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April 26, 2021

Why You Should Be Using Negative Keywords In Google Ads

Frustrated that your Google Ads campaign isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do?   There could be a simple solution.

We all spend a lot of time and effort researching keywords that will trigger our Google Ads and which will prompt users to click and convert, but there’s another crucial list that we need to focus on.  Negative keywords.

Negative keywords are those phrases that you want your Google Ad to ignore.  They’re the ones that aren’t relevant to your business.  They’re the ones that will prevent your ad from showing up when the audience won’t be interested.

Why You Should Use Negative Keywords In Google Ads

If you don’t have a negative keywords list, it’s probably the reason why you feel like you’re over-spending on an under-performing resource.  The average Google Ads account wastes at least half of its budget on the wrong target keywords, and one of the most common reasons is because there’s no negative keywords list.

Negative keywords are crucial for maximising ROI on your Google Ads campaign and the good news is that there are plenty of ways you can research and build a powerful list.  You can get started right away on Google by going to Keywords>Negative Keywords and clicking on the blue + icon.

Researching Your Negative Keywords

When it comes to researching your negative keywords, the best place to start is the search terms report in AdWords.  This report shows the actual search queries that people typed into Google to trigger your ads and you should trawl that report carefully, pick out any irrelevant keywords and add them to the negative keyword list in Google Ads.   You may even want to add keywords that you originally thought would work in your favour but which aren’t performing on your negative keyword list.

The aim is to consider all keyword phrases that will filter out who gets one of your paid ads on the search results page.  Let your creative juices flow as you try and find all the different variations using prompts like ‘location’ and ‘searcher intent’.   For example, if you have a local business that is based in Perth and you notice that there have been searches for your business in Sydney for example, then you should negative match searches for Sydney as well as for other centres eg Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart.   You can add up to 10 000 negative keywords to a single list – and while it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever need close to that many, the moral of the story here is to aim for quantity as well as quality.   Even if there are only a few clicks – or even a single one – for a search term that isn’t relevant to your business, these can add up and you will end up throwing money down the drain.

Use Negative Keywords in the Right Place

It’s also important to use negative keywords in the right place and to match them correctly.

Negative keywords can be applied at both ad group level and campaign level but it’s important to tier them appropriately.   Matching them can also be tricky and you need to keep plugging away at your research to stay on top of things and ensure you’re not wasting your money.

As with regular keywords, Google only directs traffic to exact phrases – not close variations.  For example, if you added ‘candles’ to your negative broad match keyword list, your ads wouldn’t show when a user searched for ‘scented candles’, but they would if someone searched for ‘scented candle’.  A single letter (it could even be a spelling error) can make a big difference, so be specific and remember singular and plural forms.

Use Google’s Negative Keyword Conflicts Report

Some negative keywords will work for one campaign but not for another so you need to be clear on which one you’re working with.  If you don’t, you run the risk of running both a positive and negative keyword for the same campaign!   You can use Google’s Negative Keyword Conflicts Report to help you avoid cancelling out profitable keywords.

Constant vigilance is also crucially important in getting the best ROI from your Google Ads campaign.  Small changes can make a big impact and it’s really important to be thorough and consistent in both your preparation of your negative keywords list and the ongoing maintenance of it.

The Key Benefits of Building a Powerful Negative Keywords List

In summary, here are the key benefits of building a powerful negative keywords list:

  • Google won’t show your ad for keyword phrases that aren’t relevant to your target market.
  • You’ll save money and increase your campaign’s ROI
  • You’ll have a higher click-through rate (and fewer click-throughs that don’t convert)
  • A higher click-through rate means your ad will be positioned higher on the page without requiring a higher cost-per-click
  • You’ll gain greater understanding of keywords that are relevant to your website


Negative keywords are just one of the many aspects of SEO covered in depth in The SEO School, a new self-managed online course from Perth Google Ads expert, Karen Dauncey, designed to give business owners the skills, knowledge and tools to build effective SEO strategies.  The course has already proved hugely popular among business owners and digital marketers alike. Find out more about The SEO School here.

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