Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
If you are familiar with Google Ads or Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, you would understand the importance of having the right keywords within your campaigns.
Unlike advertising on social media channels where users are passively viewing advertisements based on interest and demographic factors, Google Search users see ultra specific advertisements based on a particular topic, product or service they are actively searching for.
Through Google’s use of search term targeting, Google’s search engine is able to display the right ads to the right people at the right time. To target a specific audience on Google Search with your advertisement, you will need to create a list of relevant keywords for the product or service you provide, otherwise Google will not know who to target.
Whilst building a highly specific keywords list to include your intended audience is important, it is also of equal interest that you create a negative keywords list to exclude audiences who are not interested.
Adding negative keywords to your Google Ads campaign is an optimisation strategy that anyone can do. In this article, we will explore why negative keywords are so important to law firms and then we will investigate what type of keywords you should be adding to your personal list.
What are negative keywords in a campaign?
Simply put, adding negative keywords to your Google Ads campaign is an optimisation strategy. It allows for your advertisements to not show up under particular keywords that you do not want to be associated with.
Including negative keywords within your campaign helps direct your advertisements to your intended audience and keeps away users who have search intent that doesn’t fall in line with your advertisement. Keeping these users away from your advertisement by using negative keywords will help reduce your website bounce rate and advertising spend.
Negative keyword lists for a law firm will be slightly different from one another, as a number of factors will vary from law firm to law firm, such as your serviceable location and fields of legal practice. However, beyond these limiting factors, there are several categories of negative keywords that are applicable to any law firm or business.
Why are negative keywords important for lawyers?
Negative keywords are not only important for lawyers advertising with Google Ads, but for every business that uses the platform. This is because the core concept around the Google Ads platform is search intent.
As an advertiser on the Google Ads platform, your goal is to match your advertisements with the search intent of Google’s user base. Keeping this in mind at all times is important, as Google is always cross-checking your advertisement to see if it is relevant and will award you a quality score accordingly.
Quality scores essentially gauge how relevant or useful your advertisement is. The higher your quality score is, the better off your advertisement will be. A high quality score will help you rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP) and can even reduce your cost-per-click (CPC).
If you would like more information on how quality scores work, we recommend reading Google’s article on the topic.
How many negative keywords should I use?
Within your text ad campaigns, try to include as many negative keywords as possible to hyper focus your campaign to your intended audience. However, be careful, as adding negative keywords that are very close to your positive keywords could reduce how much your advertisement is shown. For display and video ads, Google limits the amount of negative keywords to only 5,000, so you will have to be a bit more selective with these.
Best negative keywords for lawyers
So what type of keywords should be added as negative keywords?
As previously mentioned, negative keywords will vary from law firm to law firm. However, there are several categories of negative keywords that will be applicable to all law firms, no matter what area of practice they are in.
Firstly, there will be location, practice area and other related field keywords that you will want to exclude from your keyword list. For your law firm, it may be physically impossible for you to provide services to interstate clientele. Meanwhile, you will want to exclude keywords that focus on areas of practice that you do not cover and for the areas that you do, you do not want to show up alongside a completely different industry.
Then there are several categories of keywords that combined with your selected keywords cause the wrong search intent for your advertisement. For example, if you are advertising for personal injury law to acquire clients, you would not want to include the keyword phrase “personal injury law jobs” within your keyword list. Otherwise, your advertisement will display alongside job listings for personal injury lawyers on the SERP.
Placing an advertisement under this term would be highly irrelevant to the Google user and would result in you paying Google for the advertisement click whilst not even receiving a lead!
Essentially, if you do not include this keyword in your negative keywords list, you are flushing your advertising budget down the toilet. That’s why it is very important that you build a solid list of negative keywords for your campaign.
Negative keywords do work differently in some aspects to their positive counterparts, so we recommend reading this help negative keywords guide created by Google.
Here are some negative keyword examples for lawyers that you should consider when building your own negative keywords list.
Location-based, practice area and other related field negative keywords
Location-based negative keywords
For law firms, it is not always possible to service clients outside your local area. This could be because you are unable to operate in a certain jurisdiction or your firm is just unable to expand its current operations. Whatever the case may be, it is very important to make sure Google users see your advertisements only if they are within a certain area, such as a state/territory, a particular city or a specific country.
There would be nothing worse than having to turn down a potential client based on advertising your service in an area you can not physically serve. Here is a negative keyword example based on location:
Say you are a law firm from Perth, WA who specialises in property law.
The stipulations of property law within Western Australia would vary from those found in the Property Law Act 1958 (Vic). So, unless you understand this act and could provide legal services based around it, it would be totally irrelevant to advertise to clients in Victoria or any other state.
