Negative Keywords In AdWords

Negative Keywords In AdWords

Negative Keywords are the most most important match type in any AdWords account. Being negative is the first step to a positive return from your ad spend.

Have you ever been accused of being a Negative Nancy? Cynical? Or maybe your resting face never appears to be happy? Well, you’re welcome in AdWords where you don’t need to be positive. We’re talking about negative keywords. Technically it is more so the lack of a keyword rather than choosing ones that make you seem moody. Aka: Negative Reinforcement.

These negative keywords are just as important as the regular ones. You choose keywords to show up for. You also choose keywords that you don’t want to show up for. Blocking search terms in your campaign that just don’t relate to your campaign and goals. So put on your best pessimistic attitude and let us show you how negativity can result in positive outcomes.

What Are Negative Keywords?

The choices you make in your AdWords campaign is to target certain campaign goals. Just like you choose what want, you must also choose what you do not want, to avoid things you do not want to target. These are your negative keywords. This is to prevent your ad being sparked up for words or phrases not related to your ad. Eliminating more chances of useless clicks especially for your budget.

A great way to choose good negative keywords is to choose keywords that may be similar but definitely not a product you are selling.

Example: Say you own a woman’s shoe company and your most popular items are suede boots. You certainly wouldn’t want your ad for your most popular shoe to show up for people searching for mens suede boots, rain boots, riding boots, kids boots, patent leather boots. These are your negative keywords.

Maybe your boots are handmade, making them a bit more pricey. You also don’t want to show up for cheap suede boots, bargain suede boots or discount suede boots. Or maybe you believe that black is the new black. You certainly wouldn’t want your ad to show up for brown, grey, tan or rust suede boots. All of these are great negative keywords, and a great way to keep your budget focused on the right searches.

Remember there is also too much of a good thing, if you have too many negative keywords you just might reach fewer customers than you intended.

Negative Keywords and Campaign Types

Sounding a little too easy? Well of course it did, because you must also consider the campaign type

Negative Keywords And Search Campaigns

Selecting keywords is a bit easier with search campaigns. When thinking of similar but non-applicable keywords think about broad, exact and/or phrase match types. These are the match types for negative keywords in search campaigns. Opposite from positive keywords you will have to add the single, plural, misspelled, synonyms and other variations you don’t want to associate with for negative search keywords.

Display or Video Campaign

For display and video campaigns, your ad will not show on particular sites and for videos containing your negative keywords. Most of the time. Negative keywords are a bit trickier for display and video campaigns. It comes down to how you target as well as the other keywords in your ad group. There is a bit more wiggle room, which is why you are allowed 5,000 negative keywords for these types of campaigns. Negative keywords for display and video campaigns must also be exact match type. No misspellings, correct word order, synonyms nor putting all your negative keywords together. 

Make sure that your excluded keywords don’t overlap with your regular keywords, because we want your ad showing not hiding.

How Negative Keywords Work With Certain Match Types

Let’s discuss how negative keywords behave with the different match types: Broad, Phrase and Exact Match.

Negative Broad Match

Broad Match is the default for both positive and negative keywords. This match type provides the widest range for your ad to NOT appear when you select certain keywords. Your ad is guaranteed not to show if the search has all your negative keywords in it, order of the search doesn’t matter here. However, if the search has some but not all your negative keywords your ad just might show.

Example: Negative Broad Match – dance classes

Will Not Show: hip-hop dance classes, dance classes ballet, classes dance.

Could Show: hip-hop classes, dance ballet, yoga classes, dance clothing.

Negative Phrase Match

Phrase match is a bit more narrow. When you have phrase match type for your negative keywords your ad won’t show if search has your exact keywords in the same order. Additional words are allowed in the search, however.

Example: Negative Phrase Match – “dance classes

Will Not Show: hip-hop dance classes, dance classes ballet, jazz dances classes for kids.

Could Show: classes dance, hip-hop classes, dance ballet, yoga classes, dance clothing.

Negative Exact Match

Exact Match is the most specific when it comes to your ad appearing and, in this case NOT appearing. The search query must only be the exact keywords in the same order. So no disorder or added words in the beginning or end of a query.

Example: Negative Phrase Match – [dance classes]

Will Not Show: dance classes

Could Show: classes dance, hip-hop dance classes, dance ballet, dance classes ballet, jazz dances classes for kids.

If you are still a little fuzzy about how these negative match types work here are a couple more examples.

How To Add Negative Keywords To Your Adwords Campaign

Here is how to get negative with your AdWords campaign.

Search Campaigns

  1. Sign in to your AdWords.
  2. Click Keywords tab.
  3. Click Negative keywords.
  4. Input your negative keywords to the ad group or campaign level. Click the +Keywords button above either table.
  5. Click dropdown to select the specific ad group or campaign that you’d like to add negative keywords.
  6. Add one negative keyword per line. For search campaigns you can also choose a match type: Broad, Phrase or Exact Match.
  7. Click Save.

Display Campaigns

All negative keywords under this campaign type will be added as exact match, you won’t be able to change the match type.

  1. Sign in to AdWords.
  2. Go to your Display Network tab
  3. Click + Targeting
  4. Find “Ad group targeting and exclusions” and “Campaign exclusions.”
  5. Choose the ad group or campaign you want to add negative keywords to.
  6. Click “Add ad group exclusions” or “Add campaign exclusions” drop-down and select “Display keywords.”
  7. Add one keyword per line.
  8. Click Save.


If you have a team that focuses only on the positive then they just agree with each other and look for points that they share and not points of difference.

-Rebecca Mitchell

AdWords Loves When Keywords Are Negative

So, you thought you had this whole keyword thing down? Well, now you have that start thinking of keywords that don’t even apply to you! That might put you in the right negative mood for this part of your campaign. It’s truly not all as bad as we paint it to be. Negative keywords simply make sure your ad is focused on what is perfect for your goals. You could also forget all those negative vibes and let us at Teacup deal with it for you.

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