Google Ads can be complicated and very important part of any digital marketing campaign. When you are running a Google Ads search campaign, your keyword strategy can make a difference between spending a few cents per click to upwards of hundreds of dollars per click. A very simple yet effective method of running Google Ads campaigns is to use a negative keyword strategy.

In this article, we will go over what negative keywords are, how to use negative keywords in Google Ads, why negative keywords are so important, how to add negative keywords, and how Google Ads handles match types.

What are Negative Keywords?

negative google ads keywords on mobile

Negative keywords are keywords that are not relevant to your broad keyword. They help filter the audience that sees your Google Ads by ensuring that your Google ads account isn’t bidding on keywords you don’t want or find ineffective. By properly using negative keywords in Google Ads, you can drastically reduce your cost per click, increase audience retention, and improve click through rate. Using negative keywords can also improve your return on investment with Google Ads.

Effective paid search management means consistently growing the keywords you are bidding for while minimizing the number of ineffective keyword bids on your Google Ads account. Negative keywords provide a chance for you to perform a type of keyword research where search engine marketers can maximize their ROIs by disallowing certain keywords while growing their own list of keywords to bid on.

How Negative Keywords Work

Negative keywords are the ideal method for preventing your Google Ads from appearing for specific search queries. Instead of pausing bidding on that search term, negative keywords prevent bidding entirely to help reach the best potential audience.

Negative keyword lists can be set up by entering the search term you don’t want your Google Ads account to bid on, assigning it to a Google Ads campaign, and selecting the match type for the negative keyword. Negative keywords can be assigned to either the ad level to only affect specific ad groups or campaign level negative keywords that affect every Google ad in a campaign.

Match Types for Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can be assigned to campaigns or ads groups with different match types. The types of match types available for negative keywords are broad match, phrase match, and exact match. It is critical to understand the different matching types to maximize the effectiveness of your negative keywords and maintain relevance while reducing costs.

Broad Match Negative Keywords

When first setting up your negative keywords lists in Google Ads campaigns, the default match type will be set to broad match negative keywords. What broad match does is prevents your Google ads from showing on search queries if all the negative keywords are present in the search query. For example, if you are running a Google Ads campaign and one of your negative keywords is “men’s jacket” your ads won’t appear for any search terms that contain the words men’s jacket, regardless of other words included in the search query or the order of the words. In this example, ads can run on search terms like “jacket for men,” and “winter jacket” but not for search terms like “winter men’s jacket” or “jacket men’s.”

This is a very important detail of negative broad match keywords that many search engine marketers miss. Broad match negative keywords will only prevent your ads from appearing in search results that contain all of the words mentioned in the negative keyword.

Negative Phrase Match Keywords

Similar to broad match keywords, a negative phrase match keyword requires all of the words to be included in the search term. However, unlike broad match keywords, phrase match negative keywords require the words to be in the exact same order as the negative keyword. Just like broad match negative keywords, other words can be included in the search term and your ads can still won’t appear as long as the words are in the same order.

Using the same keyword we used in our broad match example, “men’s jacket,” ads can appear for “winter jackets,” “jacket men’s” and “men’s outdoor jackets” but not for “winter men’s jacket” or “small men’s jacket.” It is important to remember that phrase match negative keywords must have search terms include the keywords in the same order to work.

Exact Match Negative Keywords

The last type of negative keyword match type is exact match negative keywords. The exact match type of negative keyword prevents your ads from appearing in search queries that exactly match your negative keywords. Unlike the two other match types, exact match negative keywords can still allow your ad to be shown if other words are present in the user search queries. For example, if your negative keyword is “men’s jackets” your ads can still be shown if people search for “black men’s jackets.” Only the exact search query will have your ad prevented from showing.

Negative Keywords At The Campaign And Ad Group Level

negative keyword google ads guide

Regardless of whether you want to use negative keywords at the campaign level or at the ad group level, they allow you plenty of flexibility to grow your keyword list and reach wider audiences while filtering out unwanted prospects. To assist in filtering, you can use several different match types at both the campaign and ad group level allowing for a mix of broad match, exact match, and phrase match negative keywords. When building your negative keyword lists it is important to include all negative keyword match types to allow for a variety of search queries to be filtered automatically by Google Ads.

Benefits of using negative keywords

It may be fair to assume all businesses aim at getting more customers and generating more conversions. Negative keywords can greatly increase the chances that someone clicks on your ad and then converts due to being either further along the purchasing funnel or performing a more qualified search. The more qualified a search, the higher likelihood of that user being further along the purchasing funnel and is more inclined to make a decision about purchasing a product or service. Of the three match types, negative exact match keywords can be used to specifically stop your Google Ads account from bidding on problematic or low conversion rate keywords. Even if a keyword relates to your business if it has a high bidding cost and a low conversion rate it still may be worth turning into an exact match negative keyword. Doing so will save you money and improve your ROI on your Google ads campaigns.

How to add negative keywords to your Google Ads campaigns & Ad Groups?

Now that you understand the importance of negative keywords and their 3 match types, you need to know how to add negative keywords to your campaigns. While you can have an unlimited amount of negative keywords in your negative keyword list, having too many negative keywords can prevent your ad from being shown and severely limit your potential audience.

Adding Negative Keywords At The Campaign Level

Once you are signed into your Google Ads account select the search campaign you want to add negative keywords to. From there choose the keywords menu drop down and select “negative keywords.” You will see a plus sign at the top of the page. By clicking on that plus sign you can add to your list of negative keywords and assign the campaign you want to add them to.

Adding Negative Keywords At The Ad Group Level

To add negative keywords at the ad group level you can follow the same steps as you would to add them to the campaign level. Except after selecting the negative keywords drop-down option, select the campaign dropdown and you will see another option appear for “ad group.” Once selected you can choose which ad group in your campaign you want to add your negative keywords to and save them. Adding negative keywords to your negative keyword list is a very simple process but requires constant attention to the keywords you are bidding on to ensure high-quality, qualified leads, and prevent your ads from running on irrelevant keywords.

It is important to remember that the default match type will be set as a negative broad match keyword.

When To Use A Negative Keyword Strategy

If you are new to Google Ads and the world of search engine marketing, a negative keyword Google Ads strategy can be a very effective method of managing your search campaigns. This strategy allows you to create a short list of potential broad match keywords and routinely check what keywords your campaign is bidding on and filter the unwanted or irrelevant search queries using negative keywords. The more time you allow your search ads to run the longer your negative keyword list will become and the more optimized your ad spend will be. At first, your Google ads might run on some wacky search queries but over time as you add more negative keywords to your list, Google will understand the type of keywords you want your ads to appear in and remove your ad from showing for irrelevant searches. One of the biggest strengths of using a negative keyword strategy for your ad campaigns is the long-term improvement of your ROI through the use of a long negative keyword list. This also works great if you plan to run multiple campaigns and want to transfer over your negative keyword list.

Learn More About Google Ads & Negative Keywords

If you want to learn more about how to use negative keywords in your Google Ads account check out the rest of our blog.

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