Negative Keywords in Google Ads – Why and How to Use Them?

Negative keywords, as their name suggests, are the opposite of regular keywords. A negative keyword in a search query ensures that your ad doesn’t show up on the results page. So, for example, if you have a store that specializes in speaker systems, but you don’t want your ad to appear in search results when people look for surround systems, you can add “surround system,” “5.1,”, or “7.1” in the negative keywords.

Why Use Negative Keywords?

A good negative keywords list has several positive benefits for your ad campaign or group of ads. The most obvious benefit is that negative keywords restrict the irrelevant traffic coming from your ads. People who are looking for something you’re not offering are less likely to appear on your website or online store if you exclude them with negative keywords.

Negative keywords also reduce your average cost per click. Lower cost per click has a positive impact on the ROI of your advertising. Negative keywords also improve your account’s click-through rate by ensuring your ad only appears when it’s aligned with the customer’s intent. CTR improvements are also beneficial for your keywords’ quality score.

Understanding Application Levels for Negative Keywords

There are three different levels at which you can apply negative keywords: the account level, the campaign level, and the ad group level. The negative keywords you apply account-wide will affect every single ad tied to that account, regardless of the campaign and ad group it’s on.

You can add specific negative keywords that will apply only to certain campaigns, and then again specific negative keywords that will apply to specific ad groups. You can achieve a much better precision of ad targeting this way, making sure that even groups of products or services you offer attract exactly the type of audience that’s looking for them.

Negative Keyword Best Practices

You can add negative keywords easily – the process isn’t complicated at all. It requires some forethought, however. You should also know the best practices for negative keyword research and implementation if you want to get the most out of them. Here are some things you should know:

When should I add negative keywords to my Google Ads campaigns and account?

The best time to add negative keywords is before you launch a campaign. This means that you should address the campaign- and ad-group level negative keywords as well as the account-level negative keywords. If necessary, remove some of them.  

That being said, you should constantly be on the lookout for new irrelevant keywords to add to the list. Keep your eyes peeled and watch those search terms reports carefully.

Does Google automatically esclude misspellings and close variants keywords?

Inflected forms of negative keywords and compound words containing them will not be excluded. This means that you’ll have to manually add word forms like plurals, but also misspellings and synonyms.

When is the best time to look for negative keywords? Before or after a campaign starts?

The best time to look search for negative keywords is while doing keyword research. It makes perfect sense to look for negative keywords while you’re looking for the keywords you want to target.

Negative keywords bulk upload. Is it possible?

The best way to upload your list of negative keywords is via the Google Ads Editor app. It’s much easier to manipulate the keywords in the Editor app than in the Google Ads’ interface.

Here is the quick tutorial:

  1. Create a list of negative keywords categorized by Campaigns and Ad Groups. Copy your data.
  2. In the Google Ads Editor navigate to Account > Import > Paste text.
  3. Paste from clipboard and check if the data is OK.
  4. Process and Apply.
google ads editor import

Paste from clipboard and quickly process batch of negative keywords

How many negative keywords should I add?

The best quantity of negative keywords to add is — a lot. Don’t be surprised if your negative keywords greatly outnumber your regular keywords. It’s not uncommon to have up to five times more negative keywords than regular ones.

Are negative keywords case sensitive?

Luckily, neither positive and negative keywords are case sensitive. Potential changes in the capitalization does not affect the performance of the keywords or ads.

Do negative keywords have different match types?

Yes, they do have. Use the match types to your advantage. Negative keywords in Google Ads have three match types: broad, phrase, and exact match. You can use match types for even finer targeting.

Negative and positive in the same campaign. Who wins?

Negative keyword always wins. Therefore please watch for keyword conflicts. It’s not inconceivable that you’ll add a negative keyword that conflicts with a regular keyword you have. Your ad will not be triggered by the regular keyword, in that case, so make sure you remove all conflicts. Validate and test using the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool.

Conclusion

When you bid on a keyword in Google Ads, you are bidding on your ads appearing when triggered by a search containing that keyword. So when someone uses the keywords you bid on in a query, and if your ad is relevant to the query, there’s a chance of your ad appearing on the results page.

You spend hours perfecting the ad copy, landing pages and other important aspects of an effective Google Ads campaign. It is easy to neglect negative keywords, and by doing that you open your account to wasting your advertising budget in unqualified traffic and unwanted clicks.

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