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Why Your PPC Game Plan Should Include Negative Keywords

By Rory Witt    |    September 18, 2017

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Growing up, I received a liberal arts education. My parents wanted me to be able to see beyond one perspective, and understand others’ opinions—even if I didn’t agree. They wanted me to base my opinions on reason, not emotion. Ultimately, they wanted me to challenge assumptions, gather information and make my own informed decisions on a wide variety of topics.

Thanks to my parents, I was recently able to challenge a longstanding convention—the power of positivity.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that being positive can be a good thing. However, according to several research studies, the power of negative thinking is important, too.

It seems a bit counterintuitive, but many situations in life actually call for a healthy dose of negativity. For example, a few years ago, I tried to start a new workout routine. I told myself that I’d feel better and look healthier if I did it, but these positive thoughts didn’t entice me to exercise.

As a matter of fact, I had all but stopped working out when I had a good friend challenge me. He told me that I was wasting my time trying to start exercising, and he suggested that I just give up.

Suddenly, I resumed my workouts with more fervor than ever before. The implication that I should just give up was so infuriating to me that I was actually inspired to take action.

Looking back on this event, I try to think about what would have happened if my friend told me something more uplifting. Frankly, if that had been the case, I don’t think anything would have changed. It turns out that from time to time, negativity is key.

Alright, enough about me, let’s get to the important stuff—negative keywords and PPC advertising.

Understanding Sentiment

First things first, I’m going to give you the 30-000-foot view. Advertisers use a multitude of persuasive strategies to sell their products and/or services. One of the most popular forms of persuasion is called pathos. Simply put, pathos is an appeal to emotion.

When an advertiser employs this technique, their main goal is to elicit an emotional response from a consumer. Here’s an example:

If you haven’t seen this advertisement before—or you don’t remember it well—here’s its premise: animals are beaten and abused every day, waiting for someone to help them. If you all or join the BCSPCA, you can help.

I’m just going to come right out and say it; this advertisement is emotional. You feel guilty looking at tortured animals, so you’re persuaded to send money and help.

Well played, McLachlan and BCSPCA, well played. 

On another note, pathos strategies can evoke emotions like happiness from consumers.

The advertisement above shows two friends enjoying themselves while drinking coke. They make it look so enjoyable that you feel a bit happier simply by looking at all the fun they’re having.

Alright, so at this point, you get the picture.

Advertisers try to play on emotional triggers through advertisements. Overall, they can do this in a variety of ways, but two popular ways are through using positive and negative advertisements that persuade viewers to take action.

Now, here’s the last thing I need to mention … Some people and advertisers *cough,* WordStream, *cough* also claim that some sentiment lives in “neutral” territory. The examples they provide for these types of advertisements are chalk full of information that’s not necessarily sentimental. They simply include details devoid of sentiment that help consumers make buying decisions.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a little insider secret: when you think about sentiment regarding PPC, DON’T think about ads in “neutral territory.”

As far as sentiment is concerned, there’s only positive and negative sentiment. Although some advertisers will try to tell you that there is neutral sentiment, there’s really not.

What they define as neutral sentiment is really logos, which is an appeal to logic and reason.

OK, I’ll get off my soap box.

A/B Testing Your Own Content

Now that we have the nitty-gritty details sorted out, it’s time for you to form your own opinion. I believe in the power of negative keywords, but you shouldn’t take my word for it. Instead, you should start to do your own A/B testing to understand how negative sentiment influences your PPC success.

If you’re currently running a campaign, evaluate it and decide if it’s positive, negative or neutral. If it’s positive, create a similar advertisement that uses negativity and test them against one another for at least two weeks.

If your current campaign is negative, create a positive advertisement and then test the two against one another for two weeks. If your advertisement is neutral, you’ll do the same thing as someone starting from scratch. If you fall into one of these two categories, your first step will be to create brand new positive and negative advertisements that are very similar.

To quickly review what this might look like, pretend you own a staffing company named “A+ Staffing.” Your positive message might be something like “Improve your recruiting with the help of A+Staffing.” Your negative message might read “With the help of A+ Staffing, you can stop wasting money on recruiting.”

As you carry out your tests, you might find that your negative keywords have more success than your positive keywords.

After all, people take great risks to avoid loss.

Albeit unconventional, the power of negative thinking shouldn’t be understated. Depending on the situation, positive thinking doesn’t always work. To ensure that you’re finding the most PPC success, test out positive and negative framing to see which one produces the biggest return.

Oh, and before I sign off, I have a shameless plug: DigiMar specializes in PPC campaigns. We understand what it takes to optimize your advertising game plan, and we’re ready to help. Please reach out to us directly for more information.

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