What Is a Negative Keyword?

Aaron Haynes
Jul 26, 2021

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Identifying your most profitable keywords and developing relevant ad groups, ads, and landing pages based on those keywords is critical to paid search success. This allows you to reach out to potential customers who are looking for products and services similar to yours.

However, unless you have unlimited funds, it is equally important to identify and eliminate keywords—and thus, searchers—who aren’t looking for the products or services you offer.
Unfortunately, most Google Ads and Microsoft campaigns end up costing far more than they should because advertisers end up paying for clicks that never deliver a return on their often substantial investment. For some, this is enough to cause them to discontinue their use of search networks.

So, how do you avoid falling into the trap of wasted ad spend?
Obviously, you use negative keywords!

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What negative keywords are
  • How to remove negative Google keywords
  • The benefits of negative keyword lists
  • How to find negative keywords
  • How they can boost the value and relevancy of your paid search marketing campaigns.
  • Plus a lot more!

Let’s begin.

What Is a Negative Keyword?

A negative keyword is a type of PPC match (or keyword targeting option) that is available on most search engine advertising systems, including Google AdWords. Marketers may use negative keywords to selectively filter who sees your ad depending on their search queries.

Effective paid search management entails constantly increasing the terms on which you bid while simultaneously refining the keywords on which you currently bid in order to optimize relevance and, as a consequence, ROI. The second component does not only pause underperformers; it also eliminates some search queries completely.

Negative keywords allow you to do precisely that, ensuring that your advertising only reaches the greatest possible demographic.

Negative keywords, like real keywords, may be given at the account level, campaign level, or ad group level and come in three types: broad, exact, and phrase. Understanding how these match types operate is critical if you want to get the most out of negative keywords in your Google Ads and Bing Ads accounts.

Why Are Negative Keywords Important?

Negative keywords are crucial since they allow you to:

Save Money — You save a lot of money by filtering out searchers who aren’t a good fit for your business by avoiding paying for meaningless clicks. You may also avoid bidding against yourself, cannibalizing impressions, and diluting your keyword-level data by not bidding against yourself.

Create More Targeted Ad Groups — By removing terms that aren’t relevant to your business, you may improve the relevancy of your ad groups. Small, closely linked ad groups allow you to create a single message that addresses the whole set of keywords.

Increase your click-through rate (CTR) — Ensuring that your advertisements are not running against inappropriate searches exposes your account to fewer uninterested impressions, resulting in a higher percentage of consumers clicking on your ad.

In fact, research has it that paid Google search campaigns have an 11.38% CTR.

Increase Your Conversion Rate – Using negative keyword terms will ensure that your advertisements do not appear for certain phrases that you know will not convert, such as competitor names or terms that suggest a complete lack of commercial purpose.

Although a search query may have more words than your negative phrase match keyword, if it contains the precise phrase you’ve chosen, your budget is protected.

Negative Keyword FAQ

How do I find negative keywords?

Examining real user query data based on how people search is one of the best methods to identify negative keywords. This is possible using the Google Keyword Planner and the Search Terms Report.

  1. Using Keyword Planner to Find Negative Keywords

The Google Ads Keyword Planner is designed to assist you in finding keywords to bid on, not to eliminate them. (Google doesn’t mind if you spend a few extra bucks on unnecessary clicks.) However, it may also be used to generate negative keyword suggestions for your list.


For instance, when you search for a term like “t-shirts,” you’ll receive a list of comparable keyword searches, as well as information on their search volume and competitiveness.

Consider adding phrases on the list that you know don’t relate to your eCommerce business (such as “free” and “printed”) to your negative keyword list.

  1. Finding Negative Keywords Using the Search Terms Report

The Search Terms Report displays the exact search terms that consumers used to activate your advertising on Google. Once you have a good understanding of the sorts of search queries that triggered your ad, you can start compiling lists of both positive and negative keywords. This approach can produce some good outcomes.

For example, you may arrange the Search Terms Report results by the largest number of impressions, giving you a list of the most popular search terms that activate your advertisements. This information may then be modified to reveal which terms have the highest click-through and conversion rates.

Even keywords that you anticipated would work in your favor may not be working as well as you expected. If this is the case, you should include them in your list of negative keywords, even if they appear to be directly linked to your business or product.

What are good negative keywords?

Negative keywords are used to manage who sees your advertisements, allowing you to collect traffic from relevant audiences who are more likely to accomplish your conversion goals. With this in mind, here are three sorts of good negative keywords to use in your ads.

  1. Irrelevant search intent

The first sort of keyword is a word or phrase that is related to your target term but does not have the search intent you are looking for.

These negatives are especially essential for ads targeting broad service or product keywords that may appear in a variety of searches with varying intentions.

  1. Keywords with a low intent

While Google Ads is successful at generating leads throughout the customer journey, it shines at collecting prospects towards the end of the purchasing process when purchase intent is greatest – something few platforms can do.

