If you’ve got an Adwords campaign running, chances are you did exhaustive keyword research before you launched it.

What you probably didn’t do, though, was devote just as much time and energy to building a negative keyword list – despite the crucial role that negative keywords play in maximising the ROI of an AdWords campaign.

Tsk tsk.

In fact, stats show that almost half of advertisers don’t add a single negative keyword to their accounts over the course of a month.

That’s crazy! You’re missing out on chances to maximise the effectiveness of your PPC spend.

Let’s fix that ASAP!

What is a negative keyword?

A negative keyword is a type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase. Basically, it tells Google not to show your ad to anyone who is searching for that phrase.

You’d use a negative keyword list to ensure that they people who click on your ads are most likely to be looking for what you’re selling.

For example, if you sell designer furniture you’d probably want to add words like “cheap/pine/plywood/faux/bargain/affordable” as a negative keywords to your campaign or ad group. That way, if someone is looking for a bargain and types in “plywood furniture”, your ad for luxury furniture won’t show up.

Negative keywords are an important part of every campaign because they help make sure that your ads appear only to people looking for what you offer.

This helps you increase your clickthrough rate (CTR), reduce your average cost-per-click (CPC), and increase your ROI.

Top Negative Keyword Tips:

To help you create your negative keyword lists, here are 9 of our top tips:

  1. Check your keyword details in AdWords.

Check your keyword details in the Adwords search query report. Here you’ll be able to see which inappropriate or irrelevant keywords are triggering your ad. It’s likely to be a little shocking. Add these to your negative keyword list ASAP.

  1. Perform a Google search

Do a standard Google search to see the ads and organic rankings that come up for your keywords.You may be surprised to see some results you hadn’t expected.

2b. Use the Google keyword tool

Now go one step further and use the Google keyword tool to see all the terms Google thinks are related to your keywords.

Simply run a search for your keywords, making sure to select ‘Broad’ from match types, and then browse through the ‘Keyword ideas’ column. You’ll probably find a new batch of irrelevant keywords to add to you list of negatives.

  1. Use a free negative keyword list or tool.

Negative keyword tools do exist, so make use of them.

Here you’ll no doubt find a new clutch of negative keywords that have slipped through the cracks. Add ‘em to your list.

  1. Use your own common sense!

Look through your own keyword list have a think about any ambiguous meanings that your keywords could have.

For example, someone selling organic apples would want to exclude any mention of Apple devices.

  1. Exclude certain geographic areas

Although using AdWords geo-targeting is essential if you only service a particular region, it can also be a good idea to add non-serviced areas to your negative keyword list.

  1. Identify underperforming keywords

You can use Google Analytics to find keywords that result in high bounce rates and keywords have high traffic but low/no conversions.

You may discover that certain keywords just never seem to perform well. Remember that just because a keyword seems relevant, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great one for your business.

  1. Include misspellings and synonyms

Most advertisers remember to add misspellings and synonyms to their keyword list, but many forget to do the same to their negative keywords list.

For example, if you don’t want your ad triggered by the search term ‘affordable’, be sure to include common misspellings and typos like ‘affordible’ or ‘afordable’.

  1. Campaign level or ad group level?

Once you have your beautiful list of negative keywords you need to decide if you want to add your negative keywords at the campaign level or ad group level.

For example, if you sell organic Apples, you will probably never want traffic for searches like apple computer/ipod/ipad/S7/etc.

You can then safely add these to your campaign level negative keyword list, rather than to just your ad group level list.


Here are some negative keywords that apply to almost all campaigns. Obviously, use at your discretion, but chances are (almost) every adwords campaign will want to exclude these:

  • free
  • torrent/torrents
  • youtube
  • craigslist/gumtree/ebay
  • Porn/porno/naked/nude

Employment-related searches are another area you may want to include in your negative keywords list. For example:

  • apply
  • hire/hiring
  • job/jobs/jobs at
  • career/careers
  • full time/part time
  • vacancies
  • resume

Finally, cut down on the number of researchers that find your ads (as they have very low buying intent) by adding these research-based negative keywords:

  • article/articles/press release
  • Facebook/twitter/linkedIn/Youtube/Instagram/Snapchat
  • information/info
  • pics/picture/pictures
  • CEO/Owner/who owns

And there you have it! Yes, it’s great to obsess over which keywords to use, but don’t forget to spend an equal amount of time obsessing over your negative keywords!

Like yin and yang, a successful Adwords campaign needs to have a good balance of both.

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About Steph Von der Heyde

Our resident wordsmith’s love of digital lured her over from advertising to the online space, where she fell in love with content marketing. Since coming to the online world Steph has made her mark on all outgoing CleverClicks copy and is passionate about using words to build brands. Her obsession with the writing is rivaled only by her love of trail running, yoga and green juice. When she’s not submerged in content strategy you’ll find Steph in Downward Dog.

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