Negative keywords can help you to target the most interested customers, reduce costs and increase your return on investment (ROI).

Negative keywords are opposite to positive keywords. Positive keywords are used for targeting relevant searches and help qualified prospects find you, whilst negative keywords are used for filtering/ excluding searches.

Why use Negative Keywords?

  • Save money by preventing your ad from showing on irrelevant searches.
  • Negative keywords improve CTR- which improves quality score
  • Reduce cost per click and get a higher ad position.
  • Improve quality score by only showing you ads to relevant search terms


Negative Keywords Tips

The default broad match positive keywords require more negative keywords than a modified broad match or phrase match, with exact match requiring no negative keywords. For new Adwords accounts, it is easier to start with the modified broad match and exact match type.

Keywords are often applied at the ad group level or/and campaign level. This approach becomes harder to manage as the account grows- and more campaigns are developed that need to share the same negative keywords. Instead, try using shared negative keywords. available within the Adwords shared library.

Manage all negatives in a central location- instead of updating all the campaigns one by one as separate lists.

negative keyword tips

If certain negatives are only applicable to one service or product- they can be included explicitly within that individual campaign. A single shared negative keyword list that is attached to all search campaigns will often cover well over 80%+ of the negative keywords.

See our blog posting on how to build a Negative Keywords List Tips

Having separate negative keyword lists for different campaigns makes future updates easier. The base negative keywords can be single words that will block any irrelevant search query that contains this. This requires both singular and plural negative keywords for each word.

negative-keywords tips

How to Spot Negative Keywords?

Adwords Search Terms Report: Running this report shows the searches people make in Google before clicking on your adverts. Sort these searches- by the highest cost to lowest cost- and identify searches with Low CTR, low conversion rate, and low average session duration compared to the account average- or low conversion rate or no conversions at all.

Negative Keywords search terms

Google Keyword Tool: When doing research for keywords to be used, identify those that should be negative at the same time. Otherwise, use the keyword tool to identify irrelevant searches that can be blocked as negative keywords.

Google Search Autocomplete & SERPS

Use the autocomplete to identify popular negative keywords. Also, use the SERP (Search engine results page).


Keyword Frequency Finder

Various tools (including free ones) make it possible to enter the search terms report and get a list of single word keywords- and the frequency occurrence of each. Running through this list of single words is so much faster than manually using the search terms report. This report generated gives an idea of keyword density. Excel can also be used to compare search terms performance metrics for single words (e.g. conversion rate) to decide if the word should be negative. Just remove relevant keywords, and the remainder negative keywords remain in the list.

Tips for managing Negative Keywords lists at different levels across the account.

  • Start by listing single words as negative broad match that will always be irrelevant no matter what string of keywords they are combined with. This varies by industry – (For example Free, Jobs, Guides, etc, etc are often negative keywords- but not always!)
  • Identify less relevant keywords that have high impressions but poor performance as potential exact match negatives. (Increase CTR/Quality Score).

Types of Negative Keyword Lists

Negative Keywords for Google Search Text Ads

Start by creating one generic keyword negative keyword list to attach this list to all of the search campaigns.

Use single word broad negative match whenever a word is irrelevant 100% of the time for the particular industry, theme, products or services offered. (for example words like free, used). Using single word negatives helps to streamline negative keyword lists significantly. Look at the current negative keyword list of words that get repeated over and over, delete these and add the single word as a broad match negative. This will prevent the ad showing for any instance of the search query that includes the word within the keyword string.

Google Shopping Negative Keyword Tips

Google Shopping Ads do not use positive keywords. Instead, product titles along with other attributes taken from your product catalogue are used- via Google Merchant Centre. Therefore exact match negative keywords can be very useful for Google Shopping

DSA (Dynamic Search Ads) Negatives Keyword Tips

DSA does not use match types- and therefore the equivalent to standard broad match. Using DSA without RLSA can get some very wide and sometimes totally irrelevant searches. As with using the default broad match, more exact match negatives are required when using DSA. Sometimes single word exact match negatives are required. Check out the search terms report and make sure that budget is not being wasted without exact match negatives.

Google Display Network Negatives.

The Display network requires less negative keywords than the search network, therefore do not use the same negative keyword list used for Google Search- especially for remarketing.

Brand Negative Keyword list.

If you have a brand campaign to bid on your brand terms keywords like company name or website, make sure this list is attached to the non-brand campaigns. This helps with attribution so that non-brand campaigns do not take credit for brand traffic. It is also possible to set the attribution level settings to give credit to the first click.

Traffic sculpting.

Dealing with ad serving issues. When a search is made, Google will look for the closest match keyword and this will trigger the advert. Sometimes, however, certain keywords can compete against each other due to variations in quality score, and overall history. To prevent this, individual positive keywords can be added as negative keywords to respective ad groups, or sometimes even campaigns.

Negative Keywords Takeaway

  • Using a base negative keyword list that has single word negatives-  and attach this to all non-brand search campaigns,
  • Use exact match negatives for Google Shopping, DSA or when using the default broad match
  • Start with a popular negative keyword list before instead of waiting for obvious negatives in the search terms report
  • Use traffic sculpting to make sure ad groups are not competing with each other, due to their respective keywords showing for the same search terms
  • A specialist PPC Agency like One PPC has worked across multiple industries and can save you money from the very outset- instead of having to mine your search terms report for negatives after the cost has been incurred.

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