Optimize Your CTRs With Negative Keywords

Often, when using broad and phrase match type keywords, your ads can show up on some less than desirable search terms. These search terms rarely result in clicks, thus reducing your click-through rate (CTR) and your quality scores. For cases like this, Negative keyword additions are great. They help you increase CTR, improve quality scores & lower cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion. Some might even go as far as saying that negative keyword additions are the magic wand that can transform your PPC campaigns’ performance overnight and put you firmly on the path to profitability.

How Negative Keyword Additions Help

Negative keyword additions can improve your performance in two ways:

  1. Improve your CTRs and in turn improving Quality Score leading to higher ad ranks.
  2. Improving your conversion rate by eliminating search queries that eat into your budget with clicks that rarely result in conversions.

Despite all of their benefits, advertisers often ignore this strategy largely because they feel it is tedious to pore through thousands of search terms manually. At OnlineSales.ai we’ve developed a smarter way to tackle this problem, that reduces the time taken to add negative keywords to a matter of minutes. Just use these two handy techniques to get started with negative keyword additions for your AdWords campaigns.

Strategy 1: Optimizing For CTR

You can increase your CTR, simply, by eliminating those search terms that result in few or no clicks. This is usually the case for broad or phrase match keywords that are triggered by search terms that are unrelated to your business. e.g. a keyword like ‘cat food’ in broad match will trigger ads on search terms like “cute cat pics” or “cats playing with wool”.

But how can you decide if the CTR for a search term is good or bad?

The truth is, CTR benchmarks can vary from product to product, search term to search term and of course, most importantly, the ad position. However, here at OnlineSales.ai LIVE, we’ve been at this for a while and over time we’ve established some benchmarks that we’re extremely confident about. (See graph)

Download a search terms report from your AdWords account and filter out the search terms that have CTRs below the recommended click-through rate given below.

 Average Position Recommended CTR


6% & Above







5 And Lower


There are exceptions to this of course, e.g. If you’re bidding on your own brand name or there are fewer number of advertisers bidding on a particular search term your CTRs are bound to be higher. But on the whole these benchmarks will hold true for a majority of your impressions.

Once you have this list of search terms. Take a quick look at the kind of search terms that make the shortlist. If they look relevant to your business, there’s something wrong with your ad copies.

On the other hand, if your search term report (after filtering out the good terms) is filled with searches for cat pictures and pussy cat dolls, then it’s time to go negative with a vengeance.

Finishing Up

Choose all the search terms that have low CTRs and add them in negative exact match to the ad groups that triggered them. It’s also important to remember that not all of your search terms will have enough impression data to take an accurate decision on them. We strongly recommend that you allow a search term to gather at least 100 impressions before you take a decision on it.

Once you’ve added these negative keywords, watch carefully as your CTRs start rising over the next few days and your CPCs fall. With the money you save you can buy your team a round of drinks at the bar or invest them into keywords with low average positions. Both of them are equally good ideas.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our negative keywords guide as we learn to optimize for conversion rate and higher ROI for your AdWords campaigns.

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