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Negative Keywords As Important As Positive Keywords

We see many questions about Negative keywords in the community. Negative keywords are as important as positive keywords for the success of any pay per click advertising campaign.


What are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords allow advertisers to block unwanted search queries. For Search Campaigns, these search queries are added as Negative Keywords and ads will not be shown for these terms on Google search and search partners sites.


AdWords allows advertisers to add negative keywords at both the campaign level and ad group Level.


How to add negative keywords in the AdWords UI:

The steps to add negative keywords are as follows:

1)      Select the campaign you want to apply negative keywords to.

2)      Click on the 'KEYWORDS' tab


3)      Scroll down to the end of keywords.

4)      Click the + to expand your Negative Keywords list. (as you can see in screenshot below):


5) Here you will find options to add Negative Keywords at campaign level and at adgroup level as seen in screenshot below.



How to add negative keywords in AdWords UI via Shared Library:

Shared library allows you to add common negative keywords across multiple campaigns. When we are running multiple campaigns we can create list in Shared Library and assign campaigns. We can only add campaign level negative keywords with the help of shared library. Below are the steps:


Click shared Library > Select Campaign Level Negative List > +List > Negative Keyword List Name >

Keywords > Hit Save. Select Negative List > Click Assign Campaigns > Select campaigns > Hit SAVE!

(See Screenshot Below)


What are the benefits of using Negative Keywords? 

  • Reach Target Audience Only: Your ad copy will only be shown to targeted audience, in other words only to those who are interested in your product and services only.  
  • Improve ROI: When we block irrelevant terms, it helps advertisers to bring CPC down and increase ROI. 
  • Cost of Campaign: Helps to reduce cost by blocking clicks from the irrelevant unwanted queries. 
  • Improve Click-Through Rate: When you apply negative keywords carefully in your campaign it will not be showing your ads to unwanted audience, thus your chances of receiving a click improves immensely. 
  • Improve in Conversion Rates: You will see a positive effect on your conversions with the improvement of the quality of clicks by adding negative keywords. 
  • Improve Quality Score: It also helps in improving QS of the keywords as we know that quality score is being calculated every time search query runs. QS is highly based on the relevancy - When we add negative keywords it increases the relevancy between keywords and search query and thus leads us to improved quality score. 
  • Decrease in Cost per Conversion: When we protect our ads from unwanted queries the cost associated with those search terms decreases, this leads you to lower cost per conversion.

 Advertisers need to be very careful while choosing negative keywords. Generally, the wrong selection of match types for negative keywords blocks relevant queries for your campaigns and turns into a loss of relevant clicks followed by conversions.


Negative Keywords and Match Types

We can add Negative Keywords in three match types Broad, Phrase, Exact in Google AdWords. Let’s discuss negative keyword of all match type with an example:


Broad Match Negative Keywords - KEYWORD


By adding negative keyword in broad match type, advertisers can restrict all the queries that contain negative term in search query. For instance, if you add Cheap as a negative term then AdWords system will block each search query that contain cheap term.


Let’s explore an example for further understanding:


Suppose, you are running an advertising campaign for a company that sells “Spa covers”.  This company is only selling spa covers and not selling accessories and does not want to show up for the queries that contain accessories.


In this particular case you should look to add terms like accessories, accessory, etc. to your negative keyword list at campaign level.


This will block your ad for search queries like “spa accessories”, "buy spa accessories” etc…

Important: Broad match negative keywords do not block misspellings or plurals, your ad will still show on keywords that contain misspellings and/or plurals of your search term.


TIP: Always look to add single terms as negative broad keyword and always look to add misspellings and plurals as broad negative as well.


Phrase Match Negative Keywords – “KEYWORD”


By adding negative keywords in phrase match type, advertisers can restrict all the queries that contain negative term in the exact same sequences. For instance, if you add “Cheap spa covers” as a negative term, the AdWords system will block each search query that contain "Cheap spa covers" in exactly the same sequence.


Let’s explore an example for further understanding:


Suppose, you are running an advertising campaign for a company that sells “Spa covers” and not at all selling cheap products and does not want to show up for the queries that contains “cheap covers”.

In this case your ad will not appear for following search queries:


Cheap covers fit all spas

Quality Spa cheap covers


However, you ad will appear for the keyword such as “Cheap Spa Covers” or “Spa covers cheap”.


TIP: Always look to add phrase negative keywords to weed out specific search queries from search query report. It is always preferable to use phrase negative at ad group level & not at the campaign level. Always look to add misspellings and plurals as well.


Exact Match Negative Keywords – [KEYWORD]


By adding negative keywords in exact match type advertisers can restrict all the queries that contain negative term exactly the same. For instance, if you add [Cheap spa covers] as a negative term then the AdWords system will block only that exact search query cheap spa covers.


However your ad will appear for search queries such as “Quality Cheap Spa Covers”, “Cheat Spa Covers Australia” etc.


TIP: Best utilization of match types leads us to a more relevant audience. Always look to add both the plural and singular versions of your exact match negative keywords.


Campaign Level vs. Ad Group Level


Campaign Level Negative Keyword: When we add negatives at campaign level it protects our ads to be shown for the whole campaign.


Ad Group Level Negative Keyword: When we add negatives at ad group level it protects our ads to be shown for particular ad group not for the whole campaign. Ad group level negative keywords are very important and proven formula for successful cost cutting method of optimization.


Where to find negative keywords? 

1)      Keyword Planner: While searching for keywords I also collect keywords that are not relevant to my advertising goal & can be added as negative.


2)      Search query report: Examine search query reports to look for negative keywords. I prefer to review search queries every two days to weed out all unwanted terms.


3)      Opportunities Tab: I generally saw that we can also find negative keywords from the opportunities tab. Sometimes keywords suggested there are not related and can be added as negative.


4)      Google Search Engine: I generally also look for Negative keywords in Google search engine at the time of research. Also when reviewing ads on “Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool” I do look at “related searches” in Google search engine for positive and negative keywords ideas.

about Neha Gupta

I live in New Delhi, India. I have been working on Paid Advertisement since 2010. I am Independent Paid Advertising Consultant & Also Providing Part Time Google AdWords Training. I am a keen learner & look forward to learning new things/strategies every day at the same time I like to help others to the best of my knowledge.

Prem Nath
August 2015

Yes,,, Agreed 100 %