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What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are used to tell Google Ads to not display an ad based on a list of provided keywords. They are very useful to prevent users from clicking on an ad that is not relevant to the services being offered. A good example is a “web design campaign”. You would want to display ads only for looking at web services. A good example of a negative keyword would be “tutorial”. A user looking for a “web design tutorial” is most likely not going to be interested in the paid services you are offering.

Understanding Negative Keyword Levels

Negative keywords can exist at both the campaign and ad group level. 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 AdWords console. Where you should apply the negative keywords will depend on how granular you want them to be applied. 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 very specific search cases.

Planing a Negative Keyword Strategy

If you are setting a new Google Ads campaign, the negative keyword planning starts as soon as you start searching for keywords relevant to the services you offer. This can be done using the “Keyword Planning Tool” within your Google Ads account. As you are search for keywords the AdWords console will provide similar search terms. These can be a clue to what other users will be searching for, and ones you want to prevent from displaying on your campaign. Once you have complied your list of negative keywords, you will then determine what level (campaign / ad group) you want to apply them to.

Google AdWords Negative Keyword Match Types

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.

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. 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. Close variations include abbreviations, singular and plural forms, acronyms, misspellings, and accents. 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. 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. 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. 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. A good example would be a wedding catering service that does not offer certain individual wedding products such as dresses or cakes. If you set a negative keyword as exact match type for [wedding cake], any search for the words “wedding cake” would not render the ad.

Match Type Summary

A well thought out campaign will use a variation of match types to include or exclude the right combination of search terms. It is recommended to include more negative keyword possibilities to have a higher level of control over you campaign. As you monitor your AdWords campaign, you should adjust your negative keyword list when you observe any unwanted searches.

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