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How To Systematically Implement Internal Negative Keywords To Avoid Cannibalism

July 31, 2013 by Carlos Rodríguez Negative Keywords


How To Systematically Implement Internal Negative Keywords To Avoid CannibalismBut what has this to do with PPC and AdWords you might be asking yourself, well, unfortunately, cannibalism today is well alive today in the AdWords world.=

We're talking about Keyword cannibalism just to be clear, so don't be afraid your AdWords is not going to bite you. Be forewarned though that if you're not careful with Keyword cannibals they might not eat you physically, but they'll sure eat up your advertising budget.

What Is Keyword Cannibalism?

For any given search query, Google can only show one specific ad from your campaign. If you have multiple ad groups for different products or services, a search query might sometimes trigger the ad from the wrong ad group to show.

This can occur if the combination of your ad group's Quality Score and its bid is outranking the more relevant ad groups ads.

The problem here is that the ad won't be the best suited or most relevant to match the searchers intention. Also the landing page won’t be the ideal one either (See these tips on improving AdWords landing pages)

Let's say you've got two ad groups, one for different categories such as “Gel ink pens” and another one for “red ink pens”. Now if a search query for “red pens” triggers the ad for “gel pens” to appear, this would be a clear example of keyword cannibalism.

Keyword cannibalism can hurt you in many different ways:

    • Your keywords will be competing against each other.
    • Potential clients will be showing an ad that's not optimal for their search query's intent.
    • Even worse if they do decide to click on it as they will be taken to the wrong landing page.
Now let’s consider a few tips to avoid AdWords Keyword cannibalism.

Tip 1) Revisit And Analyze Your Campaign And Ad Group Level Negative Keywords List

Let’s assume you’re running an AdWords campaign for a charter fishing business out of Naples, Fl.

The business is mainly focused on using small fishing boats for offshore light tackle fishing trips to catch fish such as red snapper, King Mackerel, Grouper, etc.

In this case you probably will include campaign level negative keywords such as:

    • Scuba fishing
    • Shark Fishing
    • Marlin fishing
    • Pier fishing
    • Beach fishing

and more in order to prevent people who are searching for other types of fishing to see your campaign’s ads.

This is normal procedure and it should be pretty simple to set up a solid negative keyword list in order to block out irrelevant traffic.

Now at your ad group level, you have to be more careful when setting up your keywords.

Tip 2) Ad Group Level Negative Keywords Based On Different Services

Following Google’s best practices you’ve developed a tightly themed ad group and keyword list for your fishing campaign.

With this strategy you would probably set up ad groups like:

    • Red Snapper Fishing Charters
    • Grouper Fishing Charters

Here you want people searching for Red snapper fishing to be taken to your red snapper fishing ad group and not to the grouper fishing one.

This is because you should always want a more relevant ad from your campaign in order to better match the search query.

Showing the most relevant ad would allow you to deliver the right message to your intended audience, increasing the chances of getting clicks, gaining a good CTR and positively contributing to your campaigns´ quality score.

All that sounds great, but what if the ad for Grouper fishing shows up on a search query for Red Snapper Fishing?

That is a typical case of keyword cannibalism and you should implement ad group level negative keywords to prevent it.

Implementing Ad Group Level Negative Keywords

Retaking the example mentioned above, you should include ad group level negative keywords such as “Grouper fishing” and [Grouper charter fishing] on your Red snapper ad group to avoid cannibalism.

The logic behind this approach is that potential clients searching for grouper fishing will not be allowed to trigger the ad for red snapper fishing but instead be taken to the right ad which will be the one for grouper fishing.

Depending on your ad group and keyword structure you should try to implement this approach throughout your campaign to avoid cannibalism.

Include Negative Keywords For Ad Groups With Similar Service Keywords

If you have ad groups sharing the same root keywords such as: “Charter fishing trips” and “Affordable charter fishing trips”, “Discount charter fishing trips”, then for the Charter fishing trips ad group you should include negative keywords at ad group level: Affordable and Discount to avoid potential cannibalism.

On the Discount charter fishing ad group you should also include negative keywords such as affordable or any other variation that is not included in the ad group keywords.

Again with this approach you should be able to avoid your ad showing for the wrong searches and have more relevancy as your ads should be showing only for queries that are highly relevant to your ad group’s keywords.

Tip 3) Systematically Take A Look At Your Campaign Search Terms.

When optimizing your campaigns you should take a look at your search terms.

By doing this you could find that some of your ad groups are receiving clicks for keywords that you already have included in other ad groups.

You might notice that the Ad Group. “Naples fishing trips” is getting searches for the affordable fishing trips and vice-versa.

If that’s the case then you could include additional ad group level negative keywords to redirect campaign traffic to the most relevant ad group.

If you keep using this technique during your optimizations, your campaign should be free of keyword cannibalism in a relatively short period of time.

Tip 4) Add Campaign Level Negative Keywords

If you’re using similar campaigns but in different keyword match type then you have to be sure to include campaign level negative keywords to prevent cannibalism.

Let’s pretend you’re running two campaigns, one is Broad match modifier (BMM) and the other one is Exact match.

In this case you would like to make sure that your broad match campaign is not cannibalizing the exact match campaign.

A good way to prevent that from happening is to include the exact match campaign’s keywords as negative keywords on the BMM campaign.

In your BMM campaign you might have keywords such as:

    • +florida +charter +fishing
    • +deep +sea +florida +fishing
    • +naples +charter +fishing +tours
Then, you should add the same keywords but in exact match to the BMM campaign:
    • [florida charter fishing]
    • [deep sea florida fishing]
    • [naples charter fishing tours]

In this manner you should be able to prevent keyword cannibalism among the two campaigns as the BMM campaign won’t be able to trigger ads that will show for exact match keywords.

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