Therefore, adding negative keywords based around Victoria and popular locations within the state is a smart idea and would be applicable to any other locations that you are unable to serve. Adding negative keywords such as “Victoria” and “Dandenong” to your negative keywords list would be advisable in this instance.
Practice area negative keywords
Similar to location-based negative keywords, practice area negative keywords are going to be a major part of your negative keywords list. Excluding different types of practice areas will help place your advertisement in front of an audience who truly needs your particular service.
Without adding negative keywords related to the areas of practice you do not specialise in, you may start to see a lot of clicks on your advertisement but no conversions. This is because the legal service the user is searching for is not provided by your law firm, so they will just bounce off your website without taking any action. Here is a negative keyword example based on practice area:
Say you are a legal practice who specialises in trademarks.
As a specialist within this niche, you will be servicing businesses who want to register trademarks. Therefore, you would not want people who are searching for wills or class action lawsuits to contact your practice, as this would waste both your time and theirs.
To combat this, keywords that do not cover your areas of practice should be added to your negative keyword list. In this example “wills” and “class action lawsuit” should be added to the negative keyword list, as this will avoid your advertisement from appearing on these terms.
Other related field negative keywords
There may be certain keywords related to your area of practice that you do not necessarily want your advertisements associated with. These keywords are still relevant to your area of practice but when used singularly, they will produce a SERP for a different industry and not for what you intended. Of course, if this was to occur, the user search intent would fail to be satisfied and you could end up spending a lot of your advertising budget unnecessarily. Here is a negative keyword example based on a keyword that is also used within a different industry:
Say you are a law firm who practices personal injury law and your goal is to ensure that your client will receive a guaranteed settlement.
If you were to include the singular keyword “settlement” in your positive keywords list to target Google users who are after a personal injury settlement, your advertisement would be shown on this singular search term. This is a major problem, as the keyword “settlement” is a very broad term and is frequently used within the real estate industry.
Adding very broad and often singular keywords such as “settlement” or “insurance” to your negative keywords list could be a smart idea. It will stop you from advertising alongside an irrelevant industry and will keep your budget in check. Often these types of keywords command a high bid price due to how broad they are, so it is best to put them within your negative keyword list.
Negative keywords that should be added to avoid unrelated search intent
The following negative keyword types are based around a relevant search term but include a keyword that you wish to avoid. Implementing these keywords as negative keywords will remove your advertisement from any searches that are not completely relevant to your offer. These negative keywords will filter out users who are looking for information regarding legal topics but not legal services.
Law firm services negative keywords
Any keywords that relate to services that can be provided to a law firm should be added to your negative keyword list. Keywords such as “marketing” or “advertising” are examples of keywords that should be added.
Career and job-related negative keywords
Any keywords that relate to jobs, salaries etc. in the field of law should be added to your negative keyword list. Keywords such as “lawyer jobs” or “lawyer annual salary” are examples of keywords that should be added.
Education-related negative keywords
Any keywords that relate to legal education should be added to your negative keyword list. Keywords such as “degree” or “learn” are examples of keywords that should be added.
Resource related negative keywords
Any keywords that relate to people looking for legal instructions or how-to guides should be added to your negative keyword list. Keywords such as “how to” or “diy” are examples of keywords that should be added.
Low quality lead keywords
Adding low quality lead keywords to your negative keywords list will depend on your Google Ads strategy. If you have chosen to avoid a cost leader strategy for example, you would want to add keywords such as “affordable”, “pro bono” or “cheap” to your negative keywords list.
However, if you have chosen to operate with a cost leader strategy, keywords such as these should be added to your positive keywords list, so your advertisements display under these search terms on the SERP.
How to build a negative keyword list
Industry-specific negative keyword list
Brainstorming negative keywords relevant to your firm and then manually adding them to your negative keywords list is a great way to first start optimising your campaign.
Doing this will help you save time when combing through the Search Terms panel. As you have already manually specified these keywords as being negative, Google will exclude these search terms within the Search Terms panel, this means you will not have to add them in again.
User search terms which have been organically produced by users will appear within your Search Terms panel. From this panel, you can go through all the search terms and select the keywords that you would like to add to your negative keyword list.
Within the Search Terms panel, Google provides you with new search terms periodically, so it is important to make sure that you comb through them on a regular basis.
Using Google’s Keyword Planner to build a negative keyword list
If you are finding it difficult to brainstorm keywords to add to your negative keyword list, using the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool to generate some is a good idea. The Keyword Planner tool is located under the Planning submenu of Tools & Settings which is within the top menu of Google Ads. The Keyword Planner tool can be used to find both positive and negative keywords for your campaign.
