How to Use Negative Keywords in B2B Ad Campaigns

In the world of B2B advertising, every penny counts. It’s all too easy to burn through spend inefficiently, harming your ROI and potentially drawing the wrong conclusions about the overall viability of the channel. To avoid waste, you want to ensure your marketing efforts are reaching the right audience: decision-makers and businesses actively looking for solutions like yours. This is where negative keywords come in.

If you’re looking for a negative keywords definition, they’re specific words or phrases you use to prevent your ads from showing up in searches containing those terms. Basically, it's a way to tell the advertising platform, like Google Ads, who you don't want to see your ads.

In other words, if you were to create a list of negative keywords, and someone were to Google your negative keywords, your ads would not show up as a result for those search queries.

What are negative keywords in B2B?

In B2B marketing, negative keywords play an even more crucial role compared to B2C because B2B purchases are typically higher-considered and involve more decision-makers. Depending on your industry and niche, these campaigns can be extremely expensive; accidentally putting spend towards irrelevant searches can be disastrous to campaign productivity.

Let’s get even more specific: what are the benefits of negative keywords? How can you start incorporating them into your campaigns more effectively?

Negative keywords offer a bunch of obvious and not-so-obvious advantages for your online advertising campaigns, especially when it comes to saving money and reaching the right people. In essence, negative keywords are like weeding your garden. You're removing unwanted elements to allow the most relevant and fruitful ones to flourish. This translates to a more efficient use of your advertising budget and a better chance of achieving your campaign goals. It also means you’re eliminating noise from your analytics, getting a better sense of the relative productivity of a given channel or ad group, which leads to better strategic decisions downstream.

How to find negative keywords

Apart from just doing a Google search for negative keywords, there are two main ways to find negative keywords for your marketing campaigns:

  1. Using the Search Terms Report:
    Most major PPC platforms, like Google Ads, offer a "Search Terms Report." This report shows you all the search queries that triggered your ads. By analyzing this data, you can identify irrelevant searches that are wasting your budget. This could be a great way to come up with a common negative keyword list for your business. No reason to re-invent the wheel every time; instead, keep a running tally of these unwanted terms so that your campaigns get cleaner and more efficient with every passing month.

  2. Brainstorming & Competitor Research:
    In addition to the Search Terms Report, you can also brainstorm negative keywords based on your understanding of your target audience and industry. Does one of your products contain a term or word that’s commonly associated with another brand? For example, SaaS products looking to target enterprise customers often neglect their negative keywords and end up spending money to show up for Enterprise Rental Car searches. Whoops!

Common types of negative keywords

There are several common types of negative keywords you can utilize in your marketing campaigns to refine your target audience and maximize your return on investment. Here's a breakdown of some key categories:

Irrelevant Searches

Generic Terms: These are broad terms that don't convey specific purchase intent, like "free" or "cheap". Depending on your offer, you can pre-qualify paid traffic by declining to spend money on searchers who don’t have the budget to buy your offering any time soon.

Product/Service Variations: Include terms like "support" or "instructions.” Depending on your budget, you may not want to spend ad dollars on product or brand searches that don’t imply a purchase intent.

Budget-Conscious Searches

Price-Focused Terms: Depending on your product or service, terms like "affordable" might indicate someone not in your ideal customer range. Again, the key here is pre-qualification.

Free Alternatives: Search queries containing "free trial" could be from users seeking a temporary solution, not a long-term commitment you might offer. It’s not necessarily that you don’t want these searchers at all, just that it may not make sense to bloat your CAC by using paid budget on them.

Low-Intent Searches

Informational Queries: Terms like "how to" or "DIY" might indicate someone researching a problem but not necessarily looking to buy a solution.

Comparison Terms: Searches containing "compare" or "vs" could suggest someone is still in the early research phase and not ready to convert. These queries often have value within your portfolio of ad groups and overall strategy, but if you need to drive ROI at all costs (or you have a limited budget), this can be a spend leak in an initial GTM launch.

B2B-Specific Negatives

Job Seeker Terms: Exclude terms like "student" or "freelancer" if you target decision-makers within organizations. People pair all sorts of things with your branded searches that have nothing to do with purchase intent – look at these terms closely to understand if you’re willing to spend money on them.

Industry Jargon: For B2B fields, exclude terms like "trends" or "comparison" that might not translate to buying intent. These types of searchers are ideally captured via organic search, unless you already have a mature paid campaign running and the extra dollars to support higher-funnel engagement.

Focus on Long-Term Value: Weed out searches with terms like "one-time purchase" if you offer ongoing solutions and want to target those seeking a lasting partnership.

The specific negative keywords you choose will depend on your unique campaign goals and target audience. By understanding these common types, you can build a solid foundation for your negative keyword list and optimize your campaigns for better results.

B2B negative keywords example

Building off the common types of negative keywords, let’s dive into some examples of those words. 

Generic Terms: "free trial", "cheap alternative", "DIY solution" 

Brand Names: Names of irrelevant businesses or software

Product/Service Variations: "used [your product]", "instructions [for your product]" 

Price-Focused Terms: "affordable", "budget-friendly", "cost-cutting" (depending on your product value)

Informational Queries: "how to [achieve something your product/service does]", "tips for [industry topic]"

Comparison Terms: "vs", "compare [your product] to [competitor]", "best [type of product/service]" (may indicate early research phase)

Job Seeker Terms: "careers", "jobs", "freelance", "student", "internship"

Industry Jargon: "trends", "comparison", "whitepaper" (depending on intent), "[industry term] glossary"

Focus on Short-Term Needs: "one-time purchase", "quick fix", "temporary solution" (if you offer long-term value)

Remember, this is not an exhaustive list. It's crucial to tailor your negative keywords to your specific B2B niche, target audience, and campaign goals. Monitor your search queries regularly, and think critically with the following mindset: “am I willing to spend $X per click on this user? What will that do to ROAS/ROI? Is there a more cost-effective way of reaching those users?”

If you’re interested in how to optimize your negative keywords in Google ads, broad match negative keywords, or tune-up a negative keyword tool you’re already using, we’d be happy to chat. Just click to find out more.