What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative Keywords are a way to tell Google Ads NOT to display your ads based on a list of keywords. These are useful in preventing ad clicks from search queries that are not relevant to the services you offer. For example, your “web design campaign” ads should only show to people looking for web services. Your negative keyword could be “tutorial”. As a result, a user looking for a “web design tutorial” won’t see your ad. The user isn’t likely to be interested in the paid services you are offering and is only after information.

Understanding Levels of Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can exist at both the campaign and ad group level. Furthermore, you can pre-populate a negative keyword list that can be applied to either level. This list will exist within a library in the Google Ads console. Where you should apply the negative keywords will depend on how granular you want them to be applied. For instance, if you are setting them at the campaign level, it will apply it to all ad groups within that campaign. In some cases, negative keywords applied at the ad group level are used to create ad groups for specific scenarios.

Planing a Negative Keyword Strategy

If you are setting a new Google Ads campaign, planning starts as soon as you begin searching for keywords. This can be done using the “Keyword Planning Tool” within your Google Ads account. As you are searching for keywords, the console will provide similar search terms. These can be a clue to what other users will be searching for. Choose the ones you don’t want your ads to appear for. Also, once you have compiled your list of negative keywords, determine what level (campaign/ad group) you want to apply them to.

Google Ads’ Match Types for
Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can set as one of three match types. These include Exact Match, Phrase Match, and Broad Match. What match type you want to set your negative keyword to, will depend on the type of search you’re trying to prevent from displaying. I have outlined each match type below.

Negative Broad Match

The definition from Google for a Broad Match is “A keyword setting that allows you to exclude your ad for searches where every word, in any order, of your keyword phrase appears in the search. Therefore, Your ad may still show for situations where some of the keywords appear.”

The broad match type will prevent your ad from displaying similar phrases and close variations of the negative keyword. These include abbreviations, singular and plural forms, acronyms, misspellings, and accents. However, the broad match type is not as granular and should be carefully monitored.

Negative Phrase Match

Google’s definition for a Negative Phrase Match is “A keyword setting that allows you to exclude your ad for searches that include the exact keyword phrase. As a result, searches may include additional words, and the ad won’t show as long as the keywords are included in the search in the same order.”

The negative phrase match type is useful for excluding a group of search terms that you want to prevent from displaying.
Consequently, the ad will not display as long the negative phrase appears as part of the overall search string in that exact order.

Negative Exact Match

Google defines a Negative Exact Match as “A keyword setting that allows you to exclude your ad for searches of the exact keyword phrase—without extra words. Therefore, your ad may still show for searches that include the keyword phrase with additional words.”

The negative exact match is useful when you want to exclude a search that would not be useful by itself. For instance, a wedding catering service that doesn’t offer specific individual products such as dresses or cakes runs a campaign. If you set a negative keyword as an exact match type for [wedding cake], any search for the words “wedding cake” would not render the ad.

Match Type Summary

In conclusion, a well thought out campaign will use a variety of match types to include or exclude the right combination of search terms. I recommended including more negative keyword possibilities to have a higher level of control over your campaign. In addition, as you monitor your AdWords campaign, you should adjust your negative keyword list when you observe any unwanted searches.

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