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50 States—or 49 Negative Keywords for PPC

Negative keywords often save a lot of money in PPC.

Local businesses generally don’t want traffic for queries containing other states.

I live in Columbus, Ohio and run a couple dozen AdWords campaigns for local businesses.

Negative Keywords: States With Cities Named Columbus

Most often I would see Columbus GA or Columbus Georgia in AdWords queries; initially, I would exclude them when I came across them.

There’s a:

  • Columbus, Georgia
  • Columbus, Indiana
  • Columbus, Mississippi
  • Columbus, Nebraska
  • Columbus, Texas
  • Columbus, Wisconsin
  • Columbus, Montana

It took me a while to figure out that I should just add all those states as negative keywords.

The 49 Other States To Use As Negative Keywords for PPC

google ads interface showing where to create negative keyword lists

Once I started thinking about that, I realized I could add every state other than Ohio to the negative keyword list.

Here’s the list (remove your state from the list before adding it to your ‘Shared Library’ as a negative keyword list):

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. Florida
  10. Georgia
  11. Hawaii
  12. Idaho
  13. Illinois
  14. Indiana
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana
  19. Maine
  20. Maryland
  21. Massachusetts
  22. Michigan
  23. Minnesota
  24. Mississippi
  25. Missouri
  26. Montana
  27. Nebraska
  28. Nevada
  29. “New Hampshire”
  30. “New Jersey”
  31. “New Mexico”
  32. “New York”
  33. “North Carolina”
  34. “North Dakota”
  35. Ohio
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Oregon
  38. Pennsylvania
  39. “Rhode Island”
  40. “South Carolina”
  41. “South Dakota”
  42. Tennessee
  43. Texas
  44. Utah
  45. Vermont
  46. Virginia
  47. Washington
  48. “West Virginia”
  49. Wisconsin
  50. Wyoming

Punctuation, which in this case dictate match type matters. You may have to strip the double quotes and manually set the match type of the negative keywords if using the AdWords Editor.

State abbreviations as Negative Keywords

Be Careful!

I learned this the hard way: The 2 letter state abbreviations match a whole lot of stuff you probably don’t want to prevent your ads from showing on.

The best example of this (which is obvious when pointed out specifically) is the abbreviation for Indiana which is IN.

IN added to your negative keywords list prevents ads from showing on searches like my service IN my city.

There are several other state abbreviations that can trip you up as well like Lousianna which is abbreviated LA and Montana which is abbreviated MT. Having those will prevent your ads from showing on queries containing la (e.g. hotels near la guardia airport) or mt (e.g. restaurants in mt vernon ohio).

I’m sure there’s other states with abbreviations that could cause problems, so I recommend avoiding adding them wholesale.

That said, here’s the list of US state abbreviations:

  1. AK
  2. AL
  3. AR
  4. AZ
  5. CA
  6. CO
  7. CT
  8. DE
  9. FL
  10. GA
  11. HI
  12. IA
  13. ID
  14. IL
  15. IN
  16. KS
  17. KY
  18. LA
  19. MA
  20. MD
  21. ME
  22. MI
  23. MN
  24. MO
  25. MS
  26. MT
  27. NC
  28. ND
  29. NE
  30. NH
  31. NJ
  32. NM
  33. NV
  34. NY
  35. OH
  36. OK
  37. OR
  38. PA
  39. RI
  40. SC
  41. SD
  42. TN
  43. TX
  44. UT
  45. VA
  46. VT
  47. WA
  48. WI
  49. WV
  50. WY

Let me say again: Don’t use the abbreviations without careful review.

Additionally, it’s wise to keep in mind that ‘Washington D.C.’ and therefore ‘DC’ is an additional municipality that should be account for.

By making smart—even better—proactive negative keyword lists and adding them to your shared library you save yourself a lot of wasted clicks and needless expense.

Common Sense PPC Targeting

I’ve been managing a lot of PPC advertising lately, mostly AdWords but also Bing and Yahoo through Bing Ads. I’m good at it and I enjoy it (even though my interests are more holistic).

Not to toot my own horn but part of what makes me good at it is common sense; common sense seems to be lacking in Internet marketing.

Common Sense PPC Targeting Exclusions

Over and over I have noticed this but it is hard to quantify…until now:

My employer asked me to improve the CPA on our nationwide ‘E-Commerce’ AdWords campaign. I thought about places that were less likely to convert (a common subject to ponder in paid search marketing).

Recollecting my time in a town on the Mexican border, I thought about how hand-to-mouth life there was and how people obtained things through asking family and friends, not by searching the web (which was exasperating for me). I waxed philosophic on how no one there was concerned with online sales (“webpage design” was searched much more often than “website design” if that tells you anything).

Anyway, it occurred to me that exceptionally poor communities have a below average statistical interest in expensive websites, and therefore e-commerce websites.

I then went to Wikipedia and looked up the poorest counties in the U.S. both by household income and per capita income.

What follows is a combined list of the: a.) per capita; and b.) household income; poorest counties in the U.S. (as per Wikipedia, which is good enough for me). I added all of these counties as ‘locations’ to exclude from Google AdWords.

