A Beginners Guide to Negative Keywords in Search





Blog Date

May 27, 2024


UK, Manchester

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A Beginners Guide to Negative Keywords in Search

Negative Keywords – The Unsung Heroes of Your Google Ads

Many Google Ads tutorials will tell you all you need to know about the keywords you want, but what about the keywords you don’t want? It’s remarkable how many advertisers do not use negative keywords in their PPC campaigns; a huge mistake as they are burdened by useless clicks and a drained budget.

So, how do you prevent your ads from being shown to an uninterested audience? This is where negative keywords come into play. Negative keywords are nearly the total opposite of the target keywords that you bid on. They give Google an indication of the type of search terms you don’t want to appear for in a standard Google Ads campaign.

In practice, adding negative keywords stops your ad from showing if the searcher uses that exact word in their search query. For example, if you’re trying to sell hard-copy books, you don’t want keywords like ‘digital book’ or ‘eBook’ to activate your ads. These keywords should be excluded from your campaigns as negative keywords.

Ultimately, negative keywords tell Google that these terms are not relevant to your business, which will save you from paying for searches that won’t end up in a sale. Selecting your negative keywords starts with finding ideas that would never make sense regarding your business. Some of them might be apparent from the get-go and you can apply them from day one.

Common Negative Keywords to Consider

Common negative keywords include terms such as:

  • “free”
  • “job”
  • “careers”
  • “logo”
  • “template”

You may want to show for “pastry chef” but not “pastry chef job.” You can also include random searches that would never relate to your business. For instance, if you sell pastry, you will probably never want to show for any searches regarding “pastry logos.” Negatives like these are pretty obvious, while others will show themselves over time as your campaign progresses.

Discovering Negative Keywords

So, where do you find other negative keywords? I find one of the best ways to discover negative keywords is through the Search Terms Report. Your Google Ads will show you actual user queries people have typed into Google Search Engine and triggered your ad. You can scroll through the data and select all the queries that you want to make into negatives.

You can also use Google Ads Keyword Planner and keyword research sites such as SpyFu to find negative keywords. Yes, I know these tools are technically for finding keywords to bid on, not exclude. But it is possible to use them to find negative keywords. Type in a search term related to your business and you’ll see a list of related keywords alongside their search volume and competition. Scroll through the list and make note of any terms that you don’t want associated with your ads. It’s a good option for when you’re stuck and can’t think of any negatives to add.

Competitor Brand Names as Negatives

It is important to note, that if you aren’t bidding on competitors’ names, you should be adding their brand names as negative keywords. Make a list of your business’ competitors or any other business terms that you don’t want to appear for and add them as negatives.

Negative Keyword Formatting

Remember the golden rule: add your negative keywords as singular words. If you found a negative keyword in your search term report, try and find the most important word from the sentence and add that as the negative instead.

For example, if you sell cabins and you find a query such as ‘vacation cabin rental near me’, instead of including the entire query as a negative, instead just add ‘vacation’ and ‘rental’ as two separate negative keywords. Be sure to add singular, plural and misspellings too! Google doesn’t like to acknowledge them as the same thing so be careful.

Managing Negative Keywords at the Account Level

You can add negative keywords at the Ad Group level and to individual campaigns. However, as trained by MCR SEO, an experienced Google Ads agency in Manchester, I would highly suggest that you create a negative keyword list and apply it to all campaigns.

If you manage several campaigns, adding negative keywords can be tiring. An account-level negative keyword list allows you to share negative keywords across campaigns. When you have new negative keywords to add, all you have to do is find your negative keyword list, add in the new word and apply it.

However, don’t forget to check that none of your negative keywords conflicts with your target keywords. Google will normally alert you to negative/target keyword conflicts in your account recommendations, so keep an eye out for any pop-up alerts. Rectify this as soon as you notice or your ads will be blocked from showing for the keyword you are bidding on.

Negative Keywords – The Unsung Heroes

To wrap up, if you aren’t using negative keywords, you definitely should be! Sure, finding negative keywords can be a bit of a tedious job, but wasting your ad budget on the wrong audience is a lot worse. By adding negative keywords to your paid search campaigns, you can reduce wasted ad spend, increase click-through rates, improve your Quality Score, and maximize your return on investment.

If you’re ready to learn more tips & tricks, get a copy of Claire’s best-selling Google Ads book! You’ll learn everything about launching a successful Google Ads campaign in 7 simple steps. Or if you’d like personalized help, get in touch with the team at MCR SEO. With over 15 years of experience in increasing Google Ads ROAS, they’d love to help you!

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