Everything You Want to Know About Negative Keywords
Marketing & Advertising

Everything You Want to Know About Negative Keywords

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Many businesses running paid Search campaigns struggle with overheads. It comes as the number of clicks on their websites far outweighs conversions. This excess and meaningless traffic proves costly in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.

In situations like these, individuals searching the web for a particular product or service wander onto websites just to find out it’s not what they want. It transpires when there are phrases or words connected to the search that isn’t relevant to the advertiser or their product. Pay-per-click marketing agencies play an important role here.

The mechanism we use to clean away the excess in the scenario mentioned above is known as a negative keyword. In simple terms, they’re the exact opposite of keywords, and for them, you don’t want your Ad displayed.

In this article, we take a closer look at the Negative version, how they work, and their functions.

What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords, as defined by a publication in Google Answer, are specific words that prevent your advert from being triggered in a specific search with a particular word or phrase. In Search Engine Advertising (SEA), it’s also referred to as a negative match.

Types of Negative Matches

Negative Broad Match

A keyword setting that can occur in any sequence in a search just as long as all words are present. For example, terms like ice bucket as a negative match in this scenario will block ads for bucket ice, silver ice buckets, ice bucket sales, ice-cold buckets.

On the other hand, if any of the words are missing from the surfers’ input, your website gets triggered, e.g., buckets for sale, arctic ice, how to store buckets.

Phrase Match

The phrase typically goes between quotation marks. When the search matches the term in the same order that it occurs inside the punctuations; it skips past the site.

In this instance, the words ice bucket will block strings like: “Antique Ice Bucket”, “Ice bucket sales” and, “what to use as an ice bucket.”

Exact Match

For an exact match to be effective, it’ll need to be a replica of a keyword before the search blocks the listing in-question. Only if the term is typed in as “ice bucket” will it trigger the negative keywords’ effect.

How Are Negative Keywords Different From Other Keywords?

  • The correct use of keywords ensures that the ad will appear in search results. Its negative counterpart has the opposite outcome without neutralising the effect of the keyword.
  • The negative keyword types ( broad, exact, and phrase ) work differently from their positive counterparts. These require a lot more specificity.
  • In the case of broad negative keyword matches; You’ll need to add synonyms, singular or plural versions of the word, misspellings, and close variants of the term to be useful.
  • With the use of negative keywords, lists are drawn up and are applied to multiple campaigns, the same will not work with the positive versions as it may cause keyword cannibalisation.
  • Bidding keywords are costly and incur a charge. Its negative counterparts create no expenses. Advertisers can therefore use this tool liberally to offset the costs of the bidding keywords.
  • In fact, negative matches serve to hone and refine the search for both the surfer and the vendor.

Examples of Negative Keywords

A business sells lawnmowers and doesn’t want its ads to appear in the results of the following queries.

  • Second-hand lawnmowers
  • Gas-powered lawnmowers
  • German gardening brands
  • Lawnmowers for rent
  • Affordable lawn and garden services

To prevent repetitive and unwanted visits from web surfers seeking the above; the business must add “Second hand” and “Gas Powered” as negative keywords. The latter needs to be done in phrase form and the same order.

  • Query
  • Negative Keyword/s
  • Match Type
  • Second-Hand lawnmowers.
  • “Second Hand”
  • Phrase
  • Gas Powered Lawnmowers.
  • “Gas Powered”
  • Phrase
  • German lawnmower brands.
  • German
  • Broad

The word “German” however, will fit into the broad match category. The business has nothing to do with Germany or German brands. Everything that pertains to or surrounds the term or word gets excluded from the search results.

Additionally, to prevent the advert from being listed in a search for garden services and rentals, the advertiser would have to add the exact phrase as negative keywords;

  • Querry
  • Negative Keywords
  • Match Type
  • Lawnmowers for rent
  • Lawnmowers for rent
  • Exact
  • Affordable lawn and garden services
  • Affordable lawn and garden services
  • Exact

Shortlisting keywords for different accounts and campaigns can be time-consuming. There are a lot of words making up search phrases that you don’t want to get through to your site. The problem with attempting this manually or as they would say in IT circles; with “brute force” is the risk of human error.

Thankfully there’re automated negative keyword discovery tools on the market today. The use of which will make the task a lot easier than doing it manually.

Google Ads


Before we get into it, let’s ensure we understand Ads and how it works.

As a testimony to the search engine’s supremacy, it sees 2.3 million questions and queries per second. The majority of information rendered as answers consists of Google Ads. These are clearly marked and appear at the top and bottom of every page.

This element of online marketing is highly effective at getting a brand and their product exposure where it matters most.

What is Google Ads


It is a marketing feature of the Google network which charges for its services. The advertisers using this feature sponsor their efforts and gain priority placement on relevant search results. Adverts posted through google ads also see exposure on the Google Display network and the Adsense Program.

Google Ads, formerly known as AdWords, is an online advertising platform that advertisers use to market their content, brands, and sites. It works through defined keywords to attract traffic or leads to a particular webpage.

In these cases, the cost of a single campaign is usually motivated by competing bids for the same keyword. The prices get driven up as the bidding service acts in the same way as an auction. Only the highest offers get listed in searches.

How It Works

By matching relevant advertising words to the AdWords’ list, the advertiser optimises traffic onto their web pages without having to rent inventory space on other sites.

