfortable with creating negative keyword lists, consider creating them for individual products as well. While many of your negative keywords may be appropriate for every single product you sell, there many be others that only apply to specific campaigns, product categories, and/or individual products.
Leaving those out could cost you.
Though monthly maintenance of your negative keyword list may seem like a daunting task, it will be much easier to get around to once you see how powerful this tactic is.
After just your first campaign, you’ll be excited to find even more opportunities to protect your budget.
That said, don’t forget about all of the other important traits of a successful Google Shopping campaign. Negative keywords will help keep unwanted clicks away, but you need to keep improving all the other facets of your ads if you want to continue increasing the clicks you want.