list of negative keywords

Why Negative Keywords Are Essential In Google Ads

Neil Andrew

Neil Andrew

June 27th, 2019

Neil is Scottish so when he's not writing for PPC Protect he's eating haggis and watching Braveheart.


Google Ads management can often be a complicated and confusing process that involves regularly checking every keyword to make sure you’re getting the best ROI. There are many ways to optimise and change campaigns, but one of the simplest solutions is often overlooked by many PPC managers.

That simple solution is known as negative keywords and is a powerful tool when used correctly. No matter if you’ve used them before or not, negative keywords help tell Google which phrases you don’t want your ads to appear for. As simple as it may sound, this strategy can often save you lots of money by deciding which clicks you don’t want to pay for.

To help you understand the negative keywords strategy better and to show you their power, we’ve made an in-depth guide on how users can utilise negative keywords in their own campaigns. For the beginners out there that have no idea what negative keywords are or how to use them, then pay attention, there’s plenty we’ll be exploring.

What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are a way of telling Google what you don’t want your ad to show for. In fact, Google explains them as: a type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.

How does it work? It’s fairly simple.

If you add a negative keyword to your campaign, you tell Google not to show your ad for any search term containing that keyword. For example, say you’re an online games store, and you’ve set up a campaign that targets the keyword “games”. Using Google’s default searching algorithm, your advert will show up for a range of phrases and broad match keywords including “free games” and “games for free”.

Since you’re not giving away games for free, anyone who clicks on your ad from this keyword will be left disappointed, and you will be out of money. Over time this could eat up a lot of your ad spend which you could be spending on more relevant keywords instead. To stop your ad showing up for these particular keywords, you need to add the negative keyword “free” to your campaign. Once added, Google will stop showing your advert for all search queries related to that keyword, simple.

How Are Negative Keywords Different From Other Keywords?

In the simplest terms, negative keywords help you save money by getting rid of irrelevant keywords. One keyword alone might not make a lot of difference to your campaign and results. However, once you build an extensive list of keywords, you’ll start to notice things such as higher click-through rates, lower spend, and higher conversions.

Negative keywords also allow you to increase your accuracy and target your customers even better. Of course, you could just use a list of exact match keyword phrases but just think about all the keywords you could be missing out on! It’s much more efficient to tell Google what you don’t want to be shown for versus listing every unique keyword you do want to be shown for.

How To Make Your Own Negative Keyword List

Now you know what negative keywords are and how they work, it’s time to have a go at making your own list.

Following on from our online games retailer example earlier on, let’s have a look at how you can create your own negative keyword list. The first step is to head on over to the Google Ads keyword planner and enter your keyword. As you can see below, we’ve entered the keyword “games” into the keyword planner, and these are the results.

Imagine you’re an online games retailer who sells popular games for XBOX, PS4, and PC. With your business model in mind, you’ll want to start looking through all the suggested and related keywords to see if there are any exclusions that could save you money. Always think about the intent of the query and what the user is trying to find. Some keywords might seem like they are related to your business, but in reality, they are looking for something completely different.

In this case, we find 3 recurring keywords that are of interest. The first keyword is “free” as we mentioned before. Users searching for “free games” will be left disappointed when they land on your website and discover all your games have a price. They’ll quickly go back to the search results in a matter of seconds, costing you precious money.

The second keyword of interest is “online”. Now you might think this is a good keyword for an online games retailer, but the context of the keyword is completely different. People searching for “online games” are most likely looking for games to play online, e.g. free games! As a games retailer, this is obviously someone you don’t want to attract as they’ll just end up wasting your PPC budget.

The final keyword is “play” and follows the same trail of thought as the second keyword. Users searching to play games are most likely looking for games to play online. Since there are plenty of free to play games out there, attracting these type of people to your website would not be a good idea.

To stop these people from seeing your ads you’ll need to create a negative keyword list with the keywords free, online and play. By stopping these individuals from seeing your ads, you’ll be putting the rest of your budget to good use and improve your ROI.

Increase Your ROI Even More

Now you know how beneficial negative keywords can be to your PPC campaign and how they can save you money, it’s time to go and make your own. Remember to always think about the intent of users behind the search queries, and you should be able to identify non-relevant keywords that keep recurring.

Negative keywords might help you save money on your PPC campaign, but there’s an even bigger issue that is wasting your precious PPC budget.

A negative keywords list does not stop fraudulent users from clicking on your ads.

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