Your Ultimate Guide To Negative Keywords

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You might be asking yourself what are negative keywords in Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising and why is there so much fuss about them?

Negative keywords are an important segment of any PPC campaign. One of the ways to think about negative keywords is to imagine a police officer stopping the chaos and pointing busy traffic into the right direction.

According to Google the definition for a negative keyword is:

”A type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.”

In simple terms, the main purpose of negative keywords is to help people searching the web get the most relevant results and companies advertising their services or products get the right type of relevant traffic. If properly implemented negative keywords will stop ads being shown for unrelated searches.

In terms of how to use negative keywords, they are quite similar to regular keywords and can be added to a negative keyword list as broad match, phrase or exact match.

Negative Broad Match

If you use negative broad match keyword your ad will not show for search queries when the entire term is typed.

If for example, your negative broad match keyword is “Car insurance” the ad will perform as follows:

Example of broad match negative keywords

Negative Phrase Match

Negative phrase match keywords will stop ads from showing when the search keywords are typed in the same order. If for example, you add a phrase match negative keywords such as “Car insurance”, the search queries that contain that phrase will not trigger the ad.

Example of phrase match negative keywords

Negative Exact Match

On the other hand, if you add exact match negative keywords “Car insurance”, the ads will not show only if a person types that exact phrase with no extra words.

Example of exact match negative keywords

Negative Keyword Levels

Negative keywords can be assigned at the account, campaign or ad group level. If the negative keywords are assigned at the account level, then all the ads in that account will not be showing for those particular keywords. The same goes for campaign level, the ads will not be shown for that particular campaign while the ads will be eligible to show in other campaigns within that account. If we apply the same reasoning, when the negative keywords are added at the group level, the ads will not be eligible to show for only that particular ad group.

Google Ads account structure

This kind of negative keyword level structure gives many benefits when organising PPC campaigns as it gives the option of blocking traffic in the best possible way. The account level allows us to add negative keywords that are applicable to the whole account. For example, let’s think of the car insurer. What would be the appropriate account level negative keywords? What about, bike insurance, motorcycle insurance, scooter insurance…

The same car insurance company will probably have different campaigns within their account. One campaign might be targeting young drivers while another could be targeting caravans. In this case, the negative keywords that could be applied to the young driver campaign are those that are covering searches for caravan insurance and opposite.

As you might guess the ad group level negative keywords will reduce the traffic further. This allows us to block the traffic according to the structure of our ad groups and keywords.

Are you wondering how to choose appropriate negative keywords for your campaign?

When we know how to use the negative keywords the next step is to find the suitable negative keywords for your campaign. Try to think of the terms similar to your keywords but unrelated to your products/services or just the words or phrases that are not applicable such as “free” if you are not offering anything for free.

Also, think of the search intent of users behind the search queries.

For example, if you are a car insurance broker and you are bidding on the keyword:

+best +car +insurance

you might want to add negative keywords:

“best car for insurance”

as the person is not yet searching for car insurance but researching which car to buy.

In addition, you might want to add negative keywords across different ad groups in order to make the traffic even more relevant.

To get more ideas, check the search term report and exclude irrelevant search terms by adding them as negative keywords.

How to find the search terms report in Google Ads
Be aware that adding too many negative keywords can have an adverse impact on your campaign reach so be careful when choosing them

How to create your first negative keyword list and add negative keywords

The process of creating a negative keyword list and adding negative keywords is quite straightforward. There are two ways of doing it:

  1. Click on the TOOLS tab at the top right corner
  2. Under shared library click NEGATIVE KEYWORD LISTS
  3. Click on the blue PLUS SIGN (Add negative keyword list)
  4. Choose a list name and add negative keywords
  5. Click SAVE
Where to find negative keyword lists in your Google Ads account


  1. On the left side of the menu click on KEYWORDS
  2. Click on NEGATIVE KEYWORDS tab on top
  3. Click on the PLUS SIGN
  4. Choose “Add negative keywords or create new list”
  5. Click add to CAMPAIGN
  6. Type or paste chosen keywords (one per line)
  7. Check the box “Add negative keywords or create new list” and name your list
  8. Click Save
Negative Keywords at Campaign Level

As previously mentioned continuous monitoring and adding of negative keywords is one of the crucial parts in increasing conversion rate and click through rate with the ultimate aim of improving ROI. Our team of Google certified professionals are constantly checking the search terms reports and researching negative keywords for our clients.

If you feel you are wasting your marketing budget or need help with Google Ads or Social Media Advertising, feel free to get in touch and our team of digital marketing experts will do their best to help you.

Want to get more leads/customers without increasing your ad spend?

By targeting campaigns better, by testing ads, by testing landing pages and by continually optimising every aspect of the campaigns we run, you can get a better return on your ad spend.

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