My Secret for Increasing Google Ads’ Click-Through-Rates

I had a professor in college that always said it was harder to write short pieces than it was to write an entire essay. He would have us cut and cut and cut press releases until there was nothing left but the core of what we needed the media to know. That skill set came in very handy as my Twitter account started to grow. You don’t reach 170K+ followers without thinking, dreaming, and communicating in 140 (obviously now larger) characters.

It’s a skill set that now translates across many silos of digital media marketing, including Google Ads. Now, I pretty much think, dream, and communicate in keywords. I even know which keywords to use with my husband! —> Definitely EXACT MATCH if I want anything to be understood or get done. We started our relationship with me speaking broad match, and that was a definite no-go. Now some novices are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about. Here’s your first lesson on keywords:

  • Broad Match Keywords:

    • NOT specific. These are the words you use when you could really mean anything that surrounds that word. If I say “shoe” that could mean “footwear,” which could mean “sandals,” when really I am targeting for a business that sells stilettos. It’s not a perfect match, it’s a broad match that could spend a lot of money getting you impressions, but minimal clicks.

  • Modified Broad Match

    • Use this when you know what you want to say, but others might say the same thing in the wrong way. A modified broad match would still pick up what you are trying to say. These are great keywords to use when consumers tend to misspell. They are identified by a + sign. So if you say “+shoes,” your search will also pick up “shoos”, “shoe”, “shoe’s,” “shhoes”, etc. Modified broad match can even pick up acronyms commonly used for your keyword.

  • Phrase Match

    • This is pretty much how it sounds. This is a catchphrase that everyone understands, even Google. Your friend might have a different take on the phrase when he says it, but it will still be recognized as the original phrase. Phrase match uses quotation marks. For example, “white shoes size 8” would also be recognized if someone typed in “shoes that are white size 8”.

  • Exact Match

    • This one also is how it sounds! This feature is identified with brackets around precisely what needs to be in the search for a consumer to land on your ad. This is good when you have a business name that has a common word in it. I used to work for Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which was a nightmare to run SEO optimization on. We would often need to put [Cancer Treatment Centers of America] to make sure we were pulling our exact cancer treatment centers.

Now that you know the four different types of keywords, I can let you in on my secret: Negative Keywords. That’s correct. The OPPOSITE of what I just told you. Thoroughly understanding negative keywords allowed me to get a search CTR in Google Ads to 16 percent just this week. Across all industries, search campaigns average 3.17 percent.

So what are they?

Negative keywords are words that have nothing to do with your business when paired with some of your business keywords. For example, let’s say that you are working with a company that has the name of the neighborhood in its’ title— Crown Heights Dentistry. You do not want to show up in people searching for “best subway to get from Chelsea to Crown Heights,” “Events in Crown Heights this weekend,” “Crown Heights news,” “apartments for rent in Crown Heights,” “studio Crown Heights,” “rappers from Crown Heights.” You get the picture.

However, you cannot just go and not use “Crown Heights” as a keyword. It’s an essential keyword for you when attracting new patients. So, to keep “Crown Heights” as a keyword, you can add negative keywords to stop wasting ad impressions on all of the searches above. I would recommend creating a negative keyword lists with phrases like “this weekend,” “events,” “apartments,” “apartments for rent,” “rent,” “news,” “subway,” “studio,” “rappers,” “musicians,” “shows,” etc. Then your dentistry ad will not show any time someone is searching for one of your keywords (like “Crown Heights”) and one of your negative keywords.

This might seem like a bit of a “DUH” moment for you, but creating effective negative keywords can be more challenging than you think. What if someone is searching for the best subway to Crown Heights Dentistry, and you just cut them out of seeing your ad? Well, if they are looking for directions to your office, they must already know who you are. They don’t need to see another Google Ad. What if you want to target people looking for apartments in the area because they will need a new local dentist? They probably aren’t thinking of a new dentist while they are in this stage of their apartment hunt, but this search query could get you to think of how to target people just moving to the Crown Heights area with Google Ads.

If you apply your negative keywords list and your CTR (click-through-rate) and conversions significantly drop, there is a keyword in your negative keywords list that triggers a positive reaction among your target audience. The biggest thing I see is someone accidentally including their main keyword in one of the negative keywords. Just remove that and apply the list again. If that’s not the case, I’d dig into your Google Ads metrics and find out what keywords were leading to CTR/conversions and see if there is any overlap with your negative keyword list. That, most likely is the case.

What you will most likely see though, is an initial sharp drop in impressions, but a steady rate that continues to increase in CTR/conversions. This means you are spending WAY less money on impressions by targeting as precisely as you can.

Where to start with this process? Head over to ubersuggest.com, a free tool where you can search popular search terms around your keywords. Go through those keywords and find any that just don’t fit with your brand. For example, “apartments for rent Crown Heights.” Remove your positive keyword (“Crown Heights”) and add your negative keyword/phrase (“apartments for rent”) to your negative keyword list. I recommend creating keyword lists in the “Settings/Tools” section of Google Ads, rather than adding keyword by keyword in the dashboard. This allows you to have more control and organization of your campaign.

Need some extra help with digital marketing? Reach out! You can email me directly at marji@shermansocial.com.

– M.