Negative Keywords In Google Ads

Negative keywords are a great way to reduce wasted ad spend and narrow your focus to only show ads to your target audience.

When you setup a Search campaign, you use keywords in Google Ads for targeting. You pick keywords you think your target audience would type into Google search so you can show them ads. If you sell shoes for women, then you might want to use keywords such as “women’s running shoes” or “running shoes for ladies”. You are using these keywords to target prospective customers in order to compel them to click on your ad and ultimately make a purchase on your website.

Negative keywords are used for the opposite purpose. You use negative keywords to identify a word or phrase (search terms) you do not want to target. Negative keywords allow you to exclude search terms from your campaigns. They allow you to really focus your keyword efforts so you only show your ads for search terms you want to target.

Better targeting can lead to better performance, reduce spending money on irrelevant search terms and improve your ROI.

How Negative Keywords Work

Negative keywords are all about focusing on what not to target. As you build out your keywords using different match types, you will find that the keywords you add to your campaigns will trigger your ads to show for actual search queries beyond the keywords you see in your campaigns.

For example, if you add a the keyword phrase “women’s running shoes” as a phrase match, then your ad could actually be triggered for search queries such as “free women’s running shoes” or “used running shoes for women”. Learn more about keyword match types and how they work.

If you sell brand new women’s running shoes, then you probably do not want to show your ads for these search queries. Although these search queries are highly similar to the keyword used in this example, they are not what you want to target. In this case, you would want to add negative keywords for “free” and “used”. Doing this will keep your ads from showing for any search query that has the word “free” or “used” in them.

Types Of Negative Keywords

There are three different types of negative keywords you can use for search campaigns. They are broad match, phrase match and exact match.

Broad Match Negative Keywords

Broad match negatives are the default negative. If you don’t want to use broad match, then you will need to make sure you make them phrase or exact match. When you use broad match negative keywords, your ads will not show when the search contains all of negative keyword words. Your ads could still show if the search contains only part of your negative keyword phrase. Let’s use an example.

You add the following broad match negative keywords – men’s shoes

Negative Keyword

Could Ad Show For?

Men’s blue sneakers

Yes

Men’s shoe

Yes

Men’s running shoes

Yes

Affordable men’s shoes

Yes

Men’s shoes

No

Phrase Match Negative Keywords

In order for phrase match keywords to work, the actual search query needs to contain the exact negative phrase in the exact same order. So, order matters here. The search query can contain additional words. But, as long as the search query contains your negative keyword phrase in the same order, your ad will not show. See how this works in the table below.

You add the following phrase match negative keywords – men’s shoes

Negative Keyword

Could Ad Show For?

Men’s blue sneakers

Yes

Men’s shoe

Yes

Men’s running shoes

Yes

Affordable men’s shoes

Yes

Men’s shoes

No

Exact Match Negative Keywords

Now the exact match negative keywords are much more….exact. For exact match negative keywords to work, the search query has to contain the exact keyword phrase in the exact same order. And, there cannot be any additional words. See the example below.

You add the following exact match negative keywords – men’s shoes

Negative Keyword

Could Ad Show For?

Men’s blue sneakers

Yes

Men’s shoe

Yes

Men’s running shoes

Yes

Affordable men’s shoes

Yes

Men’s shoes

No

As you can see, exact means exact.

The Wrap Up

  • Negative keywords are used to keep your ads from showing for certain words or phrases.
  • Using negative keywords are a good way to reduce wasted ad spend and to improve performance.
  • There are three types of negative keywords: negative broad match, negative phrase match and negative exact match.
  • Negative keywords do not match variations which means your ad could still show for search queries that are similar to your negative keywords. For example, if you add the negative keyword phrase of “men’s shoes” your ad would still show for a search query that has “men’s shoe”.