  • Adair County, Oklahoma
  • Allendale County, South Carolina
  • Apache County, Arizona
  • Bee County, Texas
  • Bell County, Kentucky
  • Bennett County, South Dakota
  • Benson County, North Dakota
  • Big Horn County, Montana
  • Breathitt County, Kentucky
  • Brooks County, Texas
  • Brooks County, Texas
  • Buchanan County, Virginia
  • Buffalo County, South Dakota
  • Bullock County, Alabama
  • Calhoun County, Georgia
  • Calhoun County, West Virginia
  • Cameron County, Texas
  • Casey County, Kentucky
  • Catahoula Parish, Louisiana
  • Charles Mix County, South Dakota
  • Chicot County, Arkansas
  • Cibola County, New Mexico
  • Claiborne County, Mississippi
  • Clark County, Idaho
  • Clay County, Georgia
  • Clay County, Kentucky
  • Clay County, West Virginia
  • Clinton County, Kentucky
  • Coahoma County, Mississippi
  • Concordia Parish, Louisiana
  • Conecuh County, Alabama
  • Corson County, South Dakota
  • Costilla County, Colorado
  • Culberson County, Texas
  • Cumberland County, Kentucky
  • Dewey County, South Dakota
  • Dimmit County, Texas
  • Duval County, Texas
  • East Carroll Parish, Louisiana
  • Elliott County, Kentucky
  • Evangeline Parish, Louisiana
  • Floyd County, Kentucky
  • Glacier County, Montana
  • Greene County, Alabama
  • Greene County, Mississippi
  • Guadalupe County, New Mexico
  • Hamilton County, Florida
  • Hancock County, Georgia
  • Hancock County, Tennessee
  • Harlan County, Kentucky
  • Harmon County, Oklahoma
  • Hidalgo County, Texas
  • Holmes County, Mississippi
  • Hudspeth County, Texas
  • Hughes County, Oklahoma
  • Humphreys County, Mississippi
  • Issaquena County, Mississippi
  • Jackson County, Kentucky
  • Jackson County, South Dakota
  • Jefferson County, Mississippi
  • Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi
  • Kalawao County, Hawai’i
  • Kemper County, Mississippi
  • Keya Paha County, Nebraska
  • Knott County, Kentucky
  • Knox County, Kentucky
  • La Salle County, Texas
  • Lake County, Tennessee
  • Lawrence County, Kentucky
  • Lee County, Arkansas
  • Lee County, Kentucky
  • Leflore County, Mississippi
  • Leslie County, Kentucky
  • Letcher County, Kentucky
  • Lewis County, Kentucky
  • Luna County, New Mexico
  • Macon County, Alabama
  • Macon County, Georgia
  • Madison County, Idaho
  • Madison Parish, Louisiana
  • Magoffin County, Kentucky
  • Martin County, Kentucky
  • Maverick County, Texas
  • McCreary County, Kentucky
  • McDowell County, West Virginia
  • McKinley County, New Mexico
  • McPherson County, South Dakota
  • Mellette County, South Dakota
  • Menifee County, Kentucky
  • Menominee County, Wisconsin
  • Mingo County, West Virginia
  • Monroe County, Arkansas
  • Morgan County, Kentucky
  • Navajo County, Arizona
  • Noxubee County, Mississippi
  • Oregon County, Missouri
  • Owsley County, Kentucky
  • Pemiscot County, Missouri
  • Perry County, Alabama
  • Perry County, Kentucky
  • Phillips County, Arkansas
  • Presidio County, Texas
  • Pushmataha County, Oklahoma
  • Quitman County, Mississippi
  • Randolph County, Georgia
  • Reeves County, Texas
  • Rolette County, North Dakota
  • Roosevelt County, Montana
  • Russell County, Kentucky
  • San Juan County, Utah
  • Searcy County, Arkansas
  • Shannon County, Missouri
  • Shannon County, South Dakota
  • Sharkey County, Mississippi
  • Sioux County, North Dakota
  • Starr County, Texas
  • Stone County, Arkansas
  • Summers County, West Virginia
  • Sumter County, Alabama
  • Sunflower County, Mississippi
  • Tallahatchie County, Mississippi
  • Tensas Parish, Louisiana
  • Thurston County, Nebraska
  • Todd County, South Dakota
  • Tunica County, Mississippi
  • Wade Hampton, Alaska
  • Wayne County, Kentucky
  • Webb County, Texas
  • Webster County, West Virginia
  • Wheatland County, Montana
  • Whitley County, Kentucky
  • Wilcox County, Alabama
  • Wilkinson County, Mississippi
  • Willacy County, Texas
  • Winn Parish, Louisiana
  • Wolfe County, Kentucky
  • Woodruff County, Arkansas
  • Zapata County, Texas
  • Zavala County, Texas
  • Ziebach County, South Dakota

So, if you have a product or service which appeals to people of higher socio-economic status, consider using this to exclude PPC advertising in that area.

Conversely, if you have a product or service that appeals to the less affluent, consider using this list as a starting point for targeting…that is, if you trust Wikipedia.