It is as simple as opening the Keyword Planner tool and then adding in one or two keywords of negative connotation. Once you press the Get Results button, Google will do the rest of the hard work for you. For example, if you enter the keywords “law jobs” and “lawyer jobs” into the Keyword Planner, you will receive hundreds of related keywords, such as “legal jobs”, “legal secretary jobs”, “law society jobs” and “law clerk jobs”.
From this array of keywords, you can select all the ones that you believe should go on your negative keyword list. Just copy and paste them straight into your list.
How do I add negative keywords to my Google Ads campaign?
Adding keywords to your negative keyword list is not difficult and there are a few ways to add them. The instructions provided below will teach you how to add keywords to your list through the Search Terms panel. To use this method, you will need to have run your campaign for a while to generate some organic search terms.
- Open your Google Ads account, select All Campaigns and then navigate to the Search Terms panel which is located under the Keywords dropdown menu.
- Set your date range for the search terms. If you have never combed through your search terms before, we recommend setting the date range to the start of your campaign up till the present date. Doing this will provide you with all the search terms that have been made. Thereafter, we typically set the date range to only a week from the current date to minimise how many search terms show up.
- Using the checkbox next to each search term, check all of the search terms that you believe are negative keywords. Once complete, click the “Add as negative keyword” button. If you add a keyword to your negative keyword list by mistake, you can always manually add it back to your search terms list later on.
- Select the “Negative keywords list” option and then select either the Ad Group, Campaign or Negative keyword list option. Adding keywords to either Ad Group or Campaign will do exactly that, add them to a certain ad group or campaign. Negative keyword list on the other hand allows you to add the keywords to a list you have already created.
- If you wish too, you can modify the keywords that you have selected before adding them to your list. This can be done by either refining your selected keywords down to simpler terms or by adding a match type modifier. For example, if the search term “lawyer jobs Melbourne” appears within your list, you can reduce this set of keywords to simply just “jobs”. This will block all search terms which include this term.
- Finally, click the “Save” button to add the keywords to your list. Repeat this process on a regular interval to ensure that your campaign is always being optimised.
Negative Keyword Related Questions
Q. Are negative keywords case-sensitive?
A. No, keywords that are added to your negative keywords list do not have to be case-sensitive in order to work.
For example, if a search term was “lawyers australia” and you instead added the keyword “Lawyers Australia” to your negative keyword list, both “lawyers australia” and “Lawyers Australia” as keywords would be avoided by Google.
Q. Can negative keywords use close variant matching?
A. No, unfortunately Google Ads does not support close variant matching for negative keywords.
This means that “lawyer jobs” as a negative keyword will not block the search term “lawyer job” for example, even though it is a close variant of that keyword.
Q. What are the different match type modifiers I can use for negative keywords?
A. There are three types of match modifiers you can apply to your negative keywords, these are negative broad-match, negative phrase-match and negative exact-match. Each of these match type modifiers will produce a different outcome for your negative keywords.
Negative broad-match is the default match type modifier for negative keywords. With this modifier type, your advertisements will not show on Google if the search contains all your negative keywords, even when your terms are placed in a different order. This means that your advertisement still might show on a search if it contains only some of the keyword terms.
A negative broad-match example from Google.
Negative phrase-match allows your advertisements to not show up on searches that contain an exact keyword term which is in the same order. Whilst the search could include additional words, your advertisement will not show up unless all the keyword terms are included and are in the same order.
A negative phrase-match example from Google.
Negative exact-match will not show your advertisements if the search contains the exact keyword terms, which must be within the same order and without any extra words breaking it up. Your advertisement still may be shown under this modifier if the search contains your keyword terms with additional words.
A negative exact-match example from Google.
Negative keywords are very important if you are trying to optimise your account and reduce costs, which should be a goal for every Google Ads user. The process of adding negative keywords whilst being fairly easy, can be very tedious for some. If you are unfamiliar with the Google Ads platform or you need to focus your attention elsewhere, it may be a good idea to let a digital marketing agency take over and optimise your account.
Marketlytics is one such agency, who specialises in providing digital marketing services to Australian lawyers. No matter what your field of practice, Marketlytics can help you with Google Ads and all other things digital marketing.
As an agency operated by a past lawyer, you can guarantee that we know your profession inside and out and that we can communicate on your level. We can take over your existing campaigns or start from scratch if you have never advertised with Google Ads before.
Getting started is easy. Book a discovery call today with Clarence and he will show you why Marketlytics is the digital marketing agency of choice for law firms all across Australia!
Matthew Palmer is a Digital Marketing expert and Copywriter hailing from Perth. Since completing his Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) from Curtin University in 2018, Matthew has been forever expanding his knowledge and expertise in this multifaceted field.
He has also studied advertising with the Advertising Council Australia’s AWARD School program, which took a highly creative approach to the wide world of advertising
As a Digital Marketing expert, Matthew can execute Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM) for your business.