Negative Keywords: Our Definitive Guide

Negative keywords are a crucial component of any pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign. Negative Keywords act like your campaign's bouncer, keeping out the irrelevant searches and focusing on the audience that aligns with your business goals. In this guide, we will explore what negative keywords are, negative keyword match types, how to find negative keywords, the benefits of using them in your campaigns, and examples of negative keywords. So, let's get started!

Grayvault Staff
October 17, 2023

Negative keywords are a crucial component of any pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign. Negative Keywords act like your campaign's bouncer, keeping out the irrelevant searches and focusing on the audience that aligns with your business goals. In this guide, we will explore what negative keywords are, negative keyword match types, how to find negative keywords, the benefits of using them in your campaigns, and examples of negative keywords. So, let's get started!

Definition: What are Negative Keywords?

Simply put, negative keywords are the keywords that you don't want your ads to show up for. They are the opposite of regular keywords, which are the words or phrases that you want your ads to show up for. Negative keywords were created to help digital marketers avoid showing their ads to people who are not interested in their product or service, resulting in money saved and improved click-through rate (CTR). 

Types of Negative Keywords

There are three types of negative keywords: broad match, phrase match, and exact match. Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

Broad Match

Broad match is the default match type in Google Ads which allows your ad to show for the widest range of keywords compared to other match types. Broad match negative keywords prevent your ads from showing up for any search query that contains the negative keyword. For example, if you add the negative keyword "free" to your campaign, your ads won't show up for any search query that contains the word “free.”

Phrase Match

Phrase match negative keywords prevent your ads from showing up for any search query that contains the negative keyword in the same order. You can add the negative keyword "instant coffee" as a phrase match negative keyword to your campaign. This will prevent your ads from showing up for any search query that contains the phrase "instant coffee," even if there are additional words before or after the phrase. For example, your ads won't show up for search queries like "organic instant coffee" or "instant coffee brands."

Exact Match

And finally, exact match negative keywords will prohibit your ads from showing up for any search query that exactly matches the negative keyword. This can include singular or plural forms, misspellings, abbreviations, and accents. For example, adding the negative keyword "decaf coffee" as an exact match negative keyword to a PPC campaign would prevent ads from showing up for the search query "decaf coffee," without any additional words or variations. This match type is more restrictive than phrase match negative keywords and can help eliminate specific search queries that are irrelevant to a business.

How to Identify Negative Keywords

To identify negative keywords, you can use various tools such as Google Ads Keyword Planner, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics. You can also use your own website's search data to identify negative keywords. A great negative keywords tool is to look for search terms that are irrelevant to your product or service, and add them as negative keywords to your campaign. Here are some steps you can take to identify negative keywords:

  1. Use the search terms report: The search terms report in Google Ads can help you gather ideas for terms to add as negative keywords. The report shows actual terms that a significant number of people searched for which triggered your ad. As you browse the report, you may spot some search terms that are related to, but aren’t exactly, what you sell. You can then add these terms as negative keywords to your campaign.

  1. Analyze search terms: Review the search terms report to understand which terms are irrelevant and which are not. To come up with the best outcome, you need to go to each term and analyze if it is non-performing or is irrelevant to your business.

  2. Use automated tools: Identifying negative keywords for large accounts or multiple client accounts can be tedious if done manually. An automated negative keywords discovery tool can save tons of time and effort for the PPC Manager. For example, Karooya's Negative Keywords Tool can help you identify negative keywords and save wasted ad spend on Google Ads.


  1. Look for irrelevant search terms: A great negative keywords tool is to look for search terms that are irrelevant to your product or service, and add them as negative keywords to your campaign.

Source: Google Ads Help

By identifying and adding negative keywords to your campaign, you can ensure that your ads are only shown to the most relevant audience, which can help improve your click-through rate and conversion rate.

Benefits of Using Negative Keywords in Your Campaigns

Using negative keywords in your PPC campaigns can be really helpful for a few reasons. Here are some benefits:

  • Saving money: Negative keywords can help you avoid showing your ads for irrelevant search queries, which can save you money on clicks that are unlikely to convert. That means you can use your budget more effectively and get better results.

  • Improving CTR: Negative keywords can help improve your click-through rate by preventing your ads from showing up for irrelevant search queries. This means that the people who do click on your ads are more likely to be interested in what you're offering.

  • Increasing conversions: By preventing your ads from showing up for irrelevant search queries, negative keywords can increase the likelihood that people who click on your ads will convert. This means that you can get more value from your PPC campaigns and see better results.

So, by using negative keywords, you can save money, improve your CTR, and increase your conversions. It's a win-win situation!

Examples of Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can be a superpower when it comes to PPC campaigns. Here are some examples of negative keywords you can use to get started with using negative keywords:

  • Irrelevant search terms: If you're selling shoes, you don't want your ads to show up for search queries that are not related to shoes. By adding negative keywords like "hats" and "shirts" to your campaign, you can prevent your ads from showing up for those irrelevant search queries.

  • Competitor brand names: You don't want your ads to show up for search queries that include your competitor's brand name. By adding their brand name as a negative keyword to your campaign, you can make sure that your ads are only shown to people who are interested in your business.

  • Negative adjectives: You don't want your ads to show up for search queries that include negative adjectives like "bad" or "worst." By adding those words as negative keywords to your campaign, you can prevent your ads from showing up for those negative search queries.

By using negative keywords, you can save money, improve your click-through rate, and increase your conversions. It's a simple but effective way to make sure that your ads are only shown to the most relevant audience and get the best results from your PPC campaigns.

Conclusion 

Negative keywords are a must-have for any PPC advertising campaign. They help you avoid showing your ads to people who are not interested in your product or service, which can save you money and improve your click-through rate. By using negative keywords, you can increase conversions and improve the overall effectiveness of your PPC advertising campaign. They're a filter that ensures your ads are only shown to the most relevant audience. By understanding how your target audience searches, you can make use of negative keywords to effectively reduce wasted clicks and improve your PPC campaigns.

Need additional guidance with leveraging negative keywords in your digital ad campaigns? Book a discovery call with us today and speak to one of our experts to get started! 

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