In the advertising field, identifying a keyword is important in determining the types of viewers you would like to see your page. This is crucial for attracting potential consumers of your product. For example, if you are selling bicycles, important keywords would be, ‘bike for sale’ ‘new bicycles for sale’, etc. On the other hand, negative keywords are programmed to achieve the opposite. These are keywords you’d specifically like to avoid.

Negative Keywords - What Are Negative Keywords written on a a green background with a search bar underneath the title.

What Are Negative Keywords: Definition

Negative keywords are specific words or phrases that advertisers can set in their pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to prevent their ads from appearing for search queries that include those terms. By leveraging negative keywords, advertisers can ensure that their ads are not displayed for irrelevant searches, which can help in improving the overall click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate of the campaign, and also in reducing wasted spend on unqualified clicks.

For example, if a company sells “leather shoes” but not “leather shoe repairs,” they might add “repair” or “repairs” as negative keywords to their campaign. This way, if someone searches for “leather shoe repairs,” the company’s ad for selling leather shoes won’t appear, ensuring they only pay for clicks from users genuinely interested in purchasing their products.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Negative keywords are mostly utilized by advertising agencies aiming to eliminate the number of uninterested buyers from accessing their pages. Many businesses search for the ideal keywords that result in the highest number of clicks and the most views. 

Yet, not many agencies exert much effort in identifying negative keywords that would help them reach the same objective.

However, employing negative keywords has a few main disadvantages that are also important to consider. Heavily utilizing negative keywords could diminish from the likelihood of potential buyers of accessing the ad/page.

In other words, even if someone wasn’t looking to buy bicycles through your search, they might consider it once they have been exposed to a bicycle ad.

Using negative keywords decreases that possibility. Therefore, you need to balance and use negative keywords wisely.

Using Negative Keywords in AdWords

Google AdWords is an advertising program created by Google for businesses who wish to use search engine display ads. 

The service allows businesses to set a budget for advertising and only pay when people click the ads (this is referred to as a PPC service); hence this technique heavily focuses on the uses of keywords. 

How to use negative keywords in google adwords
Adding negative keywords on Google Adwords can help you to enhance your campaign. Credit: ProfileTree

For that reason, identifying relevant and irrelevant (negative) keywords is important in saving the most amount of money.

Research conducted by WordStream suggests that almost half of advertisers don’t add a single negative keyword to their accounts over the course of a month. 

This means that they fail to take advantage of maximizing the effectiveness of their PPC spend. To avoid minor or major financial losses, using negative keywords should be critically considered.

If you are utilizing AdWords as a program to promote a small to medium business, then every penny counts. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that you are targeting a focused group of people who are likely to be potential buyers.  

Using negative keywords to enhance your campaign can be the difference between attracting the appropriate audience for your product or not. In addition to that, by refining your AdWords campaign, your AdWords Quality Score is also bound to improve.

Finding Negative Keywords through Google Ads

In order to take advantage of negative keywords, you should understand the appropriate terms you can use as negative keywords. There are some programs designed to help you achieve this. 

These tools allow you to examine the actual query data based on how people search. Therefore, you can clearly identify the negative keywords that are suitable for your campaign.

Manually creating a negative keywords list has been proven to be a lengthy and faulty process, as it is limited to what you and your partners can think of and brainstorm. 

Keyword Planner and Search Terms Report

Accordingly, this process can now be done through tools such as the AdWords Keyword Planner, Search Terms Report and others.

Keyword Planner is designed to allow you to find keywords within your interest but it may also be useful to find negative keywords that may be of use to you. 

When you search for a term,  you get a list of similar or connected keywords along with figures detailing their relative competition and the number of times these keywords are searched in a month. 

Notice that, if you see terms on this list that you know are unrelated to your business it might be beneficial to add them to your negative keywords list.

A Search Term Report allows you to browse the search terms that users entered prior to finding your website. 

This is beneficial as it allows you to refine your keywords so that you can communicate with people with desires relevant to what your website offers.

A search term report must be analyzed in order to decide which keywords may or may not be relevant. To do so, you must review each term and interpret whether or not they are connected or related to your business. 

Keywords may be added immediately to the AdWords account if a search term is selected and added to the campaign or ad group where the ad was activated. You may add terms directly from your AdWords account by:

  • Selecting irrelevant keywords to add and adding them as negative keywords.
  • Selecting where you want to add the negative keywords.

You must also consider that AdWords selects the campaign for which the keyword is triggered, so if you were to add a particular term as a negative in any other campaign it must be done so manually.

This is an especially tedious task for larger accounts where a search term report may generate thousands of words to be analyzed.

Truly effective marketers will come up with many ways of finding related keywords. For example, finding all their synonyms. Without this level of work, you might end up driving low standard traffic to your site ruining your chances of being successful. 

This is a fairly repetitive task; to reduce time wasted, you might consider trying an automated negative keywords discovery tool.

