A comprehensive guide to negative keywords


Guide to negative keywords

With PPC campaigns, negative keywords play an essential role in maximizing your return on investment in your Google Ads campaigns. The key mechanism of negative keywords is they allow you to exclude particular search terms from your campaigns, filtering out the rubbish so you can focus on targeting search queries that really matter to your potential customers.

By eliminating clicks from people who are not going to buy anything, really makes a difference to your bottom line and can save you a tonne of money from wasted spend.

In this article we are going to deep dive into all things negative keywords, you’ll discover:

What negative keywords are

How to research and find negative keywords

How to use them in your PPC campaigns

What is the purpose of negative keywords?

The main purpose of negative keywords is to refine your targeting. A lot of advertisers starting out get caught up in what keywords they should be targeting and completely forget about negative keywords. Negative keywords are designed to focus on what not to target, allowing you to exclude search terms from your campaigns so you can focus only on the traffic that matters.

The last thing you want to be doing is wasting money on irrelevant clicks on people that are browsing for something completely different and unaligned with your business. This is where negative keywords come in, by filtering out these search terms, your ad will not appear to the audience that would not be interested in the first place.

Let’s say for example that you are a mechanic and specialize in servicing European cars. You may target terms such as Audi car servicing broadly. The problem with this is that these ads may also trigger for “buy Audi” or “Audi dealership servicing”. To get around this issue, you can use negative keywords to remove searches that include buy or dealership from the search query. By adding these as negative keywords ensures that your ad will not appear for these kind of search queries.

By creating a negative keyword list in Google Ads, it tells Google that these words are not relevant to your business, products, or services. You can also use keywords to weed out people that are not in the purchasing mindset and are just looking for something free or a discount. It all depends on the search terms that you are the most relevant to your business and ensuring that your budget is not wasted elsewhere.

How to research and find negative keywords

Negative keywords are a balancing act. The tricky part is that you do not want to be adding too many keywords that you then run the risk of losing potential customers. With your search campaigns it is important to look at the search queries (not the keywords) to determine whether your keywords are triggering irrelevant searches. There are a number of ways you can work this out, a few examples are below.

keyword bar

Use Google Keyword Planner

Type the keyword that you would like to target, and it will come up with a bunch of suggested keywords. On this list you will see a bunch of keywords that are most likely irrelevant to your business and ones you know you don’t want to target. These kinds of keywords are good candidates for including in your negative keyword list.

Use the search terms report

The search terms report lists the queries that people typed into Google to trigger your PPC advertisements. You can use this to build up a list of both positive and negative keywords.

Think outside of the box

Does your business have the same name as a movie or even a band? Sometimes brand names can also trigger for famous people, books, songs, movies and other completely unrelated search terms.

Run a google search

Use your primary keywords and have a look at the organic search results. If anything comes up that appears completely irrelevant, then add the associated keywords to your negative keywords list.

How to add negative keywords

Once you have set up your PPC campaign, adding your negative keyword list is one of the first tings you should do. You might have solid headlines and ad copy and have also picked the right keywords, but it can all be for nothing if they are triggering for the wrong search queries. Luckily, adding negative keywords to your campaigns is relatively easy and straight forward.

Before you add them to your campaign, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself. There are two levels where you can apply negative keywords.

The ad group level: Tells google that you do not want to show your ads for negative keywords in the corresponding ad group.

The campaign level: Tells google that you do not want to show your ads for negative keywords for all the corresponding ad groups in the campaign.

These two levels allow you to have some more flexibility and control.

To ad your negative keywords to your ad groups or campaigns, follow these simple steps.

  1. Navigate to your selected campaign or ad group.
  2. Click on Keywords in the side menu bar
  3. Click Negative Keywords in the side menu bar.
  4. Click the + KEYWORDS button to add your negative keywords.
  5. Click save.

It really is that simple.


Negative keywords are a powerful tool in your PPC toolbox that are unfortunately commonly underutilized. Building an effective negative keyword list should be the first thing you look at to refine and optimize your PPC campaigns. Using them effectively can help to stop them from showing to irrelevant search terms, which will save you money and resource in the long run so you can spend it to get new business.

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