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  • Writer's pictureSandeep Raut

Negative Keywords: What They Are & How to Use Them



Negative Keywords: What They Are & How to Use Them


What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are specific words or phrases that you add to your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to prevent your ads from being shown to users who search for or browse content containing those terms. By using negative keywords, you can refine your targeting, reduce wasted ad spend, and improve the relevance of your ad campaigns.


Real-World Examples of Negative Keywords

Using negative keywords effectively can significantly improve the performance of your PPC campaigns by filtering out irrelevant traffic. Here are some real-world examples across different industries to illustrate how negative keywords can be applied:

1. E-commerce Store Selling High-End Apparel

Negative Keywords:

  • "cheap clothes"

  • "discount fashion"

  • "free clothing"

  • "used apparel"

  • "bargain outfits"

Explanation: If an online store specializes in high-end fashion, they wouldn't want their ads showing up for searches related to cheap or discounted clothing. Adding these negative keywords ensures they attract customers looking for premium products.


2. Luxury Real Estate Agency

Negative Keywords:

  • "cheap houses"

  • "affordable apartments"

  • "low-cost homes"

  • "free listings"

  • "government housing"

Explanation: A luxury real estate agency wants to attract clients looking for upscale properties. By using negative keywords related to low-cost or government-subsidized housing, they can avoid clicks from people who are not their target audience.


Why Are Negative Keywords Important?

  1. Improved Ad Relevance: Negative keywords ensure that your ads are only shown to users who are genuinely interested in your products or services, increasing the likelihood of clicks and conversions.

  2. Cost Efficiency: By excluding irrelevant searches, you prevent wasted clicks, which helps to optimize your budget.

  3. Higher Click-Through Rate (CTR): Ads that are more relevant to the searcher's intent tend to have higher CTRs, which can positively impact your Quality Score.

  4. Better ROI: By minimizing irrelevant traffic, you can achieve a better return on investment (ROI) from your ad spend.


Types of Negative Keywords

  1. Broad Match Negative Keywords: Prevent your ad from showing if the search query contains all the negative keyword terms, regardless of order.

  2. Phrase Match Negative Keywords: Prevent your ad from showing if the search query contains the exact phrase of your negative keyword terms in the same order.

  3. Exact Match Negative Keywords: Prevent your ad from showing if the search query exactly matches the negative keyword term.


How to Use Negative Keywords

Identify Irrelevant Searches:

  • Use search term reports from your PPC platform (like Google Ads) to see what queries triggered your ads. Identify any irrelevant or non-converting terms.

  • Analyze historical data and customer feedback to pinpoint common irrelevant queries.

Create a List of Negative Keywords:

  • Group your negative keywords logically (e.g., by campaign or ad group) to keep them organized.

  • Consider both broad and specific terms to cover various potential irrelevant searches.

Add Negative Keywords to Your Campaigns:

  • In Google Ads, go to your campaign or ad group settings.

  • Navigate to the "Keywords" section and select "Negative Keywords."

  • Add your negative keywords, specifying the match type (broad, phrase, or exact).

Regularly Update Your Negative Keywords List:

  • Continuously monitor search term reports to identify new negative keywords.

  • Regularly review and update your list to adapt to changing search behaviors and campaign goals.

Use Negative Keyword Lists:

  • Create shared negative keyword lists to apply across multiple campaigns, saving time and ensuring consistency.

  • Use lists for common negative terms that apply to all campaigns (e.g., "free," "cheap" if you don't offer free or discounted products).

Leverage Negative Keyword Tools:

  • Use tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to discover potential negative keywords.

  • These tools can help you find variations and related terms that you might not have considered.

Best Practices for Using Negative Keywords

  1. Be Specific: Avoid overly broad negative keywords that might exclude valuable traffic. For example, if you sell premium shoes, "cheap shoes" might be a better negative keyword than just "cheap."

  2. Review Regularly: Continuously analyze performance data to refine your negative keyword strategy.

  3. Align with Campaign Goals: Ensure that your negative keyword strategy aligns with your overall campaign objectives and target audience.

  4. Use Ad Group-Level Negatives: For more granular control, add negative keywords at the ad group level when specific terms apply only to certain product lines or services.


Negative keywords are a powerful tool in your PPC arsenal, helping to refine your targeting, reduce wasted spend, and improve the overall effectiveness of your campaigns. By carefully selecting and regularly updating your negative keywords, you can ensure that your ads reach the most relevant audience, maximizing your ROI and enhancing your campaign performance.

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