Marketers using this mechanism usually pay per click generated from these popular keywords. It helps advertisers as they only pay for real traffic onto the site. The Publisher, in turn, can monetise the service accordingly. Adwords have safeguards in place to prevent fraudulent clicks.

The most useful feature of Google Adwords is its capability to target and direct its ads. It can exclude specific IP addresses and focus on targeted languages and locations.

When setting out on a marketing project, a company needs to decide what its goals are and the networking that works best for it.

The Types of Ads using Google Adwords


Search Campaigns


A search campaign is strictly text-based and appears on Googles’ page results as well as sister sites like Webopedia.

Display Campaigns

These are based on graphics but also include text. Display campaigns operate on Google Display networks using Google AdSense to generate revenue. The combination of a Display campaign and a Search campaign will work together as a dynamic duo if handled correctly.

Video Campaigns

Video Campaigns use a combination of text graphics and video in their projects and get displayed on YouTube. Due to increasing competition for popular keywords, Search campaigns have become more expensive. There are fewer bids for Adwords-for-Videos, resulting in the cost for them being a cheaper option.

Shopping Campaigns

Shopping campaigns focus on existing listings of retail products in the Google Merchant Center. The latter facilitates the process of running a marketing project through Adwords. The use of which makes thing way easier than if you were to attempt a Shopping campaign without the Google Merchant Center

Three main goals blend the networks mentioned above ( Google Merchant Center, Youtube, and Google Adsense) to target different audiences.


The main element in operation here is the use of visuals on Youtube and Google platforms to expand their audiences.


The campaigns that use this combination embrace the Search, Display, Google Play, and Youtube to encourage app downloads.



Ads automatically adjust to Google Search, Google Display, and Google maps networks allowing a hands-off approach to marketing.

All of the above are reliant on AdWords in some way shape or form. For the Adwords, all clicks on keywords convert into revenue; this is not the case with the advertiser.

The words on auction often become expensive. For the business using the service, every click, whether it becomes a sale or not, is an overhead.

How to Add Negative Keywords in Google Ads

Tip: Negative keywords work differently in display and video marketing projects than they do in Search campaigns

Adding Individual Keywords to Groups and Campaigns

Step #1

Go to the campaign that you’re working on and select “Keywords” and then click on the “Negative Keywords” tab.

Step #2

Click on the plus sign on the top left-hand corner of the page then add keywords or create a new list. Click on “Add Negative Keyword” and then select add “Group Negative Keyword” or “Campaign Negative Keyword”.

Step #3

If prompted, select the destination for the negative keyword, then click “Okay”.

Step #4

Enter the word or phrase into the “Edit” panel.

It’s the negative Keyword campaign you’re after, and you want to ensure none of them triggers your advertisement. You want to make sure all undesired synonyms go onto this list as well as phrases that have a different meaning.

Adding Multiple Negative Keywords

The make multiple changes tool doesn’t permit adding campaigns and group negative keywords at the same time. You would have to choose to add “Negative Keywords” or Campaign “Negative Keywords”.

Step #1

Select Keywords and Targeting, then Keywords, and then Negative.

Step #2

Click on “Make Multiple Changes”.

Step #3

Selecting “My Data” includes columns for campaigns and Ad Groups. Alternatively, click on “Use Selected Destinations”.

If you decide on “Use Selected Destinations”; click on “Campaign Level Negative Keywords” or add “Ad Group-Level Negative Keywords”.

Step #4

Paste or type “Negative Keywords” into the grid then select “Process”.

Step #5

The make multiple changes tool will indicate the number of changes. You can now click Finish and review the work you’ve done.

Step #6

Whatever customisations you’ve made to your campaign can now be reviewed as your changes are pending. To add the pending modifications to the account select “keep” and to reverse them select “reject”.


What Is the Function of Negative Keywords In an Ad?

A negative keyword function is the opposite of its positive counterpart. It serves to direct excess and irrelevant traffic away from a site to avert costs and clicks that don’t translate to sales.

An additional outcome is saving the web surfer time by preventing him/her from inadvertently wandering onto the wrong site. It spares the advertisers’ pocket as every click gets charged.

How Do They Help Content Get Exposure?

Negative keywords bolster Search Engine Advertising (SEA) by defining the excess from the important, cutting away unnecessary forays into unrelated sites. They hone the process down to a fine point, making it valuable for both the web surfer and the advertiser.

Does Google Charge for Negative Keywords?

Google does not charge for negative keywords, and hence they are useful to offset the cost of their positive counterparts. You can apply them quite liberally.

What Is the Relationship Between Negative Keywords and Google Adwords?

A regular keyword connects a searcher to the relevant sites and products through the terms and phrases he or she uses. The function of the negative keyword is to keep the search results as relevant as possible.

Can I Create My Own Negative Keyword Lists?


Creating negative keyword lists is relatively easy, and there is a step by step processes to guide the user along.

The complication comes in when you try to load all the negative keywords you can think of, but they’re still not enough. Fortunately, there are generators on the market that will perform this task for you; a lot of them come free.


Keywords may be of utmost importance in Search Engine Advertising, but so are negative matches. The latter serves to clear the excess and refine searches ensuring that when people look for a product, they get what they seek. The implementation of this mechanism saves the searcher time and marketer money.


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