How to Use Negative Keywords in Paid Search Campaigns

Google ads dashboard - negative keywords

You’re probably already familiar with keywords, but what about negative keywords? And why on earth would you want to use them?

Today we’re going to share everything you need to know about negative keywords along with how to use them in paid search campaigns. 

How To Use Negative Keywords To Increase Conversions On Google

What are negative keywords?

Negative keywords tell Google which keywords your ad should NOT be displayed for. And as it turns out, they can be just as important as the words you do want your ad to show up for.

When you implement negative terms into your Google ads campaigns, you help make sure you’re only showing up for relevant searches. So not only does this help you filter out unwanted traffic, but it also means your ad budget is being far better spent. 

It’s also important to consider not all negative search terms are created equally. With that in mind, let’s talk about the different types to explain what we mean. 

Types of negative keywords

Negative broad match

This is the default for these keywords. It means your ad won’t show if the search contains ALL of your negative keyword terms…even if the terms aren’t in the same order. Additionally, your ad could still show if the search contains only some of your keyword terms.

So let’s say your negative broad match keyword is -purple vases. (You use a minus sign in front of the term the same way you do with other negative keywords)

It WOULD show up if someone searches “colorful vases” because it only includes one of the keywords. But if someone searched “vases purple, ” it would NOT show up because it still contains both of the negative keywords. 

Negative phrase match

A negative phrase-matched keyword is created by surrounding the search term with quotation marks. 

If the search term includes the negative keywords in the same order, the ad won’t be shown. 

Now let’s use -“purple vases” as your negative phrase match keyword. 

In this case, if someone searched “purple big vases”, your ad could still be shown because it still includes the search terms, just not in the same order as your negative phrase match keyword. But if they searched “big purple vases”, it would not be shown, because “purple vases” is still in order. 

Negative exact match

Negative exact match keywords are created like this -[term]. With this option, you exclude searches that contain the same words, without extra words. 

Again, let’s use -[purple vases] as your negative exact match keywords.

If someone searched “purple vases” your ad would NOT be displayed.

But if someone searched “big purple vases” your ad could be displayed, since it contains additional words. 

Important note on close variants

Negative keywords do NOT match to close variants. So just because you list “purple vases” as your negative keyword, Google won’t assume “purple vase” is off the table too! 

To account for different terminology and spelling errors, it’s useful to add close variants for your keywords. At the same time, consider including the plural and singular forms too. In the case of purple vases, close variants could include terms like “purple vase,” or “purple flower holder.” 

How to use negative keywords in paid search campaigns

Now that we’ve discussed the basics of negative keywords, let’s talk about using them to improve your ad performance! 

Step one

First, you need to determine what your negative keywords are. Many of them are common sense, but to get a more comprehensive list, there are some great tools to try out, including Wordtracker. You can also use the Query Report in your Google AdWords account.

Step two

Now it’s time to create your list of negative keywords. This includes making a list of negative broad match, negative phrase match, and negative exact match terms, along with using the correct wrapping and prefixes on each one. 

Step three

Head to your Google AdWords account and select Tools. Now click “Edit campaign Negative Keywords.”

Step four

Copy and paste your list of negative keywords into the ‘Enter words manually’ box. Next, you’ll click on the ‘Add Keywords’ button.

Step five

Finally, you can choose to apply negative terms are the ad group level and the camp gain level.

You can apply negative keywords at both ad group level and campaign level

Ad group level: Every ad in that group will not show for search queries containing that negative term.

Campaign level: Every ad in the campaign will not show for search queries containing that negative term.


Benefits of using negative keywords in paid search campaigns

Let’s wrap this up by recapping the benefits of implementing this strategy with your paid search campaigns:

Get help with your paid search campaigns

Negative keywords are just one integral part of an effective paid search campaign strategy. Blue Water Marketing can help you master this, along with other elements like cost-per-click, keyword and trend research, ad creation and copywriting, and so much more.

To learn more about our services, click here. Or, for a free consultation, give us a call today

Did you learn a lot from this post on improving your paid search campaigns?

Here are a few more to check out next: 

8 PPC Landing Page Dos And Don’ts You Can’t Miss

How To Use PPC Advertising To Build Your Business

9 On-Page SEO Factors You Need To Know To Rank Higher


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