Updated July 2022
The average cost per click in B2B paid advertising is between two and three dollars per click. When you’re spending that much, it’s crucial to ensure your ads are only delivered to the most relevant searchers. Most marketers spend a lot of time finding the right keywords to target–but you also need to avoid showing your ad to the wrong audience.
That’s where negative keywords come in. Every PPC marketer should be using negative keywords in their campaigns and/or Ad Groups.
What Are Negative Keywords?
Negative keywords are words and phrases that you do not want searchers to associate with your products and services (see Google Ads blog for some high-level information about negative keywords). When you add negative keywords to your PPC campaigns your ads will not be served if those words are part of the user’s search query.
Why Do Negative Keywords Matter for B2B PPC?
Not only does this benefit you by directly saving money on wasted clicks, it also improves the click-through rate (CTR) of your keywords/ads, which helps improve your ad quality scores in Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Improved quality scores can help you with bidding strategies by allowing you to bid less than a competitor (who is not as knowledgeable, skilled intelligent, talented, sophisticated, etc. as you are), and maintain high/higher ad positions on search results page.
In the years I’ve spent managing Pay Per Click campaigns, I built a list robust of negative keywords that are useful when conducting B2B PPC campaigns.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and each company has its own unique market positioning. So, do not use this list of negative keywords indiscriminately! The list of B2B negative keywords below is meant to be a resource for you, and a starting point when you are deciding which words you do not want to be associated with your ads.
One more note before we dive into the list: Negative keywords won’t match for close variants. So, if you exclude “course,” for example, your ad won’t be served for course or courses, but it can be served for “free courses.” This means you need to be very intentional about which terms you add to your negative keyword list.
Avoiding Job Seekers
Want to prevent your ads from appearing for common employment and career-related searches? Add these keywords to your negative keyword list:
- independent contractors
Don’t waste money on people looking for information that is only loosely related to your products/services or industry:
- case studies
- what are
- what is
No Research & Stats
When you have a limited budget, you want to avoid people doing research. Use these negative keywords to sure you’re using your advertising dollars to generate sales and qualified leads, not tire kickers.
- case studies
- case study
- success stories
- success story
- white paper
- white papers
We Don’t Provide Education
While education might be part of your TOFU strategy, if it’s not part of your PPC strategy, then you’ll want to prevent your ads from being served to people looking for classes and education. If that’s true for your business, include these negative keywords:
- khan academy
No Bargain Hunters
These negative keywords will help if you are positioned as a premium provider. If you do want visitors for these keyword concepts, create an additional campaign or ad group to focus on these discount concepts, and specifically bid on keywords that contain these words. And then make sure to add this list of negative keywords to the campaigns or ad groups that do not target the discount audience:
- close out
- close outs
- coupon code
- odd lots
Avoiding Price Shoppers
You may want visitors to your site looking for pricing and/or quotes, but if not, make sure to add in these words as negative keywords to avoid prospects who may be more concerned with price than with quality or service:
In many industries, there are “do-it-yourselfers,” or hobbyists searching for information on how to take on a project themselves. It’s a good idea to screen out this audience if your business does not cater to these users.
- hand made
- how to
Selling Commercial Software
This is a tricky one. If you are a company selling commercial or enterprise software, a) you are likely to want to avoid the thousands of software developers who are looking for free resources, and b) you want to avoid confusion with consumers looking for tools and home-use products. Use this list as a starting point, but also brainstorm and use keyword suggestion tools to find potential negative keywords that are specific to your software space:
- download (if you don’t have one)
- downloads (if you don’t have any)
- microsoft ( 🙂 )
- open source
- public domain
Avoid Users Looking for Manufacturing & Industrial
This is a very broad list of words, covering different concepts related to manufacturing and industrial companies. Use this list to start the process of generating negative keywords specific to your industry, product lines, and business model. Of course, if you do serve these customers, you’ll want to skip these negative keywords.
- product guide
- user guide
Obviously, not all of these materials will apply to one business. I created this list of product materials as a reminder to screen out searches for product types that a company does not offer. You might wonder if it is OK to not screen for these in the hopes that someone will search for one type of product, but be convinced to buy a different type once they see what is available.
Most B2B marketers have limited PPC budgets, so it’s usually better to only show your ads to people who don’t have a specific alternative to your products already in mind:
- stainless steel
It is probably a good idea to prevent your ads from being shown to people looking for information related to legislation and regulations. There will be cases where this might not apply, especially if your product/service solves a regulatory/compliance issue (and if you have a landing page on your site that speaks to the legal issue AND provides a conversion action right there on the page.) Consider adding these negative keywords:
- act of
Other Negative Keywords B2B Marketers Should Consider
Here are just a few more words that seem to come up in B2B search advertising campaigns that might not be a good fit for your business.
Final Thoughts on B2B Negative Keywords
Remember, the list above is not comprehensive and does not apply to all B2B PPC marketers. Review the suggestions and see what makes the most sense for your brand. One final suggestion–if your brand name is similar to another brand in a different industry, consider adding that brand name or related words to your negative keyword list. For example, if your brand is “Triple-A Air Conditioning Supply,” but there is also “Triple-A Air Conditioning Service,” consider adding “service” to your negative keyword list to avoid showing up for unrelated searches.
Please add your suggestions to this list in the comments or reach out to us on Twitter!