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Proactively Identify AdWords Negative Keywords with Keyword Planner

proactive-reactive.pngWould you put sunblock on after you already have a sun burn? 


Would you get your flu shot after you had the flu?


Do you get where I am going with this?


Be proactive whenever you can.  Don’t wait for irrelevant traffic to hit your paid search account when you have the tool you need to proactively identify it.  


Keywords can be included in a paid search campaign in several match types Exact, Phrase, Broad and Broad Match Modified.  Anything but Exact match keywords leave room for irrelevant search queries to serve ads making negative keywords an important component of most paid search advertising campaigns.  Negative keywords prevent ads from being served on search queries or alongside content that is not relevant.  The resulting effect from adding negative keywords is a reduction in wasted budget and preservation of healthy Click Through Rates which will keep quality scores and in-turn cost per click in check.


Search query reports help paid search managers identify keywords that are not relevant but many times we are reactively adding negatives after there has been click through traffic to the website.  We also run into the dreaded ‘other search terms’ bucket in the search query report which is a black hole of search terms we have zero visibility into. 




Using the Keyword planner can help paid search managers proactively identify negative keywords saving time and money and aid in identifying those ‘other search terms’ we never have insight into.  Am I suggesting that the search query report be forgotten? No way.  The search query report it is still must have for reviewing keyword performance.


To get started proactively identifying negative keywords log into your AdWords account and navigate to the Tools menu and then to Keyword Planner.




Then select Search for new Keywords using a phrase, website or category.



There are some basic settings that need to be addressed before you begin such a targeted geographic location, language, date ranges and Keyword options where I suggest you leave ‘Show broadly related ideas’ enabled.




Then it is time to add the same keywords that you have in your account and let the tool identify suggested relevant keywords based on your keyword list.  What the tool returns is what Google has identified as relevant search terms so expect that you may see your ads served by these terms. 




Identify what you find irrelevant and consider how you would want to add these negatives to your account so you can organize your negative keywords into groups for insertion at either Account Level, Campaign Level or AdGroup Level and label your keyword groups accordingly.  Once you have applied the negative keywords to the appropriate groups download them and add them to the AdWords account. 


This proactive approach will pay off with higher Click Through Rates, and savings in time and ad budget.  Come back after some data has had time to collect and check the search terms report ‘other search queries’ line.  I can say from experience you will likely see an improvement in CTR there.


To summarize, get proactive whenever possible and save time and money.  You will find both you and your clients will be satisfied with the results.

about Kim Clinkunbroomer

Owner, Clink Digital Marketing, Google Partner, AdWords Top Contributor 2006 to present. Our goal is to provide our Clients with the highest level of service to help reach their goals and grow their businesses. Contact: kim@clinkdigitalmarketing.com 847-361-3057 http://www.clinkdigitalmarketing.com

Justin F
August 2015

Thanks for the post @Kim_Clink!  I've also found it helpful to have lengthy conversations with newer clients to not only understand their business and industry, but directly ask "what do you not want to come up for!".  This helps point me in directions for researching negatives I might not have thought about, and hey also it also shows them you are detailed and they just aren't another client!


-Justin Fuchs