Despite the name, negative keywords are actually very helpful.
Typically, when you do keyword research, you determine which words to associate with your services based on how your audience searches for content. Negative keywords provide an opportunity to choose which words should be excluded from your digital marketing campaign to further focus on what matters.
Should you be using negative keywords in your digital campaign? We’ve shared more on the strategy to help you decide when negative keywords are right for you.
What Are Negative Keywords?
When you create a keyword list, you are telling Google what words and phrases should trigger your ad.
Pretty simply, choosing negative keywords tells Google Ads which words you do NOT want to trigger your ads. When you are developing a highly targeted digital marketing campaign, it’s just as important to choose negative keywords as it is to determine your keywords for SEO. This improves your return on investment.
Sometimes, words and phrases have more than one meaning. Let’s say someone searches “hot potato” in Google. Results come up for a child’s song, kid’s game, movie, restaurant, and more. If you’re the restaurant owner of The Hot Potato hoping to attract customers, you’ll want to clean up your keywords. When a parent searching for the “hot potato” game clicks on your site, you will pay for that click but likely won’t get new interest in the restaurant.
In this case, your negative keyword might be “hot potato game” so that people looking for a game are excluded from those searching for a restaurant.
Here’s the bottom line: negative keywords are another tool to help you get positive and focused SEO results.
Review Your Search Terms
You might not realize what search terms are leading to clicks on your site. Fortunately, the search term report through Google can shed some light on searches that lead to your ad and how those searches are performing.
When you sign into your Google Ads account, choose All Campaigns, then Keywords, then click Search Terms under the Keywords menu. Now, you can view the search terms people used that led to your ads.
The Search Terms report is an excellent way to add negative keywords. Accessing the Search Terms report allows you to see the types of clicks you’re getting and add negative keywords straight from that report.
Understand Negative Keyword Match Types
There are different types of negative keyword matches that can be used to improve your digital campaign: phrase match, exact match, and broad match.
A phrase match is an excellent match type for negative keywords. Negative phrase match allows you to eliminate any search that includes a word or a series of words in order. For example, if you’re selling second-hand clothing and realize that the search “new jeans” is triggering your ads, you can eliminate all clicks with that keyword by adding the phrase match version (“new”) into your negative keywords.
Let’s apply the above example to an exact match option. A negative exact match means Google will eliminate searches that include exact keyword terms in exact order without additional words. In this case, using “new” as your exact match option could still show ads for “new pants,” “new clothes,” and “new shirts.”
Using the broad match option might work as well, but it’s harder to know what the results will be. If you chose “new jeans” as your broad match option, Google will not show ads for that phrase, even if the words show in a different order. Your ad might still show if only part of the phrase is included in a search.
When we eliminate a keyword, we almost always use the negative phrase match to get rid of it for good. If you sell used clothes, and you add “new” as a negative phrase match keyword, you’ll get rid of clicks for “new clothes,” “new jeans,” and “new shoes” all in one fell swoop.
Building a Negative Keyword List
You might discover that certain unwanted keywords are creating issues and triggering ads across multiple campaigns. In that case, it’s helpful to build a negative keyword list that can easily be applied to campaigns, which avoids having to manually enter those negative keywords each time.
For example, if your business is located in Virginia and only serves people in that area, you may want to eliminate searches that include ‘new york’ for your entire account. With a negative keyword list, you can easily apply the list to as many campaigns as you want.
Your Google account will allow you to create up to 20 negative keyword lists with 5,000 negative keywords in each list.
How Often Should You Add Negative Keywords?
It’s important to monitor your search term report and update your negative keywords as needed. We typically add negative keywords once per week or once per month, depending on the age of the account.
Newer accounts might require that you add negative keywords more frequently, because it’s more common to get unwanted clicks from junk keywords on Day 1. The exception might be if you’re managing big accounts and only using exact match keywords.
When you use negative keywords, you run a more efficient digital campaign.
Don’t pay for clicks that won’t improve your leads! Reviewing your search terms, regularly adding negative keywords as needed, and creating negative keyword lists will help improve your ROI.