In this situation, you should include negative keyword terms for searches that suggest a lesser purchase intent, so that your advertisements are only viewed by people who genuinely exhibit a purchase intent.

  1. Variants with a low CTR

Google displays your advertisements for versions of the keywords you provide, and close variants might activate your advertising even if you use exact match. Close variants (any misspelling, singular or plural form, acronym, stemmings, abbreviations of the keyword) should not create any serious difficulties, but you may discover that some of the broad and phrase match variants do not reach your performance goals, and it is always a good idea to monitor click-through rates.

Low-CTR variations indicate that people are seeing your advertisements but aren’t clicking through since this variant isn’t as relevant to their requirements as Google’s algorithm believes. Wasted impressions can harm your Quality Score and lower the overall effectiveness of your ads campaign, not to mention the risk of paying for clicks that have little possibility of converting, therefore you should consider adding these as negative keywords.

What are the benefits of negative keywords?

Some of the benefits of using negative keywords successfully in your PPC campaigns include:Increased conversion rate – the proportion of users that clicked on your ad and converted.
Increased click-through rate (CTR) – the proportion of searchers who saw your ad and chose to click on it.
Increased Quality Score – a Google AdWords quality rating that influences the price you spend for advertisements.

Negative keywords can help you increase metrics like Click-Thru-Rate and Conversion Rate, which can lead to cheaper Costs-Per-Click (CPC) over time.

Optimizing your ad completely increases your return on investment (ROI).

How many negative keywords should you have?

To create a negative keyword list, consider terms that you don’t want to appear in your advertising. You can obtain ideas from the search phrases report. You could also wish to categorize these terms by topics, such as the many items or services you provide. In your account, you may add up to 5,000 negative keywords per list and build up to 20 negative keyword lists.

Once you’ve created your new list of negative keywords, you may apply it to numerous ad campaigns at the same time. If you need to add a new negative term to those same campaigns later, simply add it to the negative keyword list, and the change will be reflected in all campaigns that share the list.

Keep in mind that negative keywords behave differently in Display and Video advertisements than they do in search marketing. Some sites where your ad appears may have prohibited phrases on occasion, depending on the other keywords or targeting strategies in your ad group. A maximum of 5,000 negative keywords is recommended for Display and Video advertisements.

How do I make a negative list of keywords?

To begin with, your Google and Bing representatives should have a list of negative keywords that they use for identical accounts. You’ll need to analyze them for relevancy and make sure they don’t exclude essential phrases from your ads, but this is a decent starting point.

Next, like with any keyword list preparation, you can always use Google Keyword Planner to examine similar keywords and understand what you might want to parse out.

To find new negative keywords, utilize Google’s search query (or keyword detail) report. It’s by far the most efficient approach to discover what actual queries are activating your advertisements and eliminate the ones that don’t.

How are negative keywords different from other keywords?

While ordinary keywords describe which terms you want your advertisements to appear for, negative keywords enable you to select which ones you don’t. This is the primary distinction, but there are numerous additional ways in which negative keywords vary from the other phrases you use.

  • The most significant difference is that negative keywords do not match nearby variations in the same way that normal keywords do. As a result, your advertisements may still appear for keywords that are similar variations of your negative keywords.
  • Google Ads documentation, negative keywords interpret a variety of symbols differently from ordinary keywords — the vast majority of which are simply disregarded.
  • For negative terms, there is no negative broad match modifier.
  • Another peculiar thing is that they may not be applied if they are included in a search that is longer than 16 words and occurs after the 16th word in the query.

How do I get rid of negative keywords on Google?

A negative keyword list can be removed from campaigns at any moment. To remove a negative keyword list from a campaign, do the following:

  1. Go to your Google Ads account and sign in.
  2. Click the Keywords tab from the page menu on the left.
  3. Select “Negative Keywords” from the drop-down menu. You’ll see a list of all of your negative keywords and lists of negative keywords. Each negative keyword or list displays a campaign that uses that negative keyword or list in the “Added” column.
  4. Check the box next to the negative keyword list that corresponds to the campaign.
  5. Click Remove.

Google Ads will automatically add new negative keywords as a negative exact match. That is, you are just excluding searches for that specific search query.

Don’t forget: check out the other definitions (over 200) in our growing SEO glossary.

Make the Most Out of Your Ad Spend

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of negative keywords.

Bidding on the best keywords in your niche is half the fight. Your digital marketing success is also dependent on having a comprehensive list of negative keywords that are always increasing and being refined based on real-world facts. Google frequently performs an excellent job of filtering through millions of advertisements to offer the right one to the right searcher at the right time — but there is plenty of motivation for errors and “stretching relevance.”

The easiest method to avoid this happening to you and wasting your money is to construct negative keywords attentively.

Finding the right keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) that will move the needle for your business, on the other hand, requires effort and resources.

You must collect keyword data, arrange it in a spreadsheet, do search intent analysis, and filter out any irrelevant terms.

So let us handle everything for you so you can boost leads and sales today.

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

Explore Services

Written by Aaron Haynes on July 26, 2021

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.