Andrew Raso May 5, 2019

Negative keywords play a crucial role in maximising the ROI of your pay-per-click campaign.

They let you exclude search terms from your campaigns, so you can focus on targeting the keywords that really matter to your audience.

Negative keywords are critical for a sky-high ROI because you’re eliminating clicks from people who aren’t going to buy anything – that’s a lot of wasted spend you can save!

Ready to learn about negative keywords?

Read on to find out:

  • What are negative keywords?
  • How to research and find them
  • How to add them to your PPC campaign
  • How to use them in Bing Ads


What are negative keywords?

Too many advertisers are caught up on what to target that they forget to focus on what not to target.

That’s where negative keywords come in.

Who better to explain negative keywords than Google itself:

“Negative keywords let you exclude search terms from your campaigns and help you focus on only the keywords that matter to your customers.

Better targeting can put your ad in front of interested users and increase your return on investment (ROI).”

Put it this way, the last thing you want to do is pay for dead-end clicks from people looking for something completely different than what you’re offering.

This is where a negative keyword list is worth its weight in gold.

It lets you filter out all of the irrelevant searchers, so your ad won’t show when you know the audience isn’t interested.

Let’s say you hire out marquees for weddings and events. Potential customers might search for “marquees” or they might search for “tents”.

What you don’t want is people who are searching for camping tents to trigger your ads.

So, you should exclude camping related keywords from your campaign as negative keywords.

This list instructs Google on the search queries that are not relevant to your products and service. So you don’t have to worry about paying for completely irrelevant clicks for camping tents that will never lead to sales.

Another way to use negative keywords is to weed out the people looking for a free version of your service or product, such as software.

Simply add “free” to one of your campaigns as a negative keyword. However, if you offer a free trial as part of your lead generation strategy, this tactic wouldn’t work.

It’s all about working out the right balance.


How to source negative keywords for your PPC campaigns

So, now you know what they are and how they work, it’s time to add them to your campaign.

First, you need to choose the right keywords. The tricky part here is that you don’t want to add so many negative keywords that you risk losing potential customers.

It’s a balancing act.

For search campaigns, look for terms that are similar to your keywords, but are probably used by people searching for a different product or service.

Start by examining query data based on how people search using Google Ads Keyword Planner and Search Terms Report.

  1. Go to Google Ads Keyword Planner and type in the keyword you want to target. It will come up with suggested keywords – on this list you’ll see the keywords that you know don’t apply to your business and those you really don’t want to target. These are good candidates for your negative keywords list.
  2. Go to Search Terms Report to see the search queries that people typed into Google to trigger your PPC ads. Use this to build a list of positive and negative keywords.
  3. Perform a Google search of your primary keywords and peruse the results on the first few pages. These are all results that Google deems relevant to that search query. If there’s anything in there that’s going to cost you money, add the terms to your negative keyword list.
  4. Get creative. If you’re selling calendars, does your ad show when people search for the hit movie “Calendar Girls”? Think about movies, songs, books, famous people and other wacky search terms that could trigger your ad.


How to add negative keywords to your PPC campaign

Adding your list to your campaign is one of the first things you should do. You might have chosen the right keywords and written award-winning ad copy, but if your ad can be triggered by completely irrelevant search terms, you’re wasting precious budget.

Once you’ve found your negative keywords, adding them to your Google Ads campaign is easy.

First, work out whether you want to apply them at a campaign level or an adgroup level.

  1. Campaign level – You’re telling Google to NEVER show any of your ads for these keywords, e.g. you are selling wine glasses and never want your ads to show up for eyeglasses.
  2. Adgroup level – You’re telling Google not to show your ads for negative keywords in this particular adgroup. This gives you control over which campaigns are serving for given terms.

Now you’re ready to set up your negative keywords:

  1. Select the campaign or adgroup
  2. Click on “Keywords”
  3. Click the “Negative keywords” button
  4. Click +KEYWORDS to add negative keywords
  5. Click Save.


Using negative keywords in Bing Ads

Google isn’t the only on that lets you refine your campaigns with negative keywords. Bing Ads offers it too, albeit in a slightly different way.

The biggest difference between Bing Ads and AdWords is that you can only designate phrase and exact match negative keywords.

But you can still set up campaign and adgroup level negatives, as in Google Ads. Use Bing’s step-by-step guide to set up negative keywords.



Negative keywords are one of the most powerful tools in your Google Ads toolbox. Use them properly and you can prevent irrelevant keywords from triggering your ads, which ultimately helps you avoid wasted spend across your campaign.

Building your list should be one of the first thing you do to refine and optimise your PPC campaigns.

About the Author

Andrew Raso

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