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Alec Sharratt

Will Google Ever Allow Negative Keywords for Organic Search?

9th Mar 2011 SEO 3 minutes to read

What is a negative keyword in essence? I have a mathematical mind and to me a negative keyword is in essence a filter. So what is a filter? A filter is a device or tool or substance that removes something from that which passes through it. A filter does not change or add anything it only removes or reduces.

We all know how useful negative keywords are in an AdWords campaign. Often when a new client comes onboard with an existing PPC campaign it’s possible to reduce cost, increase CTR (Click through Rate) and ultimately the conversion rate by simply adding a few thousand well researched negative keywords.

This reduces unwanted impressions, which helps to increase the CTR, which is used in calculating the quality score and that determines how much you pay per click. Ultimately you will end up with visitors that are more highly targeted, more likely to convert and save money in the process. PPC operates under a different set of rules to organic results though; if you are willing to pay enough you will be listed within the first few pages. Google are walking a fine line between relevance and profit when it comes to PPC, the organic results are however a different game altogether.

Organic results are a delicate balance between relevance and authority. Google built their reputation and success on delivering the most relevant results to the searcher. The fewer searches they have to perform in order to find what they are looking for, the better. So begins the challenge; websites need to be relevant, they need to use SEO techniques to be perceived as relevant and they need to be promoted online in order to gain links.

But these aspects are all positives, ticks in boxes so to speak; having the keyword in the H1 title tick, alt tags and Meta data, tick, sitemap and robots file, tick. By definition positives only add, which is great but as PPC has proven being able to subtract is of major importance. It is the process of reduction that leaves us with the best stuff. A positive cannot be a filter, only by reducing or removing results can you filter them.

So in essence organic search results are not filtered by a website or website owner, rather Google filters the results based on the relevance that they identify on-site. I believe that giving website owners the ability to aid this filtration process would greatly increase the relevance of search results.

To give a concrete example of this, let’s say you have a company that sells red widgets and blue widgets but they are all very small widgets. The company receives traffic for people searching for “big widgets”, but they do not sell big widgets, as a result they get phone calls all day from people wanting products they do not stock or sell. This takes time to deal with and while they are on the phone there are potentially people failing to get through who are looking to buy small red widgets which they stock.

So how could this be avoided? Well, maybe creating a <Meta name=”Negative Keywords” content=”big widgets”/> tag which search engine robots could look at would help. Or perhaps in Webmaster Tools a new negative keyword tab could be added allowing users to specify the keywords which they could be excluded from the results for.

The flip side of this is that searchers will have more relevant results presented to them. Rather than clicking on a website only to find that they do not sell the product they searched for, they will be presented with only the most relevant results. This is a win win win situation, Google wins because results are more relevant, the searcher wins for the same reason and the company wins because they are not wasting time on irrelevant leads.

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