Ben Childs
By Ben Childs | Uncategorized | December 5, 2013

How to Profit by (Gasp!) Reducing Your Click-Through Rate

 A widely held misconception in Paid Search is that all clicks clicks are good clicks. In other words, it’s the idea that a high CTR is somehow something to be desired. Although CTR might soon be more important than normal (due to Google’s recent Ad Rank update) I often mention that half the battle in Paid Search is figuring out what NOT to pay for and minimizing your presence and investment to unwanted audiences. Assuming you’ve nailed the basics (e.g. negative keywords), a great technique to screen those undesired visitors is called Negative Ad Copy.Negative Ad Copy?Negative ad copy is text that qualifies (or better yet disqualifies) searchers before you pay for their click.  It’s essentially saying “do not enter unless you can pay x price and want a y-quality product.” This is one of the few times when reducing your CTR can be beneficial because it allows for some nuanced discrimination beyond what AdWords’ structure provides. You are qualifying searchers within a keyword (disqualifying the population that won’t end up being your customer but is still searching for one of your good keywords).

do not enter
… unless you can pay.

We’ll discuss some applicable principles below, but consider a couple examples of advertisers who might use negative ad copy.  Advertiser A sells high-end canoes and doesn’t want bargain-hunters, while Advertiser B sells wholesale promotional material and needs larger volume orders. Consider how they might take advantage of these negative ad copy principles:AdjectivesThe most frequently used technique is to employ coded language to give hints as to what a searcher should expect once they get to your site. Advertiser A, for instance, makes sure to use terms like upscale, hand-crafted and premium into his ad text to describe his canoes. They may have already added terms like cheap and affordable as negatives, but the negative ad copy further cements the idea that someone searching “buy canoes” shouldn’t be clicking on the ad if they want something cheap. It minimizes their risk of non-buyers within a keyword that they still want.

Meanwhile, Advertiser B goes the other way. Terms like wholesalebulk, and cheap show the searcher that they shouldn’t be shocked to see pens for sale in packs of 100. More importantly, it says very loudly that if the searcher was looking for a collector’s edition personalized pen then this is probably not the place. If “cheap” isn’t a word you want associated with your brand, there are a variety of synonyms you can use as code words.

The goal is the same: to further discriminate on traffic coming from a keyword that is generally good for you.  You’ll be reducing click-through-rate but spending money more wisely (which is getting harder to do these days).


While the previous strategy was hinting at what the searcher can expect, perhaps the easiest negative ad copy is to just hit them over the head with the price of your product in the ad. I know it seems scary (how can you compete against ads that don’t have the price?), but have faith. There are people out there willing to see if your product is worth it. Why not block out everyone but those people?

If you’re Advertiser A, and someone searches for “American Flag Canoe Paddle” (a product you hand-craft for $2,000) it might be a good idea to be upfront about it. The canoe market could be awash with firms selling cheap canoe accessories, quarterly canoe paddle subscriptions, and canoe consulting. Putting your premium price in the ad is just another way to communicate the specifics of your premium product to searchers. Those looking for that type of product click to see if it’s worth $2,000, while those looking for a subscription to Canoe Paddle Quarterly know to save themselves (and you) the click.

Putting your price in the ad text can also be advantageous if you’re Advertiser B. If you sell pens at extremely competitive prices, why not tell people? Those looking for a premium pens know to move on, and those looking for the most affordable pen have found their hero.

The common denominator is that people have qualify themselves as being okay with your price. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to buy from you if they click, but in a limited amount of characters, sometimes the price can communicate the specifics of your product more clearly than words ever could.

Intended Customer

Another popular technique is to just state which customer you want purchasing your product. Advertiser B, for instance, knows that it’s the really big orders that keep his business afloat. One mid-to-large-sized business looking for promotional products will trump 1,000 low-margin small orders. So, they’ll tell the searcher what they want.

Headlines and copy that include terms like B2Bcorporate and enterprise may or may not land you that big fish, but in a low-margin business, it may stop enough of the people you don’t want from clicking to be worth it. Advertiser Amight use a headline like “Canoe Enthusiast?” Those that answer in the negative know to save themselves (and you) the click.


Similar to including the price in the ad text is to mention minimums for order size or to trigger an offer like free shipping. This can have a similar qualifying effect and may encourage searchers to spend more.

Advertiser A can both qualify and attract customers by offering free paddles to those spending above $2,000. Those that were never going to spend the $2,000 still won’t click, but those that weren’t sure may now be intrigued enough to find out.

Advertiser B wants to keep their basket size up, so they may write in the ad copy that they offer free shipping for orders over $50 (if they do indeed offer that). I even worked with a client who put “min. order $75” at the end of their ads because they found that it increased their average basket size. Of course, the best part was that they didn’t actually have a minimum order. Now that’s some creative negative ad copy!

Negative Ad Copy is a powerful tool when utilized judiciously. It can help save under-performing keywords by blocking out searchers who won’t purchase while vastly improving lead and order quality by being more specific about your offering. So remember, not all clicks are good clicks, and when you want better customers, sometimes you just have to ask.

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In the time it takes to read this sentence, you could be on your way to a well-oiled demand generation machine. Ready for your blueprint?

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