How to Utilize Negative Keywords in Your Google Ad Campaign

Often times as your campaign grows negative keywords are a strong necessity in order to weed out irrelevant search terms and only show your ads to the people that are most interested in your product. But what are negative keywords and how do you use them to benefit your campaigns?

How to Utilize Negative Keywords in Your Google Ad Campaign

  1. What are negative keywords and how do they work?
  2. How can I best utilize negative keywords to benefit my campaign?
  3. Can negative keywords be harmful if used incorrectly?

1. What are Negative Keywords and how do they Work?

Before you can start creating negative keywords, you need to understand what they are and how they function. Negative keywords exclude search terms, much like how keywords target what terms to show up for, negative keywords will target what search terms you don’t want your ads to show for. Just like regular keywords, negative keywords can be broad math, phrase match, or exact match. The type of negative keyword you utilize depends greatly on the search terms you are trying to avoid.

Some negative keywords are not necessarily product related but are added anyways to ensure that your ad only shows on serious search inquiries. Negative keywords such as ‘free’, ‘sale’, ‘diy’, and more would fall into this category. You obviously don’t want to try and sell your product to someone that is searching for how they can get it for free or to someone who is trying to make it themselves because they are very unlikely to ever click on your ad, let alone actually purchase your product. ‘Sale’ isn’t always a bad search term, if you are actually having a sale this could be a great term to let potential customers know that. However, if you are not running a sale and your competitors are, someone searching for a sale is unlikely to choose your ad over the ads that include sales or promotions. Understanding who you want to see your ad and who you want to avoid advertising to is key when deciding which terms to add as negative keywords.

Once you’ve decided that you want a negative keyword in place for a certain search term or phrase, you need to decide what kind of negative keyword you are going to create.

2. How can I Best Utilize Negative Keywords to Benefit my Campaign?

Once you understand the different types of negative keywords and how they each function differently compared to the others, you can begin to deduct which keyword would be most effective for you in any given scenario.

Negative Broad Match

Negative broad match keywords are the default when entering negative keywords into your campaign or ad group. With this type of keyword your ads may still show if only part of the keyword is present. For example, if your negative keyword is “tennis balls” your ad will not show up for searching such as “tennis ball” or “ball tennis” but may show up on searches like “soccer balls” or “tennis rackets” because the whole search term is not included in those phrases.

The negative broad match is best for single words but also works longer phrases, just keep in mind that when using a longer phrase Google may not exclude all of the related search terms with this type of negative keyword.

Negative Phrase Match

Negative phrase match allows you to block out more than just the selected term. For example, with the negative keyword “tennis balls”, the negative phrase match keyword will also exclude searches such as “blue tennis balls” or “tennis balls for kids” because they include that original negative keyword phrase. However, ads can still show with negative phrase match if only part of the negative keyword phrase is present just like the negative broad match.

This type of negative keyword is best used in scenarios when there may be a large variation of searches around one particular topic. If you want to block out the search term “flag”, a phrase match negative keyword is your best option because it will exclude all searches containing the word “flag”.

Negative Exact Match

Negative exact match is the most specific of the negative keywords. It will only exclude terms that exactly match your negative keyword. This means that plurals of words or searches that include adjective specifications will not be excluded. The negative exact match of “tennis balls” will only exclude searches that say just that. Searches such as “tennis ball” or “blue tennis balls” will not be excluded.

Exact match is best when you want to only exclude a very specific category of items. Let’s say you’re selling hats in every color but red, you could add the negative exact match “red hats” to only filter out those search terms while all other searches relating to hats will trigger your ad.

3. Can Negative Keywords be Harmful if Used Incorrectly?

Yes! If you exclude too much or too little within your negative keywords it can be harmful to your campaign. Excluding too little means that your ad is still showing on irrelevant searches. This can be bad for a number of reasons, the main one being that your budget is being wasted on uninterested customers when your money and resources would be better allocated in other areas. Excluding too much means that you’ve cut out a piece of your target market and are missing out on showing your ads to potential interested customers and limiting the growth of your company.

This is a fine line to achieve and can often sound daunting when trying to create your first negative keywords. The best practice to achieve success is to go off of the data and not off of what you think people are searching for. Go into your campaign’s search terms and look at what search terms showed your ad over an extended period of time. This list should mostly be keywords that are relevant to your ads (if not, that’s a problem with your keywords and ads themselves) but you should find a few search terms that don’t quite fit. Maybe they’re a variation of your product that you don’t sell or a closely related product that isn’t yet in your shop. Or, maybe it’s just completely unrelated. In either case these are the terms that you want to exclude with negative keywords. Check these search terms every month or so to keep up-to-date on what search terms your ads are showing for and then adjust accordingly.


Commonly Asked Questions:

How do I know if my negative keywords are performing well?

Sometimes you don’t know at first, give your campaign time to adjust and keep an eye on the data. You can very easily see which search terms your ad showed on and which search terms your ad did not show on because of your negative keywords. Sometimes more need to be added, sometimes negative keywords need to be taken away. Often times you won’t know until your campaign is given time to collect data

How do I know if my campaign is performing well?

While what is considered “good performance” greatly varies from business to business, there are a few things to look for when you’re first getting started. A CTR (click-through-rate) of 2% or higher is considered a good interaction rate with your website, and anything below a 1% is very bad. When looking at conversions, the best tool to use is the Conversion Value/Cost. This calculates your ROAS (return on ad investment) and a ROAS higher than 4 is generally considered good.


Related Articles:

How to Set up a Search Campaign in Google Ads

How to Set up a Display Campaign in Google Ads

How to Set up a Shopping Campaign in Google Ads

How to Set up a Smart Campaign in Google Ads

The Different Google Ad Extensions and How to Use Each One

Everything you Need to Know about Google Ad Keywords

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