Google Ads & Negative Keywords

phil rieley
6 mins
Written By  Phil
Published On Tuesday 9th April

Negative keywords in Google Ads help you avoid unnecessary ad spend by blocking your ads from showing on irrelevant searches. They improve your ad relevance, leading to higher click-through rates (CTR) and better conversion rates, ultimately saving you money and boosting your return on investment (ROI). To effectively use negative keywords, you'll need to dive into search term reports  to understand search intent and refine your lists regularly. Implementing these keywords correctly ensures your ads reach the right audience, enhancing campaign success. Stick around, and you'll discover ways to sharpen your targeting strategy even further.

Understanding Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are a game-changer, ensuring your ads don't appear for searches that won't convert. When you're diving into the world of Google Ads and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, you're aiming for precision targeting. You don't want to spend your budget on clicks that have no chance of converting, right? That's where negative keywords come into play in your digital marketing strategy.

Think of negative keywords as your campaign's bouncers. They keep out the searches that aren't relevant to your product or service, making sure your ads only show to those who are genuinely interested. This precision not only saves you money but also improves the overall performance of your ads. By specifying which searches shouldn't trigger your ads, you're effectively increasing your click-through rate (CTR) and potential conversion rates.

Implementing negative keywords is about understanding your audience as much as it's about understanding what you're selling. It's a careful balance, ensuring that your ads reach the right people at the right time. Without negative keywords, you're essentially leaving your campaign open to all kinds of irrelevant traffic, which can dilute your message and waste your budget.

Here's how negative keywords impact your campaigns:

  • Improved CTR | By filtering out irrelevant traffic, your click-through rate (CTR) increases, as your ads are more targeted.
  • Higher Conversion Rates | Targeted ads lead to a higher likelihood of conversions since the audience is more relevant.
  • Reduced Costs | You're not paying for clicks that won't convert, leading to a more efficient use of your budget.
  • Enhanced Relevance | Your ads become more relevant to user searches, improving your ad's quality score.
  • Better ROI | With improved targeting and efficiency, your overall return on investment improves.

Leveraging negative keywords is essential. It's not just about who you're reaching, but also about who you're not. This strategic exclusion ensures your ad spend goes further, making your campaigns more successful and cost-effective.

How to Identify Negative Keywords

To effectively refine your ad campaigns, you'll need to pinpoint which search terms should trigger your ads and, just as importantly, which shouldn't. Identifying negative keywords is crucial in ensuring your advertising efforts aren't wasted on irrelevant clicks, ultimately saving you money and improving your campaign's performance.

Start by examining your search term reports closely. These reports reveal which queries are leading users to your ads. You'll quickly spot terms that are off-target—searches that don't align with your product or service. These are your initial candidates for negative keywords.

Don't overlook the power of manual searches and tools like Google Keyword Planner. By entering your primary keywords, you'll see a range of suggested terms. Some of these will be irrelevant to your offerings, signaling more negative keyword opportunities.

Remember, it's all about understanding search intent. A term might seem relevant at first glance but consider the searcher's intent. Does it match what you're offering? If not, you've found another negative keyword.

Regularly updating your list is key. Your first set of negative keywords won't be your last. Keep refining your list based on performance data and market changes to maintain a lean, efficient campaign.

Implementing Negative Keywords in Campaigns

Having identified your negative keywords, it's now time to integrate them into your campaigns to refine targeting and enhance ad performance. You're on the right track to ensure your ads reach the most relevant audience, reducing wasted clicks and unnecessary ad spend.

Here's how you can make this process smooth and effective:

  • Include them in your campaign settings | Access your Google Ads account, select the specific campaign or ad group, and add your negative keywords. This step is straightforward but crucial.
  • Use the shared library for efficiency | If you've got a list of negative keywords that apply to multiple campaigns, use the shared library. It saves time and ensures consistency across campaigns.
  • Regularly update your lists | As your campaign evolves, so should your negative keyword list. Keep it fresh by reviewing search term reports and adding new irrelevant terms.
  • Monitor performance closely | After adding negative keywords, watch your ad performance. Look for improvements in click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates as indicators of success.
  • Don't set and forget | Implementing negative keywords isn't a one-time task. It requires ongoing attention and refinement to align with your campaign goals and market changes.