Using the Opportunities Tab in AdWords allows you to access automated suggestions customized for your account, which includes keyword suggestions. This method is useful in identifying new keywords and negative keywords relevant to your advertisement. 

However, since the suggestions are automatically generated, it is recommended that you go through the suggestions and carefully ensure their validity.


To access the ‘opportunities’ tab in your account, make sure you are on the ‘keywords’ tab. There you will find different keyword recommendations for the ad groups within your account.

As you scan the keyword suggestions, also search for negative keywords that could potentially be added to your campaign’s negative keyword list. 

Referring to the same technique mentioned in the Search Term Report section, we can recognize terms within the keywords suggestions.

Google Analytics is another viable method to discern negative keywords that further qualify your campaign. Here is how you can make use of this feature:

  1. Access Google Analytics
  2. Navigate to the ‘reporting’ tab.
  3. Find the report under ‘Traffic Sources’
  4. Click ‘Sources, then ‘Search’ then, ‘Organic’
  5. Start scanning through the organic (free) keywords that lead people to your advertisement.

It is probable that you will find a large number of different keywords that drive people to your website, so you should focus on the ones that push the majority of the traffic, which will be at the top of the report. 

From there, you can then expand the number of rows by altering the ‘show rows’ options or simply scrolling through the report. This report will give you the opportunity to scan for negative keywords you can add to your AdWords account.

Another easy way to find negative keywords is to simply conduct a search for your target queries. This will provide you with a number of related searches, some of which you may decide are irrelevant. 

These can then be added to your negative keyword list.

The practice of keyword research must be revisited and updated actively in order to achieve maximum results. Formulating a negative keyword list can be thought of as an investment, as you may choose to continue relying on it for months or even years.

Negative keywords -Google Search Queries - People also ask screenshot

In this example, if ProfileTree were to run a PPC campaign targeting the keyword ‘digital services’, we may need to list some of the above questions as negative keywords as some of them clearly show they have an irrelevant user intent. The user intent behind ‘what are the 4 main of digital marketing’ is to learn about digital marketing and not to actually pay for a service.

Examples of  Negative Keywords

To put all that has been said to use, here is a list of negative keywords to help you get started.

One common group of words you might want to avoid is employment search keywords. These are related to people searching for jobs or other employment opportunities. If this is not the aim of your campaign, then it is highly suggested to add the following words to your negative keyword list:

  • Hire,
  • Hiring,
  • Employment,

Someone looking to improve their knowledge or a set of skills, rather than buying a product usually mentions education search negative keywords in searches. These keywords may include:

  • Training,
  • Learn,
  • Class,

Research and information-related negative keywords are essential for anyone running an eCommerce website. These keywords are vital in reducing the amount of window shoppers visiting your ad:

  • Review,
  • Reviews,
  • Rating,

Summary of How to Find the Right Negative Keywords

Manually Generating Negative Keywords

  1. Search Query Report: Examine the search query reports in platforms like Google Ads. This report shows actual search queries that triggered your ads. Review this to identify irrelevant terms or terms with poor performance.
  2. Brainstorming: Think about your product or service and list out terms or phrases that might be related but not relevant. For example, if you’re selling new laptops, terms like “laptop repairs” might be irrelevant.
  3. Competitor Analysis: Look at your competitors’ content and offerings. Identify terms they are ranking for or advertising on that might not be relevant to your offerings.
  4. Regularly Monitor: Consistently check your campaign’s performance. High impressions with low CTR often hint at irrelevant terms.
  5. Geo-specific Exclusions: If you’re targeting a specific location, consider excluding other cities or countries to avoid irrelevant traffic.

Using Tools to Generate Negative Keywords

  1. Google’s Keyword Planner: This tool provides keyword ideas and traffic estimates. While it’s meant to identify positive keywords, you can also use it to identify irrelevant terms that you may want to exclude.
  2. Third-Party Tools: Platforms like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or WordStream offer negative keyword tools or features that help identify terms that might be draining your ad budget.
  3. Automated Rules in Google Ads: You can set up rules to automatically pause keywords or add negative keywords based on performance criteria, such as a low CTR.
  4. N-gram Analysis Tools: These tools break down your search query data into single words (1-gram) or word pairs (2-gram) to help identify common terms that aren’t performing well.

Regardless of the method or tool you choose, it’s essential to review and refine your negative keyword list regularly. This ensures that your PPC campaigns remain optimized, and you’re not blocking potential valuable traffic or wasting spend on irrelevant terms.

In a Nutshell

Negative keywords play a pivotal role in refining the accuracy and efficiency of campaigns. These are specific terms or phrases set by advertisers to exclude their ads from appearing on irrelevant search queries, ensuring that the audience reached is genuinely interested in their offerings. The significance of negative keywords is manifold: they help boost the click-through rate, increase conversion rates, and prevent wastage of ad spend on unqualified clicks. To successfully identify these exclusionary terms, advertisers should regularly scrutinize search query reports, brainstorm potential irrelevant terms related to their product or service, and employ both manual analysis and specialized tools.

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