last Updated 19 May 2020

Negative Keywords – The Big No-No in Google Ads

Negative keywords are a vital component of a well optimised Google Ads account.

By adding negative keywords to your Google Ads campaigns, you are telling Google that if a searcher includes one of those negative keywords in their search then you do not want your ad to appear. This means you can filter out the kind of visitors that are of no interest to you and avoid wasting money driving them to your website.

Negative keywords are essential if your account uses lots of broad, modified broad, or phrase match keyword terms.

There are quite a few negative keywords that most people are going to want to have in their Google Ads account right from day one. Examples include:

  • Free
  • Cheap
  • Jobs
  • Internship

Then there are ones that are specific to certain sectors or professions. For example, a private dental clinic would want to have “NHS” as a negative keyword so as they didn't attract searchers who were looking for free dental treatment on the NHS.

If you have an ecommerce website there any be certain manufacturer names that you need to add as negative keywords. For example, if you sell dishwashers but don’t stock any from Miele then you should add “Miele” as a negative keyword.

In addition to adding all the obvious negative keywords when you create your campaigns, you should also review the search terms report on a regular basis to find new negative keywords that need adding. 

Negative keywords can be applied to an entire campaign or to individual ad groups. In most cases you’ll want to apply your negative keywords at the campaign level, but there may be some situations where a particular keyword is only needed as a negative in certain ad groups.

You can also set up a central list of negative keywords in the Shared Library area of the Google Ads interface – accessed from the Tools menu. This is called a shared negative keyword list. You can then apply your negative keyword list to multiple campaigns with just a couple of mouse clicks. You then only have one list to keep up to date rather than several - and this can be a great time saver when you need to apply the same negative keywords to multiple campaigns.

To view or add negative keywords, go to the keyword management tab and then click the Negative Keywords button near the top of the page. You’ll then see your ad group and campaign level negative keywords as shown here: 

How ot add negative keywords to a Google Ads campaign or ad group

When you enter negative keywords via this negative keywords section of your account, you do not need to prefix each keyword with a minus sign.

Remember that negative keywords can also have match types. So for example a negative keyword [nhs dental surgery] will exclude people searching for that precise term, but will still allow your ad to show if someone searches for: nhs dental treatment. Therefore, if you are a dentist who does not provide any treatments on the NHS, you should simply add the single word “nhs” as a negative keyword and then any search that includes the word “nhs” will be blocked.

About the author 

David Miles

As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services sector use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.

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