Can you remember back to those days when you naively viewed the internet as an innocent playground of interesting things, before your outlook was forever sullied by initiation into the digital marketing community?

Before your blinkers were taken off and you realised that 95% of everything on the internet has been specifically put there – after a lot of thought, time and investment, I might add – to make money?

No, me neither. If you’re reading this the chances are, like me, you work or have worked in online marketing. And like me, you’ll probably now view the internet as a series of good opportunities to make clients money.

But most people don’t work in online marketing and don’t have this outlook.

Bruce Springsteen PPC

For example when the average person searches for cheap flights to Spain on Google and is served with the above options, the chances are they don’t know why Jet2, Flybe and On the Beach show at the top of the page.

It’s unlikely that they know that these are the result of a mixture of a bid process and quality score, and that clicking through these adverts will cost the company in question anywhere from a few pence to dozens of pounds.

They may not even realise that these are adverts – Google hardly goes out of its way to make this point clear – and therefore could just click any of the top results as a rule, regardless of whether they appear relevant or not.

We experienced this recently when our PR team ran PPC adverts to mark Bruce Springsteen opening the new £60m Leeds Arena. The adverts (below and right) were irrelevant but light-hearted and played on one of Springsteen’s hits, ‘Born to Run’ and his well-known nickname, The Boss.

Targeted at a combination of keywords including ‘Bruce Springsteen’, ‘Leeds Arena’, ‘tickets’ and ‘reviews', they were not intended to attract click-throughs and the budget was capped at a miniscule £22 with cost-per-click aimed at approximately £1.

negative PPC  

As both the title and the ad text clearly advertised our SEO and PPC services, neither of which have much to do with Springsteen’s concert, we expected the adverts to be pretty much left alone.

However, for terms such as ‘Springsteen + tickets’ the CTR was over 2% on an average position of three. The adverts were shown on both the day before and the day of the concert so this CTR could be attributed to desperate fans seeking any opportunity to find a ticket.

Regardless of the motive for clicking, these adverts show the necessity for getting your negative keywords right.

You simply can’t rely on the searcher using discretion over what advert is relevant and what is not. Having your ads slip through the net and shown for irrelevant queries is potentially an expensive problem.

Pete Whitmarsh

Published 6 August, 2013 by Pete Whitmarsh

Pete Whitmarsh is Head of PPC at Search Laboratory and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (4)


Energys Infocomm

Yes, i agree with you..PPC is not only way to get the traffic or business. Some time it increases the spam or irrelevant content on the Web. SO Springsteen tell us great thing. thanks Springsteen fro this information. if you want grow your business read more here -

almost 5 years ago

Chloë Thomas

Chloë Thomas, Managing Director at Digital Gearbox

Excellent post Pete - thanks for sharing this example.
It never fails to amaze me how many Adwords Accounts don't have ANY negative keywords in them - so hopefully your post will get a few more people using them.


almost 5 years ago


iain martin

I don't see what this has to do with negative keywords at all. The campaign was targetted at this keywords and it got clicks.

The real value of the campaign lies in the chance to talk about it on econsultancy - not bad for a £22 outlay.

almost 5 years ago

Pete Whitmarsh

Pete Whitmarsh, Head of Paid Media at Search Laboratory

Iain - the point that was being made is that no matter what your adverts appear for, they WILL get clicked. Therefore it is vital that you only appear for completely relevant terms or you can end up spending significant advertising budget on wasted clicks. Negative keywords are a vital tool to ensure that you can stay in control of where your ads are appearing.

almost 5 years ago

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