Negative keywords in Google Ads: A definitive guide

You're a ppc specialist, right? You probably focus a lot on your campaigns efficiency. This means not only identifying profitable keywords but also eliminating the ones that cost you money without delivering returns. This is where negative keywords come into play.
Blog post main image
Marek Turnhofer
July 4, 2024

This guide will walk you through the importance of negative keywords, how to effectively use them, and advanced strategies for maximizing your ad spend the right way.

Understanding negative keywords

Negative keywords are search terms that you exclude from your campaigns to prevent your ads from showing up for irrelevant queries. This ensures that your ads only appear for searches that are likely to convert, thereby maximizing your return on investment (ROI).

Simple infographics that showcases how negative keywords work

There are three types of negative keyword match types:

1. Negative broad match

Prevents your ads from appearing if the search query contains all the negative keyword terms, even if in different order. Your ad may still appear if the search includes only some of the terms from your negative keyword. This can happen even if the search contains terms very similar to your negative keyword.

For example, if "office chairs" is your negative keyword, searches like "chairs office" will not trigger your ad. However, your ad might appear if the search includes variations like "office chair."

Broad match is the default match type setting for negative keywords in Google Ads.

2. Negative phrase match

With this setting, your ad won't show if the search query includes the negative keyword terms in the specified order. 

For example, if "dog collars" is your negative keyword, searches like "dog collars discount" won't trigger your ad, but "collars dog" might.

3. Negative exact match

Blocks your ads from appearing only if the search query matches the negative keyword exactly. No additional words, characters or symbols count.

Example: "Running shoes" as an exact match negative keyword means a search for "running shoes" won't show your ad, but "running shoe" might.
Search queries that will trigger the ads for each match type

The benefits of using negative keywords

Using negative keywords offers several advantages:

  • Improved click-through rate (CTR): By excluding irrelevant queries, your ads are shown to a more interested audience, increasing the likelihood of clicks.
  • Cost savings: By eliminating wasteful clicks, you save money and ensure your budget is spent on more profitable traffic.
  • Higher conversion rates: The traffic of your PPC landing pages comes from relevant searchers. This increases the chances of conversion.
  • Brand protection: By using negative keywords you can exclude queries you do not want to be associated with.

Most common ways to identify negative keywords

Search terms report

This report shows the actual search queries that triggered your ads. This also means you will be optimizing after the campaign's launch. Identify and add irrelevant queries to your negative keyword list.

Keyword research tools

There are many tools for doing keyword research like SEMRush, Ahrefs or Marketing Miner. You can also ask your SEO specialist to provide you with a full keyword research or define the negative keywords for you. Use these to identify negative keywords before you set up your campaign, improving performance right from the start.

Google keyword planner

This is a free tool that comes with your Google Ads account. It provides a list of keyword ideas based on your primary keyword. Identify and exclude irrelevant terms.

How to add negative keywords

To add negative keywords from a specific campaign:

  1. Navigate to the “Insights and reports” tab in Google Ads and click on “Search terms” to see which queries are triggering your ads.
  2. Select the irrelevant queries and add them as negative keywords. You can choose to apply them at the account, campaign, or ad group level.

Creating negative keyword lists:

To manage negative keywords efficiently, create lists that can be applied across multiple campaigns. This is especially useful for excluding broad categories of irrelevant queries. For example, if you sell new cars, you might want to create a list to exclude all terms related to used cars.

Epilog

Effective management of negative keywords is essential for maximizing the efficiency and profitability of your Google Ads campaigns. By regularly reviewing search query data, creating negative keyword lists, and developing advanced filtering techniques, you can ensure that your ads reach the most relevant audience while minimizing wasteful spending. This strategic approach not only saves money but also enhances the overall performance of your paid search efforts, driving better results and higher ROI.

This guide will walk you through the importance of negative keywords, how to effectively use them, and advanced strategies for maximizing your ad spend the right way.

Understanding negative keywords

Negative keywords are search terms that you exclude from your campaigns to prevent your ads from showing up for irrelevant queries. This ensures that your ads only appear for searches that are likely to convert, thereby maximizing your return on investment (ROI).

Simple infographics that showcases how negative keywords work

There are three types of negative keyword match types:

1. Negative broad match

Prevents your ads from appearing if the search query contains all the negative keyword terms, even if in different order. Your ad may still appear if the search includes only some of the terms from your negative keyword. This can happen even if the search contains terms very similar to your negative keyword.

For example, if "office chairs" is your negative keyword, searches like "chairs office" will not trigger your ad. However, your ad might appear if the search includes variations like "office chair."

Broad match is the default match type setting for negative keywords in Google Ads.

2. Negative phrase match

With this setting, your ad won't show if the search query includes the negative keyword terms in the specified order. 

For example, if "dog collars" is your negative keyword, searches like "dog collars discount" won't trigger your ad, but "collars dog" might.

3. Negative exact match

Blocks your ads from appearing only if the search query matches the negative keyword exactly. No additional words, characters or symbols count.

Example: "Running shoes" as an exact match negative keyword means a search for "running shoes" won't show your ad, but "running shoe" might.
Search queries that will trigger the ads for each match type

The benefits of using negative keywords

Using negative keywords offers several advantages:

  • Improved click-through rate (CTR): By excluding irrelevant queries, your ads are shown to a more interested audience, increasing the likelihood of clicks.
  • Cost savings: By eliminating wasteful clicks, you save money and ensure your budget is spent on more profitable traffic.
  • Higher conversion rates: The traffic of your PPC landing pages comes from relevant searchers. This increases the chances of conversion.
  • Brand protection: By using negative keywords you can exclude queries you do not want to be associated with.

Most common ways to identify negative keywords

Search terms report

This report shows the actual search queries that triggered your ads. This also means you will be optimizing after the campaign's launch. Identify and add irrelevant queries to your negative keyword list.

Keyword research tools

There are many tools for doing keyword research like SEMRush, Ahrefs or Marketing Miner. You can also ask your SEO specialist to provide you with a full keyword research or define the negative keywords for you. Use these to identify negative keywords before you set up your campaign, improving performance right from the start.

Google keyword planner

This is a free tool that comes with your Google Ads account. It provides a list of keyword ideas based on your primary keyword. Identify and exclude irrelevant terms.

How to add negative keywords

To add negative keywords from a specific campaign:

  1. Navigate to the “Insights and reports” tab in Google Ads and click on “Search terms” to see which queries are triggering your ads.
  2. Select the irrelevant queries and add them as negative keywords. You can choose to apply them at the account, campaign, or ad group level.

Creating negative keyword lists:

To manage negative keywords efficiently, create lists that can be applied across multiple campaigns. This is especially useful for excluding broad categories of irrelevant queries. For example, if you sell new cars, you might want to create a list to exclude all terms related to used cars.

Epilog

Effective management of negative keywords is essential for maximizing the efficiency and profitability of your Google Ads campaigns. By regularly reviewing search query data, creating negative keyword lists, and developing advanced filtering techniques, you can ensure that your ads reach the most relevant audience while minimizing wasteful spending. This strategic approach not only saves money but also enhances the overall performance of your paid search efforts, driving better results and higher ROI.

TABLE OF CONTENT
Marek Turnhofer
PPC specialist & Content Creator
Link right icon
A monthly boost of marketing news, tips and tricks sent to your inbox.
We will make you a better marketer for free. Our newsletter will keep you updated!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related articles

Interviews, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.

Try Dotidot, the ultimate
performance marketing solution.

Create your account for free, no credit card needed.
Give Dotidot a try
Footer image