Google Ads Best Practices – Negative Keywords

When it comes to ensuring that your Google Ads campaigns run smoothly and efficiently, few things are more important than using negative keywords effectively.

What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are your way of telling Google things you do not want your ads to show for. Negative keywords also have match types, just like keywords you are bidding on. Broad, phrase and exact match negative keywords can all be used, depending on the circumstances.

As a lot of our work is in the finance sector, let’s take a look at a real example. If we are bidding on the keyword “car insurance” your ad could show when a person searched for “car insurance jobs” or “bad car insurance companies” And when you consider how expensive keywords can be in the insurance space, having irrelevant searches triggering your ads can soon rack up the bills.

To stop appearing for these kinds of searches, you would want to add “jobs” and “bad” as negative keywords.

Negative keywords can be added at either the ad group level, the campaign level, or at the account level.

What this means is that if you don’t want any ads in your account to show for “bad car insurance companies” you could add the negative keyword “bad” at the campaign level.

Diving a little deeper, however, and things aren’t quite so straight-forward. Say for example within this account we do want our ads to show for “car insurance for people with bad credit” by simply adding “bad” at the account level, we would actually stop appearing for potentially relevant searches.

So in this example, you would have two options. Option one, add the negative keyword “bad” at either the ad group or the campaign level where appropriate, or option two, add the entire negative keyword “bad car insurance companies” as an exact match at the account level.

Both of these options have their pros and cons. Option one would require more work if you had to add it in every other campaign or ad group and option two would only block that exact search term, so you may still find your ads showing for slight variations on that search, “bad car insurance companies in London” for example.

How Can You Find Out Which Search Terms Are Triggering Your Ads?

You can see which search terms are triggering your keywords by looking in the search terms report. This can be found underneath the “Keywords” tab. You can look at search terms for the whole account, a whole campaign or for an individual ad group.

If you cannot see the keyword displayed, simply click Columns > Modify Columns > Attributes and tick “Keywords”

Now you are able to see what a user is actually searching and which keyword has been triggered.

How Can You Use Negative Keywords Effectively?

Understanding negative keyword match types and at what level to set them on is vital in the fight for Google Ads efficiency. Whilst they are hugely helpful in stopping your ads appear for the wrong searches, set negative keywords at the wrong level and you could be doing more harm than good.

If your Google Ads account is big, with a lot of campaigns and ad groups, then a good rule of thumb is, if in doubt, always add negative keywords at the ad group level. Whilst on it’s own, this could simply push an irrelevant search to another irrelevant ad group or campaign, at least you won’t be blocking potentially profitable keywords elsewhere in your account.

Also, you don’t only use negative keywords for searches that are irrelevant for your business. You can also use them to help ensure that you drive a user to the exact ad you want them to see for the search term.

In some circumstances, Google may show an ad from another ad group, even if it may not be the most suitable. So by adding negative keywords strategically at either the ad group or campaign level, you could be helping push it to an ad that is more relevant. This in turn increases the relevancy and the likelihood of the user clicking your ad, and converting as the ad is linked to the most relevant page.


In conjunction with utilising the correct keyword match type strategy, making full use of negative keywords is vital in ensuring your Google Ads campaigns remain efficient. Learn at what level to use them most efficiently and what match types are relevant to your campaigns and you will undoubtedly see a marked improvement in performance and ROI.

If you would like any further information or have any questions about negative keywords, or in fact anything to do with Google Ads efficiency, feel free to get in touch with us.

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