If you’ve spent any time doing pay-per-click advertising, you’re probably familiar with the technique known as “peel and stick,” popularized by AdWords guru Perry Marshall. If not (or if you need a refresher), read the blue paragraph below. If you feel you’re pretty “up” on peel and stick, skip the blue paragraph to get to the meat of this post.

Peel and stick is a technique to optimize the keywords that seem to have the best potential in your various ad groups. In an ad group with many keywords, watch for one or two that seem to attract more clicks, but could be doing better. Perhaps their CTR (Click-Through Rate) and/or Quality Score are not very high. Pull these keywords out and place each in its own ad group with ads very specific to the intent of the keyword, preferably including the keyword in the ad. HINT: It is best to do this in the AdWords Editor application, by dragging and dropping the keyword into the new ad group. This will preserve its history, important to building Quality Score and thus lower CPC. HINT #2: My experience is that you’ll see the biggest “bang” for peel and stick keywords when they are exact match.

Many online explanations of peel and stick technique leave out a further step that can turbo-boost the effectiveness of the technique. I call it negative sculpting. A problem with peel and stick is that inevitably some of the traffic that should be funneled to the new ad group will still be grabbed by the old ad group (assuming that there are broad or phrase matched keywords in the old group that could trigger an impression for the keyword). You don’t want necessarily to turn off the broad or phrase matches in the old group, as they will generate potentially valuable matches that the exact keyword in the new group will not catch.  But inevitably, they are also robbing some impressions that you want to go only to the new group (because it should gain a lower CPC over time).

In the negative sculpting technique, you simply add the keyword of the new group as an exact match negative keyword in the old group. So if the keyword in your new group is [get rich quick] you’d add -[get rich quick] to the old group, the one with more and broader keywords. In the online AdWords interface, simply find the Negative Keywords link at the bottom of the ad group, and add [get rich quick] (no minus sign needed).

Using negative sculpting will make sure that AdWords impressions are driven to your most profitable ad groups, the highly-targeted, exact match groups.

Google AdWords Peel & Stick Keywords: The Importance of Negative Sculpting