How to Use Negative Keywords to Optimize Your PPC Campaign

Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 in How-Tos | 28 Comments
How to Use Negative Keywords to Optimize Your PPC Campaign





Is your paid search campaign suffering from a low click through rate? Are you wasting money on ads targeting vague or irrelevant keywords? Regain control over your PPC campaign by adding negative keywords to stop showing ads to the wrong people.

Regain control over your PPC campaign by adding negative keywords.

While traditional keywords trigger your ads to display for relevant searches, negative keywords prevent your ads from being triggered. The search networks will know not to show your ad for anyone searching a phrase that contains your negative keyword.

An Example

If an electrician adds ‘jobs’ as a negative keyword to his PPC campaign or ad group, he’s telling Google or Bing not to show his ad if a user’s search contains the word ‘jobs.’ So ads for the keyword ‘electrician’ won’t display if a user searches ‘electrician jobs.’ Good thing, because this electrician isn’t hiring and doesn’t want to waste the money he set aside for new business on job hunters.

And here’s what happens if ‘jobs’ isn’t added as a negative keyword…

google search for electrician jobs

How to Discover Negative Keywords

Coming up with an initial list of negative keywords is pretty easy. Here are three different categories of sources to help you get started:

1. Starter Lists – There are a number of great negative keyword lists out there. Check them out for inspiration and add the most irrelevant keywords as negatives to your campaign.

2. Search Query Report – You can (and absolutely should) review your search query report to see which searches are currently triggering your ads. Once you’ve pulled the report, you can sort and filter it to find the low hanging fruit–frequently searched irrelevant queries that you’re wasting the most money on. For help, read our Guide to Using the Search Query Report.

Here are two ways I sort the data to look for negative keyword opportunities.

  1. Sort by highest impressions to see the most popular queries your ads show up for.
  2. Sort by highest spend to see which keywords are costing you the most money.

Once you’ve sorted your queries, look at their CTR, conversions and conversion rate to gauge the quality of the keyword. If the keyword is irrelevant and isn’t resulting in conversions, you can add it as a negative keyword.

3. Google Keyword Planner – This keyword research tool provides a wide list of common and related keywords. Once you’ve created a list in the tool, review it for negative keyword ideas. Learn how to use the Google Keyword Planner here.

Negative Keywords and Match Types

How Negative Keyword Match Types WorkYou can use negative keywords together with match types as well. This chart provides an example of the impact of negative broad, negative phrase, and negative exact match keywords. You can learn more about how negative match types work on each network by following these links for Google and Bing.

Please note that adding a negative keyword will stop your ads from showing up for affected words so use them with caution. To be safe, add negative keywords as exact match (with “quotes”). This gives you the most control and limits how broadly your negative prevents ads from displaying. Of course, some words, like  ‘jobs’ and ‘download,’ may be safe to add as broad negatives.

Next, read How Ignoring Match Types Can Kill Your PPC Campaign

Sam Mazaheri

Sam is the Director of Online Marketing at InVision and former Director of Marketing at AdStage. Prior to AdStage, he was part of the AdWords product team at Google, serving as the in-house AdWords expert and advisor to product management, engineering, and UX. Prior to that, he personally managed and grew in-house digital marketing programs with over $300,000 in monthly ad spend.



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