Negative keyword - illustration of a gray key with a negative symbol next to it

Digital Marketing

What are negative keywords and how to use them in your ads

Find out what negative keywords are and how to use them to boost your Google ad results.


09/03/2021 | By Hotmart

What will we see in this post

You probably know what a keyword is. But, what about negative keywords?

Although not as popular, negative keywords are used in most online ad campaigns. They help filter ads when certain searches are made.

Would you like to learn more about negative keywords and how they can boost your Google Ads? Keep reading!

What are negative keywords?

As you might already know, a keyword is a term composed of one or more words that summarizes the topic of the content, such as a text or video. Within the context of digital marketing, keywords help guide the production of content.

This term is also used to identify how users enter a question or problem into a search engine in order to find answers or solve their problems.

Negative keywords, in turn, are search terms that prevent your ad from being displayed in certain searches.

When we create an ad in Google Ads, we need to target the search terms for which we want the content to be displayed.

For example, if we want to advertise an online course about growing plants, we choose keywords related to the topic, such as “gardening”, “taking care of plants”, “how to grow orchids”, etc.

With negative keywords, it’s the opposite. They tell Google to prevent your ad campaign from being displayed when the user enters them in a search.

A negative keyword or phrase indicates to Google Ads that it doesn’t relate to the product or service you are advertising and therefore, the ad shouldn’t be displayed.

Going back to the example of the plant-growing course, terms like “free” or “free of charge” wouldn’t make sense for a campaign that isn’t advertising anything for free, but rather selling an online course.

How do negative keywords work?

As you can see, negative keywords are a powerful resource for paid traffic campaigns and can help you target your content even further. It’s a strategy that can help ensure that your ad isn’t wasted on an irrelevant search.

For example, imagine you own an online bookstore. A good keyword phrase might be “science fiction books”. In other words, a person searches for this phrase in Google and your ad will be displayed. Money well spent.

Now, imagine that a user entered “free science fiction books”. You don’t donate books, nor do you have any promotions to give away books. Your ad would be displayed for nothing. These would be good negative keywords to use.

Why should you use negative keywords?

At first, using negative keywords might seem unnecessary. After all, if you already determine which terms should be used to display the sponsored link, why determine terms that shouldn’t?

The answer lies in the keyword matches and the commands assigned to them.

Going back to the previous example, if you assign the term “science fiction book”, Google understands that “free science fiction book” is good for you. They are correlated.

This only occurs if you don’t use the quotation or bracket commands on a keyword, which determines the exact term to be used to display your ad.

However, using this command can greatly reduce your traffic. For example, if you assign “science fiction book”, other terms won’t display your ad, such as “science fiction book for children”, which might interest you.

But, if you insert “free science fiction book” as the negative keywords, it will be the only search term that will prevent your ad from being displayed.

What types of negative keywords are there?

There are several types of negative keywords, and they differ from each other according to the type of match in relation to the original keyword terms.

Check them out:

Negative broad match

With this type, your ad won’t be displayed if the search contains all of your negative keyword terms, regardless of the order in which they appear in a sentence. 

But, your ad will be displayed if just one of the negative keyword terms is in the sentence. 

In our “free science fiction book” example, the following would be broad matches: “free science fiction book for children” or “science fiction book for children for free”, as well as “free science fiction book”.

In other words, if all of the negative keyword terms appear in the search, the ad won’t be displayed. 

Negative phrase match

Here, matches contain the exact keyword terms in the same order you enter them into Google. 

In the case of “free science fiction book”, this type of match would allow your ad to be displayed for “science fiction book free”, since the order has changed. 

Other matches would be blocked if you add other words, such as “for children”, as long as the order is the same. 

Negative exact match

Negative exact match keywords are the exact keyword terms, in the same order, for which you don’t want your ad to be displayed. If the negative keyword “free science fiction book” is used as an exact negative match, then “free science fiction book for children” will display your ads. 

In other words, the exact negative match doesn’t include searches with additional words. Only exactly what you enter.

Finding negative keywords

Adding the word “free” to keyword terms is a classic example of using negative keywords. However, knowing which terms are irrelevant to your ad campaign isn’t always easy.

The simplest way to find the ideal negative keywords for your campaign is finding out what users enter in their searches in order to find your ad. Something similar to what Google Keyword Planner does.

To do so, in your AdWords account, go to the “keyword” area and then to “keyword details”.

By clicking on “all”, you’ll see a list containing all the different ways in which your ad can be displayed. If you have created a campaign, you can do this in the same way.

You’ll be able to identify which terms aren’t worth the investment in paid traffic, and then add them to your negative keyword list.

Creating a negative keyword list

To do so, you need to go to the “Configuration Tools” and then, “negative-keyword list” in your keyword planner in Google Ads.

Google will provide you with suggestions and you can add those that best suit you.

You can add more lists by clicking the (+) button. Name it as you see fit, as long as it makes sense for when you want to apply it to a campaign.

Using a negative keyword list in Google Ads

Now that you know what negative keywords are, their importance, the different types, and how to create lists, it’s time to learn how to use them in your campaign.

If you’re a creator or affiliate and want to learn the secrets of successful ads, you can download our free e-book right now. Just tap the button below!

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