Understanding negative keywords—Don’t waste your pay-per-click budget, part 1

Understanding negative keywords—Don’t waste your pay-per-click budget, part 1

Published: October 30, 2015 by LoSasso
Categories: Data, Media, Website development

There’s a lot of talk about bidding on the right pay-per-click (PPC) campaign keywords. But, just as important is identifying the search terms you don’t want to be associated with—words or phrases that trigger your ads in the wrong search scenario, attracting the wrong audience and incurring unnecessary cost. These are known as negative keywords.

In this two-part post, I’ll explore negative keywords, first here with explanations of different types of negative keywords, and more in-depth strategy for building negative keyword lists in part two.


Negative Broad Match: Use this function to prevent your ad from showing anytime the entire negative Broad term is used within a search query. However, different from “positive” Broad Match keywords, this will not block variations (synonyms) of the word. Also, if your negative Broad Match contains multiple words, the search engine won't block it if a searcher uses only one of the words in the phrase. For example, blocking “sun glasses” will not prevent ads shown when a user searches “glasses.”

Because negative Broad Match excludes a wide range of keywords, it should only be used when you want to exclude every term related to that word. For example, block “rental” when you do not offer rental services as a car dealer; block “career” when you do not intend to attract job applicants with your ads. When in doubt, use a stricter match type such as Phrase or Exact.


Negative Phrase Match: This will block ads being triggered by search terms including the Negative Phrase in the exact word order. This is particularly useful if you want to block some words related to the keywords on which you are bidding. For example, a car repair center may want to block “driver jobs” instead of just "jobs." This action would block searches for “car driver jobs” or “truck driver jobs” but still allow relevant searches such as “repair job."

I also find Negative Phrase to be useful in maintaining the right context. For example, if you are an IT company, you may want to consider blocking “company IT,” as people searching with that term could be looking for other services.


Negative Exact Match: This will prevent search queries from triggering ads exactly the same as the Negative Exact keywords do. This is very useful when you want to block exact terms within a category. For example, in your “blue pants” campaign, block “red pants,” “yellow pants,” etc. I also find it useful to add applicable negative keywords exactly as they appear in search query reports. This is because AdWords will only display negative keywords as “Added” in the search query interface when Exact Match is added. So if I see “car driver jobs” appear in the search query report and I intended to add “jobs” as a negative keyword, I also always add “car driver jobs.” This will make it easier for campaign managers (others and I) to get a sense of what has been added and eliminate duplicate work in the future.


Below is another example from Google on how each negative keyword type works.



[Image source: Google AdWords Help Center]

Check back soon for Part 2 for some pointers on creating an effective negative keyword list for your PPC campaign.