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A Beginner’s Guide To Negative Keywords

If you’re running a business with a well-thought-out digital marketing strategy, then you know the importance of keywords for both search engine optimization (SEO) and your Google Adwords Campaign. Choosing the right ones can help your website show up in search engine results pages (SERPs), ensuring potential customers find you.

But what if you don’t want your site to come up with certain queries? Enter negative keywords.

This is an often ignored aspect of running an Adwords campaign (aka pay-per-click or PPC campaign). Whenever we consult with clients about their campaigns, many have failed to add negative terms or phrases and wonder why their campaign is underperforming.

In this post, we’ll explain what negative terms are, why you need them, how to use them, and some tips for getting started.

What Are Negative Keywords?

While “positive keywords” are the terms and phrases you want your ads to show up for so that potential customers will click on your ad, negative keywords are words or phrases that you add to your Google Adwords campaign so that your ad won’t show up when people search for those terms.

For example, let’s say you’re selling women’s shoes. You might want to add negative keywords like “men” or “boys” so that your ad doesn’t show up when someone searches for “men’s shoes” or “boys’ shoes.” You might even want to add “running shoes” if all you sell are casual or work shoes for women.

That way, you’re not wasting ad spend money on clicks from people who aren’t interested in what you’re selling. And you’re more likely to get clicks (and conversions) from people who are actually interested in your product.

Remember, there are two types of search terms: short-tail and long-term keywords. In the example above, “women’s shoes” would definitely be a short-tail keyword whereas “Christian Louboutin shoes” might be considered a long-tail keyword since that’s a very specific brand of women’s shoes that only a select number of stores sell.

The Benefits Of Negative Keywords

There are a few benefits to using negative keywords:

Increase your click-through-rate (CTR)

One of the main benefits of using negative keywords is that it can help increase your CTR.

When people see your ad, they’re more likely to click on it if it’s relevant to what they’re looking for. If you’re not using negative keywords and your ad shows up for searches that aren’t relevant to your product, then people are less likely to click on it. That just makes sense.

So by selecting a healthy list of negative terms, you can make sure that your ad is only showing up for searches that are relevant to your business. And this can help increase your CTR.

Lower your cost-per-click (CPC)

Another benefit of using negative keywords is that it can help lower your CPC.

When you use negative keywords, you’re essentially telling Google that you don’t want your ad to show up for certain searches. And if you’re not bidding on those keywords, then you won’t have to pay for them.

So by using negative keywords, you can lower your CPC and save money on your AdWords campaign.

Improve your quality score

Quality Score is a mysterious metric that Google uses to measure the quality of your ads.

The higher your Quality Score, the less you’ll have to pay per click. And one of the factors that go into Quality Score is CTR.

So by using negative keywords to increase your CTR, you can also improve your Quality Score. And this can save you money in the long run.

When your quality score improves, you actually pay less for higher positioning, so that’s a major win.

You’ll save a lot of money

As we mentioned before, one of the benefits of using negative keywords is that you can save money on your AdWords campaign.

By using negative keywords, you can essentially cut out a bunch of wasted spending on your AdWords campaign. And this can save you a lot of money in the long run.

How to find these mysterious words?

You might be wondering how you’re supposed to know which words to add as negative keywords. After all, you can’t just add every word that you don’t want your ad to show up for. That would be a massive waste of time.

Fortunately, there are a few different ways that you can for selecting negative keywords for your campaign. First, begin by putting yourself in the mind of your target audience. What might they type into the search box that you just don’t want your ads to show up for?

Use the Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner is a great tool for finding negative keywords. Just enter a seed keyword into the tool, and it will show you a list of related keywords.

From there, you can add any relevant keywords to your campaign as negative keywords.

For example, if you’re a plumber and you absolutely don’t want to fix leaky faucets (for whatever reason), simply put “leaky faucet” into the Google Keyword planner and it will give you related terms and their monthly search volumes. You can select your list of negative keywords from here.

Keep in mind, there are different types of negative keywords. There are negative phrase match keywords that would exclude any searches with that phrase included. There can be words before and after the phrase, but anything that includes that phrase will not display your ads.

There are also negative exact match keywords. These are searches with terms or phrases that match exactly what the person typed in. Your ad may still show if there are additional or extra words.

Check out your competition

Another great way to find negative terms & phrases is to check out your competition.

Take a look at the ads that are showing up for your seed terms, and see if there are any words that you don’t want your ad to show up for.

You can also use tools like to get an idea of which keywords your competition is bidding on.

Use Google search results

You can also use Google search results to find negative keywords.

Just do a search for your seed keyword, and take a look at the related searches that Google shows you.

If there are any searches that aren’t relevant to your business, then you can add them to your negative list.

Let a digital marketing specialist guide you

Of course, you can also always let a digital marketing specialist guide you. We know a few good ones!

At Make it Loud, we specialize in Google AdWords campaigns, and we would be more than happy to help you find the right negative terms and phrases for your campaign. We’re Google Certified, so we have the experience you need.

How to set up your negative keywords

After you’ve found the right search phrases for your campaign, the next step is adding negative keywords.

Fortunately, setting up a negative term list is a pretty straightforward process. Just follow these steps:

  1. First, you’ll need to sign into your AdWords account.
  2. Once you’re signed in, click on the “Keywords” tab.
  3. Next, click on the “Negative Keywords” tab.
  4. From there, you can add your negative keywords. Just enter them into the text box, and then click “Add.”

And that’s it! You’ve successfully added search terms to your campaign.

Tips For Setting Up Negative Keywords In Your Google Ads Campaign

Now that you know how to set up negative terms, we want to give you a few tips on how to use them effectively.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Use negative keywords at the ad group level

One of the most important things to remember is to use negative keywords at the ad group level.

When you’re setting up your campaign, you’ll create different ad groups for each group of search terms that you’re targeting. And you should add your negative keywords to each ad group.

This will ensure that your ads only show up for the searches that you want them to show up for.

Don’t overdo it with the negatives

Another thing to remember is not to get too carried away with negative phrases and terms.

Having a massive list of negative keywords could prevent your ads from showing. You don’t want to add so many negatives that your ad doesn’t show for any relevant searches. So be sure to only add the words that are absolutely not relevant to your business. Everything else is fair game.

Monitor your results

Finally, you’ll want to keep an eye on your results to see how your negative keywords are performing.

If you find that your ads aren’t showing up for any relevant searches, then you might want to loosen up your negative list a bit. On the other hand, if you’re still getting a lot of clicks from irrelevant searches, then you might want to add more negatives.

Monitoring your results is the best way to find the perfect balance of negative terms for your campaign.

Negative keywords are a crucial part of any Google AdWords campaign. By using them, you can ensure that your ads only show up for the searches that are relevant to your business.

Let Us Help With Your Google AdWords Campaign

Here at Make it Loud, we specialize in Google AdWords campaigns. So if you need help with your Google Adwords campaign for your business, we would be more than happy to assist you.

Give us a call at 678-325-4007 to chat with an experienced member of the team.

Cliff Tillery, MBA is the Chief Operating Officer at Make It Loud which is a digital marketing firm located outside of Atlanta Georgia. He is also the Director of SEO. More than 14 years ago, he started search engine optimization at this agency and has taught digital marketing skills to business owners at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center and other groups.

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