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Advanced PPC Optimization Tips for adCenter: Negative Keywords

poirier-marc-2012
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Yahoo Search Bing PPCAfter “Reality Check: adCenter is NOT a Second Tier Engine” was posted, readers asked how they could improve their PPC results on adCenter – more specifically, how to get more volume while maintaining quality traffic. While it’s true that Microsoft adCenter doesn’t normally yield as much volume as Google AdWords, there is almost always lots of room for improvement, simply because advertisers don't really understand how adCenter works and use it simply as they would AdWords.

Obviously, adCenter and AdWords share similar frameworks, accounts, campaigns, ad groups, keywords, ads, and bids. But there are lots of important differences between the two products, and ignoring those differences can make a significant difference in the level of success attainable in adCenter.

There is too much material to cover in one installment, but we’ll start by looking at negative keyword management.

Negative Keyword Management

This is probably the most basic form of optimization that can be implemented in adCenter. This is especially important if you have simply ported over your AdWords campaigns, including their negative keywords.

Because negative keywords in adCenter are so different from AdWords, you are likely preventing your ads from showing as much as they should, hence limiting the volume of impressions and clicks on adCenter. Interested in learning how to make sure you're not in this situation? Read on.

AdWords vs adCenter Negative Keywords: What's the Difference?

Before spelling out the opportunity for optimization, you need to understand how adCenter negative keywords differ from AdWords negative keywords.

1. Phrase Match

In adCenter, negative keywords are treated as phrase match. This means that the words that make up a negative keyword must be in the same order and without any other words in between them to match. AdWords lets you match negatives however you like (broad, phrase, or exact).

For example, here is how negatives would apply in adCenter for the following search queries if you bid on “stock quote” and have the negative keyword “free real time”:

Search Query Ad displays?
free stock quote yes
real time stock quote yes
free stock quote real time yes
free real time stock quote no
stock quote free real time no

2. Extraneous Words & Characters

AdCenter ignores certain extraneous words and characters, and this rule applies to negative keywords.

Extraneous Words Extraneous Characters
a quotation mark (")
about ampersand (&)
an hyphen (-)
and asterisk (*)
at percentage sign (%)
by parentheses (( ))
for brackets ([ ])
from curly brackets ({ })
how period (.)
in comma (,)
is question mark (?)
of slash mark (/)
on backslash (\)
or colon (:)
the semicolon (;)
to exclamation point (!)
what apostrophe (')
with angle brackets (< >)
  plus sign (+)
  number sign (#)

3. Duplicate Keywords

AdCenter automatically ignores duplicate keywords, including those generated from extraneous words or characters.

4. Character Limits

Each negative keyword in adCenter can contain up to 100 characters, which is 20 more than AdWords (which maxes out at 80 characters per keyword)

5. Assigned by Broad or Phrase Match Type

AdCenter negative keywords only work with keywords that have been assigned either the broad or phrase match type. They obviously don't work with exact match keywords, because such keywords trigger the display of an ad only when a searcher uses the identical keyword phrase.

6. Adding to Campaigns, Ad Groups, Specific Keywords

You can add negative keywords to three hierarchical levels in adCenter:

  • Campaigns. Campaign-level keywords apply to all keywords in a campaign, unless you also associate negative keywords with an ad group or a specific keyword, in which case they will be ignored completely. Each campaign can contain thousands of negative keywords.
  • Ad groups. If you associate negative keywords with an ad group, campaign-level negative keywords won't be applied to that ad group. Each ad group can contain thousands of negative keywords.
  • Specific keywords. If you associate negative keywords with a specific keyword, campaign-level and ad group-level negative keywords won’t be applied to that keyword. Each keyword can have a list of negative keywords of up to 1024 characters, including commas.

IMPORTANT: If you have negative keywords set at every level, the ONLY ones that will apply are the ones at the lowest level (i.e., the keyword level). All negatives at ad group and campaign level are completely ignored. The lesson here is if you want negatives to have a cumulative effect, like they do in AdWords, move them all up to the campaign level. Keyword level negative keywords can be strategic weapons to optimize an account, but most likely if you aren’t paying enough attention, they could have a detrimental effect on your CTR.

7. Keyword Table

Negative keywords that you add to an adCenter campaign or ad group don’t appear in the keyword table on the keywords tab.

8. Conflict with Bidded Term

If one of your adCenter negative keywords is the same as your bidded term, your keyword won’t trigger an ad.

What is the Optimization Opportunity?

According to engineers at adCenter, one of the first areas to investigate when attempting to improve results on adCenter is to thoroughly review the use of negatives.

Many advertisers simply migrated from the old Yahoo Search Marketing platform or from AdWords and never bothered to spend any time learning how adCenter negatives work. The net effect can be that your ads don't get the amount of traffic they should be getting for two main reasons:

  • Very low CTRs because the cascading rules of negatives are misunderstood. 
  • Ads aren’t even coming up in the auction because unexpected / unwanted negative matches are inadvertently blocking them.

To Be Continued…

Now that negative keywords are understood, we're ready to move to more advanced topics. In the coming weeks, I'll discuss adCenter optimization issues, including bidding by match type, filling the matching gaps, filtration, ranking, and pricing.

If you have any other tips to share relative to negatives on adCenter, please post a comment.


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