The Power of Negative Keywords

The Power of Negative Keywords


In the realm of digital advertising, especially within platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads, exists a potent tool often underestimated – negative keywords. These unsung heroes play a crucial role in refining your ad campaigns, saving you money, and boosting your return on investment (ROI).

What are Negative Keywords?

Simply put, negative keywords are terms that prevent your ads from being displayed when users search for those specific words or phrases. They act as filters, ensuring that your ads reach the most relevant audience possible. For example, if you sell high-end jewelry, you might use negative keywords like cheap, discount, or wholesale to avoid attracting budget-conscious shoppers.

Why are Negative Keywords Important?

The importance of negative keywords lies in their ability to enhance various aspects of your ad campaigns:

1. Increased Relevance & Click-Through Rate (CTR):

By filtering out irrelevant searches, negative keywords ensure that your ads appear in front of users who are genuinely interested in what you offer. This, in turn, leads to a higher click-through rate (CTR) as people are more likely to click on ads that directly address their search queries.

2. Reduced Cost-Per-Click (CPC):

When your ads are more relevant, they tend to generate higher Quality Scores from search engines. A higher Quality Score often translates to lower cost-per-click (CPC), meaning you’ll spend less for each click your ad receives.

3. Improved Conversion Rates:

By attracting a more qualified audience, negative keywords increase the likelihood of those clicks converting into actual sales or leads. When people find exactly what they’re looking for, they are more inclined to make a purchase.

4. Optimized Budget Allocation:

Instead of wasting money on clicks from uninterested users, negative keywords direct your budget towards attracting users who are more likely to become customers. This optimized spending ensures that you’re getting the most out of your advertising investment.

Types of Negative Keywords:

Understanding the different types of negative keywords helps you utilize them strategically:

1. Broad Match Negative Keywords:

These are the most general type and prevent your ad from showing if the search query contains all your negative keywords, in any order. For example, if your negative keyword is running shoes, your ad won’t show for searches like best running shoes or running shoes for women.

2. Phrase Match Negative Keywords:

These are more specific and block your ad when the search query contains the exact phrase, in the exact order, enclosed in quotations. For instance, if your negative keyword is leather jackets, your ad won’t show for men’s leather jackets but might show for jackets made of leather.

3. Exact Match Negative Keywords:

These offer the highest level of specificity, blocking your ad only when the search query exactly matches your negative keyword, including any misspellings. If your negative keyword is [women’s boots], your ad won’t show for that exact phrase but might show for women’s boot or boots for women.

How to Find Negative Keywords:

Identifying the right negative keywords is crucial for success:

1. Brainstorm Irrelevant Searches:

Put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes and think of search terms they might use that are not relevant to your product or service.

2. Analyze Your Search Terms Report:

This report in your advertising platform shows you the actual search queries that triggered your ads. Look for irrelevant terms that are wasting your budget.

3. Utilize Keyword Research Tools:

Several online tools specialize in keyword research and can suggest potential negative keywords based on your industry and target audience.

Implementing Negative Keywords:

Once you have a list of potential negative keywords, it’s time to implement them into your ad campaigns:

1. Add Negative Keywords at the Campaign or Ad Group Level:

You can choose to apply negative keywords to your entire campaign or to specific ad groups, depending on your needs. Campaign-level negative keywords affect all ads within that campaign, while ad group-level keywords only affect ads within that specific group.

2. Regularly Review and Update:

Negative keyword lists are not static; they need regular review and updating. As you gather more data and analyze performance, you’ll identify new irrelevant terms to add to your list.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

While implementing negative keywords, be mindful of these common pitfalls:

1. Overusing Negative Keywords:

Adding too many negative keywords can restrict your reach and prevent your ads from being shown to potentially interested users. Aim for a balance between relevance and reach.

2. Not Monitoring Performance:

Set up regular checks to monitor the impact of your negative keywords. Analyze your data to see if they are effectively filtering out irrelevant traffic and adjust accordingly.


Negative keywords are an indispensable tool for any advertiser seeking to maximize their return on investment. By understanding their power and implementing them strategically, you can refine your target audience, reduce wasted ad spend, and ultimately, drive better results from your advertising campaigns.