Negitive keywords

Negative keywords are one of the most underused, yet most useful tools within AdWords for qualifying your clicks. And remember, qualifying your clicks = higher ROI’s.

Negative keywords allow you to avoid wasteful clicks, and can help increase conversion rates. On the other hand, not using negative keywords can mean your ad shows for irrelevant keywords, resulting in lower click through rates. And this in turn can lead to lower quality scores.

And who wants all that if you can possibly avoid it?

Why Use Negative Keywords

To put it simply, negative keywords allows you to filter out unwanted traffic that was probably never going to convert anyway.


  • You sell toasters (but don’t do any repairs). Add repair, broken, and fix to your negative keyword list.
  • You sell high-end clothing. Add cheap, free, fake, and imitation to your negative keyword list.
  • You are a residential plumber. Add commercial, institutional, and industrial to your list.

Negative keywords allow you to specify what type of keywords you don’t want to be found for, resulting in better, more profitable traffic for your business.

My Top 9 Tips for Selecting Negative Keywords

1. Check your keyword details in the search query report within AdWords to see which inappropriate or irrelevant keywords are triggering your ad. Quickly add these to your negative keyword list before you get more crap traffic.

2. Once you have a list of keywords you want to avoid, figure out whether you want to add them at the campaign level or ad group level.

For instance, if you sell Apple computers, you will probably never want traffic for actual apples like Red Delicious or Gala. You can probably safely add these to your campaign level negative keyword list, rather than to just your ad group level list.

3. Use the Google keyword tool to determine what 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. Should you happen to find any irrelevant keywords in the list (and you will), add them to your list.

4. Use a free negative keyword list or tool to easily find reams of negative keywords to add to your list.

These lists will help you exclude traffic that isn’t worth the click. For instance,

  • Those looking only for information (as opposed to buying)
  • Those comparing products or businesses
  • Those looking for a price point different than what you offer (eg. If you sell high-end jewelry, you may want to exclude terms like bargain, cheap, and discount).

5. Run your own Google search to see what comes up for your keywords.

You may be surprised to see some results you hadn’t expected. The idea is the same as for #3 above; find out which terms Google thinks are ‘related’ to your keywords, and exclude any that may be a waste of your clicks.

6. Use your own common sense! Look through your keyword list and determine if any of your keywords have double meanings that you don’t want your ad shown for.

7. Exclude geographic areas where you don’t offer your products or services.

Although using AdWords geo-targeting is essential if you only service a particular region, it doesn’t hurt to add non-serviced cities or regions to your negative keyword list.

8. Use Google Analytics to find which keywords result in high bounce rates, and which keywords have high traffic but low/no conversions.

You may be surprised to discover that keywords you thought were relevant to your business just aren’t performing well. Remember that just because you think a keyword is relevant, doesn’t mean everyone else does.

9. Include misspellings and synonyms for keywords in your current negative keyword list.

Most advertisers remember to add misspellings and synonyms to their keyword list, but many forget to add common misspellings of the words already in their negative keywords list.

For instance, if you don’t want your ad triggered by the search term ‘cheap’, be sure to include common misspellings and typos like ‘cheep’ or ‘ceap’.

It’s easy to get caught up in obsessing over which keywords to use, but don’t forget to spend an equal amount of time obsessing over your negative keywords.

Do you feel like you’re making good use of your negative keyword list? What’s the most crazy search term you’ve ever had the misfortune of paying for?

Image courtesy of Ambro

Learn about our Adwords Training & Management Solutions.

By Philip Shaw


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