How to use negative keywords correctly in a Google Ads Campaign?

Keywords in Google Ads

Keywords are terms or expressions used to match ads to the terms that users search for. Selecting keywords relevant to a campaign in Google Ads can help us reach the customers we want. 

Types of keyword matching in Google Ads

The keyword match types indicate how closely the keyword should match the user’s search term, so that the ad can be considered in the auction.

If we use exact match the keyword will only be displayed to users who are searching for that exact keyword. 

By using phrase matchthe keyword can be displayed in searches that include the keyword’s meaning or a more precise form of meaning.

If no match type is used, the keyword will be considered broad match by default, which may include searches that don’t contain terms in the keyword: misspellings, synonyms and similar searches.

Negative keywords

To prevent your ad from being displayed on certain searches, you can add negative keywords. This can help ensure the ad is only displayed in desired searches. In other words, the ads are not displayed to users searching for the respective expressions or terms.

For example, if we add “free” as a negative keyword in the campaign or in an ad group, Google Ads will not display the ad for searches that include the term “free”. Displaying the ad when the respective keyword is used will cause us losing money, because users who are looking for that term are not part of our targeted audience.

As for the display network, the ad is less likely to appear on a website when negative keywords match the website’s content.

However, negative keywords are not as accurate on the display network as they are on the search network. Occasionally, the ad may appear on pages that contain these terms. Therefore, the most appropriate action in this case is to exclude website and content categories. 

Negative keywords can be added at campaign or ad group level. Campaign level means avoiding searches that contain this specific keyword in campaigns, while ad group level means that we avoid displaying negative keyword ads in a specific ad group.

The importance of negative keywords in Google Ads:

  • Improving the ad group relevance
  • Increasing the conversion rate
  • Increasing the click rate (CTR)
  • Bringing relevant users on the website
  • Saving money 
  • Improving the ROAS (Return on Ad Spend)

Types of negative keywords we can use in Google Ads:

Broad Match 

Allow us to prevent the display of ads for searches that include any word in the keyword’s expression, in any order. This type of match can limit searches. When assigning these keywords, we must first make sure that all the options have been researched and that we don’t want any subject related to the negative keyword to be displayed.

Phrase Match

Allow us to exclude the ad from being displayed to users who search the exact keyword expression, plus extra words that can pe added before or after the expression. For example, if the phrase match negative keyword is “elegant shoes”, the ad will not be displayed for searches such as “women elegant shoes”, although it can still be displayed for searches such as “shoes” or “elegant”.

Mistakes to avoid: It is very important to also include each keyword if we want the respective keywords to be excluded separately. This is why we should constantly monitor the search terms, to see if there are still negative keywords displaying the ad, keywords that are not relevant for us. 

This type of match is probably the safest option, because the search query should explicitly quote the keyword in the search phrase. This limits the risk of hiding the ads from too many searches, but also narrows down the audience to which we want the ad to appear.

Exact Match

Negative exact match avoids displaying the ad in searches that include the keyword expression as it is, without any variation. For example, if the negative exact match keyword is “summer accessories”, the ads will only be excluded from search results pages of users searching for “summer accessories”. If users search for any other version of the same expression, such as “the best accessories for summer”, the ads may still be displayed.

A higher budget means more flexibility and it is advisable to use exact matching terms, as they are much more specific. However, if we are on a smaller budget, it is recommended to use more restrictive negative match types (broad match and phrase match), as they can help prevent ads from reaching the wrong audience, and thus maximize the ROAS.

How to identify negative keywords? 

1. Keyword Planner in Google Ads

With this tool we can generate other relevant keywords, but also keywords that we want to exclude, based on a targeted keyword. 

2. Search Terms Reports in Google Ads

Another method is to look up the search terms report showing the queries that triggered the ad. From this list of terms, we choose and exclude negative keywords that are not relevant to the campaign. This method of excluding negative terms will save money that can be invested in relevant keywords.

3. What is the user thinking when conducting a specific search?

We can try to figure out what people have in mind when searching for specific keywords. 

4. Searching for the competitors

Another method is to search the targeted keyword on Google and to get an idea of what people want to see when they search for a specific keyword. From this point we can create a list of terms tat are not relevant to the target audience. 

5. Google’s suggestions

We can also check the suggestions that appear while we type the keyword. In addition to new keyword ideas that we can use, this method will give us an idea regarding negative keywords that could waste the budget available for advertising.

As you can see, adding negative keywords is extremely important in terms of the profitability of the budget invested in marketing. Besides, it is important that the ads reach the right people, because this means more chances to generate conversions. Our recommendation is that you to use the information in this article and make sure that you have implemented correctly the negative keywords, along with constantly optimizing the campaigns.