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The Best Way to Utilise Negative Keywords on Google Ads

Wednesday 16 March 2022

7 minute read

By Sarah Burns

Google Ads focuses on two things - relevance and budget - but without realising it you may be throwing away your budget on irrelevant, and/or costly search terms.

This is where the negative keywords tool becomes crucial to your Google Ads campaign success rate.

Any PPC strategy worth its salt will have negative keywords at its core, but there is one key way of doing this most effectively:

  • Use the least amount of words possible for your negative keywords, preferably one single broad match word, maybe two words as a phrase match, and rarely three or more words.

If you take a look at the negative keywords within your Google Ads (either in your Campaigns or a negative keywords List), you will probably see that such a tactic is an exception and not the rule.

Most of the time people utilise the ‘Add as negative keyword’ checkbox on a specific query that is deemed irrelevant - but this can be detrimental to long-term successful negative keyword planning.

An example of a search query could be “refurbished cheap rattan furniture by designer John Smith:. If all you sell is new wooden John Smith furniture, you don’t need to target people using this full term, so create three negative keywords:

  • refurbished
  • cheap
  • rattan

You shouldn’t add the other words in the query because some of those terms are indeed relevant. But you shouldn’t add the whole query as a negative as it’s unlikely ever going to be searched again (unless historical data suggests otherwise).

You may not realise that Google actually has a limit to its negative keywords associated with each campaign, this includes lists attached to a campaign, campaign negatives and ad group negatives. The limit is 10,000 and once you’ve hit that Google will ignore anything over it.

For display and video campaigns the limit is 5000.

Getting into good habits

You can use the Google Ads Editor when adding many negative keywords to a campaign, but you can also use the mobile app. On the mobile app click the search term you don’t like, and click ‘Add negative keyword’, but rather than submitting it, you can now edit the term.

Set it to ‘Broad’ match, and delete everything except the key word, i.e. cheap, jobs, used, refurbished, careers, that is irrelevant and submit this.

A generally good practice is to use negative keyword lists, even if you only have one or two campaigns set up.

Negative keywords - top tips

You should always be on the lookout for great new search terms, and in the same way, you should be equally proactive when it comes to scouting out new negative keywords. You can try:

  • Using Google search: Find great lists that others have already put together - saving you the work and time!
  • Dig into Google Keyword Planner: This is a great tool for finding keywords to bid on, of course, but have you also considered it for finding negative keywords?
  • Find other lists: Explore the features of popular third-party PPC keyword research tools or industry research tools for the vertical you are working on.
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