Negative Keyword

Short Definition: Keywords that prevent ads from being displayed by certain words or phrases.

What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are words or phrases that you don’t want to trigger your ads on search engine results pages (SERPs). To put it another way, negative keywords are terms that might come up in conjunction with your targeted keywords but aren’t relevant to your business.

For example, let’s say that you are an outdoors and recreation retailer who wants to target the phrase “roof top tent.” However, you’ve recently discovered that one of the top country songs of the summer is titled “Rooftop Tent” (hey, it could happen). When you search for the phrase “roof top tent,” top results include links to the country song’s lyrics and music video. You would want to make sure your ads don’t show when someone is searching for the song by selecting negative keyword phrases like “roof top tent music video” and “roof top tent lyrics.”

Why Should You Apply Negative Keywords to Your Ad Campaigns?

By building a strategic list of negative keywords, you can make sure that your ads only show for people who are searching for your products or services, not people who are coincidentally searching for similar phrases. This should help eliminate wasted clicks and reduce your cost-per-click.

How to Find Negative Keywords

One simple way to start uncovering negative keywords is to plug your target keywords into Google and browse the first couple of results pages. Look for any results that are irrelevant, and use those listings to determine what words you want to avoid as ad triggers.

You can also use Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner to identify negative keywords. Enter a search term related to your product or service and view the search volume for related terms. After entering a term like “music summer camp,” you might discover that there’s a lot of volume around the term “summer camp music festival,” which would lead you to add “festival” to your negative keyword list.

Types of Negative Keywords

There are three different categories of negative keywords in Google AdWords.

Negative Broad Match

Your ads won’t show when every word of a negative keyword appears in a search phrase, in any order. Your ads may still show in certain situations when some of the words in the negative keyword phrase appear.

Example of a negative broad match keyword: free national parks guide

Search TermCould your ad show?
free ebook national parks guide no
national parks guidebookyes


Negative Phrase Match

Your ads won’t show for exact keyword phrases, as denoted by quotation marks around the negative keyword.

Example of a negative phrase match keyword: “national parks guide”

Search TermCould your ad show?
national parks guide bookno
guide to national parksyes


Negative Exact Match

Your ads won’t be triggered for searches that contain the exact negative keyword without extra words. For searches that contain the keyword phrase but also have additional words, your ad may show. Exact match keywords are denoted with brackets.

Example of a negative exact match keyword: [national parks guide]

Search TermCould your ad show?
national parks guideno
national parks guide to campingyes


Review Negative Keyword Guidelines

Google and Bing have slightly different guidelines for creating negative keyword lists.

View guidelines for negative keywords in Google AdWords here.

View guidelines for negative keywords in Bing Ads here.

You can also talk to your paid search team to learn more about incorporating negative keywords into your pay-per-click strategy.

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