Types of Negative Keywords

Understanding the different types of negative keywords is crucial as you refine your ad campaigns to target the right audience more effectively. These types are designed to help you exclude unwanted searches, ensuring your ads are seen by users who are truly interested in what you're offering. Let's break down the main types you'll encounter.

  • Broad Match | Excludes your ads from showing on searches that include any word in your negative keyword phrase, in any order.
  • Phrase Match | Prevents your ad from appearing for searches that contain the exact phrase or close variations of the negative keyword.
  • Exact Match | Blocks your ad from showing on searches that match the exact negative keyword phrase exclusively.

Best Practices for Negative Keyword Usage

Implementing best practices for negative keyword usage can significantly refine your ad campaign's efficiency and target accuracy. By being smart about how you select and manage these keywords, you'll see a notable improvement in your campaign's performance. Here's how you can make the most out of negative keywords:

  • Regularly update your list | Keep your negative keyword list fresh by routinely reviewing search term reports. This ensures you're always targeting the right audience.
  • Use the right match types | Experiment with Broad, Phrase, and Exact Match to prevent your ads from appearing on irrelevant searches effectively.
  • Leverage keyword research tools | Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help identify potential negative keywords by revealing search terms that aren't aligned with your campaign goals.
  • Think like your audience | Understand the search intent behind queries. This insight helps you filter out terms that might bring in the wrong type of traffic.
  • Collaborate and review | Share insights with your team and regularly review your negative keyword strategy to refine and improve it.

Measuring the Impact of Negative Keywords

To effectively gauge the success of your ad campaigns, it's vital you measure the impact negative keywords have on performance metrics such as CTR, conversion rates, and cost per acquisition. Start by comparing your campaign's performance before and after implementing negative keywords. You'll likely notice a higher CTR since your ads are now more relevant to search queries. This increase in relevancy should also boost your conversion rates, as you're targeting users more inclined to be interested in your offer.

Monitoring your cost per acquisition (CPA) is crucial too. With negative keywords, you're eliminating irrelevant clicks, which can significantly reduce your overall ad spend. A lower CPA indicates you're not just saving money but also targeting your ad budget more efficiently.

Don't overlook the importance of regular analysis. Use tools like Google Ads' search terms report to refine your list of negative keywords. This ongoing process helps you stay ahead of irrelevant or poor-performing search terms, ensuring your ad spend is always directed toward queries with the highest potential for conversion.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoiding common mistakes is crucial when integrating negative keywords into your Google Ads campaigns. It's not just about adding as many terms as you think might be irrelevant; it's about strategically selecting the right ones to ensure your ads reach the most suitable audience.

Here's a rundown of common pitfalls to steer clear of:

  • Overusing broad match negative keywords | It can unintentionally block relevant searches. Be precise.
  • Ignoring search term reports | Regularly review these to refine your negative keyword list effectively.
  • Forgetting match types | Just like with positive keywords, match types for negatives matter. Understand the differences.
  • Neglecting campaign structure | Tailor negative keywords to specific ad groups or campaigns for better targeting.
  • Overlooking negative keyword maintenance | This isn't a set-and-forget task. Continuous optimisation is key to success.


In wrapping up, mastering negative keywords is a game-changer for your Google Ads campaigns. By pinpointing and excluding irrelevant search terms, you'll drive more qualified traffic, cut unnecessary spending, and boost your ad performance. Remember, it's about continuous refinement; regularly review and adjust your negative keyword list. Avoid common pitfalls, stick to best practices, and measure the impact to see real success. Embrace negative keywords, and watch your campaigns thrive like never before.

phil rieley
Written By  Phil
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