Up until today, most of you have been working under the false assumption that negative keywords in adCenter work the same way they do in AdWords. Specifically the general understanding was that keywords set at the campaign level applies to all ad groups, as they do in AdWords. There is also a lot of confusion about negative keyword match type support in adCenter (which is equally important though not the subject of today's discussion).
Because of all this confusion, there are thousands of adCenter accounts which have simply been replicated from AdWords into adCenter with negatives set at the same hierarchy levels (campaign and ad group level) with the expectation that the same effects would carry over from AdWords, but this is entirely false.
Microsoft acknowledged the problem some time ago, and in November 2011, the adCenter team introduced a few important changes to the way negative keywords were handled.
First, the introduction of exact match on negative keywords afforded advertisers a much more accurate control over when their ads display. Also introduced in November was the Negative Conflicts Report which helped advertisers identify negative keyword conflicts really easily. Finally, Microsoft deprecated the keyword level negative keywords which was barely used at all and added yet more confusion.
Now that these enhancements are in place, the Microsoft adCenter product team is releasing yet another enhancement to adCenter which brings it closer to AdWords parity than ever before. This new functionality doesn't have a name (from what I gather), but let's call it "Negative Keyword Union".
What's a Negative Union?
No, it's not a relationship doomed for failure - in fact it's just the opposite. The relationship between negative keywords and campaign hierarchy is a union made in PPC heaven - or rather it's how we always expected them to work - in conjunction with one another.
Up until today, setting even one negative keyword at the ad group level would disable any campaign level negatives from applying to any ads in the ad group. This odd behavior has been wreaking havoc on performance for most campaigns - mostly because advertisers were just unaware of the situation and expected adCenter negatives to work the same way AdWords negatives did. But it was not the case.
AdCenter is now introducing "Negative Union" - which just means that starting today, negative keywords set at the campaign level will join the ad group level negative keywords and have a cumulative effect, as they do in Google AdWords.
What Do You Have to Do to Take Advantage of This?
If you have negative keywords at the campaign level and at the ad group level (as many of you do), up until today, only the keywords at the ad group level were ever considered. The ones at the campaign level were only active for ad groups with no negatives whatsoever. Under the new "Negative Keyword Union", these sleeping negatives will suddenly start to work in conjunction with the negatives at the ad group level, which means you could receive less traffic than you did before.
Now, if you always thought that negatives at the campaign level were working in union with those at the ad group level, you may now get less traffic, but it could also be of better quality, as all those negative keywords you always intended to exclude will now be effectively applied to the auction, which should mean better CPAs, better conversion rates, but also less traffic to your site (if that matters to you).
If visitors to your website are indeed important to you, then you must make sure that all of the negative keywords that were placed at the campaign level are indeed not wanted for any of your ad groups. Because starting now, they will count as negatives for all of them, while before they only did if an ad group had no negatives at all.
We would suggest spending some quality time looking over your negative conflict reports over the next few days to spot those issues as they arise and make any changes immediately.
When is This Happening?
Right now. In fact as these words are being written the adCenter team is getting ready for the rollout, so by the time you read this article, your account will most likely already be working under the new "Negative Union" paradigm, which means you must log in now and take a look at your negative keyword conflicts report immediately, take care of any issues you see there, then review all negative keywords at the campaign level and make sure they should apply to all of your ad groups.