The Art of Adding Negative Keywords {updated 3/3/20}

One of the quickest and most effective ways for advertisers to optimize their Google Ads account is with the proper use of negative keywords.  A powerful optimizing tool for both Shopping and Search campaigns, negative keywords work to block unwanted search terms from triggering ads to be shown.

Let’s quickly review what Google keywords are before looking at negative keywords.

For Google shopping campaigns, there are no keywords. Google matches keywords found in an advertiser’s product titles and descriptions and matches them to related user queries. The lack of keywords makes using negative keywords especially in shopping campaigns a must for advertisers to prevent product ads from appearing for irrelevant searches.

Google search campaigns are more straightforward. Keywords are created within the Google ads account added by the advertiser and these keywords fully dictate which search terms trigger ads to appear. Negative keywords are still important especially if advertisers are using match types other than Exact Match.

Currently, Google supports five different types of keywords for Search campaigns: Exact Match, Phrase Match, Broad Match, Broad Match Modifier and Negative keywords.

Regardless of campaign type, negative keywords have the top hierarchy of the different types of keywords.  Adding a negative keyword to an advertiser’s account, campaign or ad group will block all ads from being displayed even if that same keyword is also listed as one of the other keyword types for a search campaign. 

However, although the negative keyword will block ads from being shown, having a keyword as both a negative and either an exact, phrase, broad or broad match modifier keyword in a search campaign will trigger a Google alert and is not recommended.

How Do You Know Which Negative Keywords to Add?

In order to determine if it is necessary to add a negative keywords, review your search terms report in order to discover which keywords are driving traffic.

Effectively using Search Terms is an entirely different subject which I have dedicated another entire article – Keyword Search Terms – Unlocking The AdWords Puzzle.

For now, we are going to assume you have a list of negative keywords you would like to add. Common negative keywords across accounts include keywords such as: free, coupon, pictures, cheap, wholesale, etc. Therefore, we will use these keywords in our example.

Adding Negative Keywords At The Ad Group & Campaign Levels

Once you have your list of negative keywords they can be added for the ad group, campaign or account level.  We will look at how to properly add negative keywords at all 3 levels and strategies to implement.

The process for adding negative keywords to either the ad group and campaign levels is identical and will depend on which whether you are viewing the campaign or ad group level.

In order to add negative keywords at either the ad group or campaign level, first navigate to either the ad group or campaign you wish to add the negative keyword(s) and click on the Negative Keywords link in the left hand column below the Keywords link. (You may need to click on the small arrow to the left of the Keywords link in order to view the Negative Keywords).

The negative keywords view will show all existing negative keywords currently applied to this campaign including which negative keyword, where they are added to, the level (account, campaign or ad group) and the match type for the negative keyword.

In order to add additional negative keywords at either the campaign or ad group, an advertiser will first click on the blue plus button.

This will open a new window where advertisers can add their desired negative keywords.

Here advertisers are allowed to either manually enter new negative keywords or apply a negative keyword list (we will discuss later in this article). In addition, advertisers can decide whether to add the negative keywords to either the campaign or ad group level.

If adding manually, here you will add the negative keywords. By including either within brackets, quotes or with no punctuation will determine the negative keyword match type.

Exact Negative – Brackets – Excludes all searches from appearing that contain that exact search.

Phrase Negative – Quotes – Excludes all searches from appearing that contain the negative phrase.

Broad Negative – Nothing – Excludes all searches from appearing that contains that word or words.

Adding Negative Keywords At The Account Level

Adding a list of negative keywords at the account level will limit ads being triggered throughout the account. 

A distinct advantage of adding negative keywords at the account level is a quick and semi-easy way to limit unwanted traffic for generic terms that advertisers wish never to be able to trigger their ads across their account.

A distinct advantage of adding negative keywords at the account level is a quick and semi-easy way to limit unwanted traffic for generic terms that advertisers wish never to be able to trigger their ads across their account.

Then, click on blue plus button to add a new negative keyword list or click on an existing list to modify the keywords currently contained within a list.

To add a new negative keyword list, click on the blue plus button; add your negative keywords; name the list and then save.

Once you create or when you using and existing negative keyword list, advertisers can easily apply the list to multiple campaigns.

To apply to multiple campaigns, first click on the negative keyword list you would like to apply. Then, you will be either allowed to add more negative keywords or to apply the list to one or more existing campaigns. In order to add to campaigns, click on the blue ‘Apply to Campaigns’.

This will open a new window where you can select campaigns to apply your negative keyword list. Simply select the box next to the campaign or campaigns that you wish to add the list and click the ‘Done’ button.

Remember that you can also apply negative keyword list directly within the campaign where you add individual negative keywords (see instructions above).

Final Word

The proper use of negative keywords is a powerful tool in optimizing an advertiser’s campaign.  By examining past account performance, an advertiser can find a list of keywords that if properly implemented will stop ads from being displayed for non-relevant search terms. 

Properly optimized, keeping up to date with negative keywords is a best-practice that not only can substantially save ad budget, but will also make your ads more relevant thus helping improve overall metrics in an account.

Keep in mind with negative keywords that once you are done you are not done. The use of negative keywords is NOT a set it and forget it technique. 

In order to get the most out of an ads budget, a properly optimized account will need an advertiser continuing to search, discover and implementing new negative keywords on an ongoing basis throughout the lifetime of the account.

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Happy Marketing!
Andy Splichal

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Splichal is the founder of True Online Presence, the founder of The Academy of Internet Marketing, author and certified online marketing strategist with twenty plus years of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues. To find more information on Andy Splichal, visit www.trueonlinepresence.com or read The Full Story on his blog, blog.trueonlinepresence.com.