Even though negative keywords have been around in paid search since - well perhaps forever - so many advertisers are still not using them, and, as a result, are wasting money that could be going to the clicks they really want. Here are a few things you should know to get started using negative keywords with your paid search campaigns.

What Is a Negative Keyword?

Because not all search queries precisely match the keywords you type in, paid search platforms, like Google Ads & Microsoft Ads, use their own interpretation to determine if a search query matches your keyword. Negative keywords can help you better prevent the platforms from serving your ads when searches are close enough for Google or Bing, but not close enough for you.

Here’s an example:

Say you are advertising for your furniture store that sells only new, high-end furniture. You may be bidding on the keyword “dining room tables” in the hope of connecting with people who are looking for dining room furniture.

The following search queries all have the potential to match your keyword but would be a mismatch for the products you sell.

  • “cheap dining room tables”
  • “used dining room tables”
  • “free dining room tables”

The words “cheap”, “used”, and “free” would all be good candidates to use as negative keywords in your ad account.

The process for adding negative keywords is similar to adding new keywords. You can go into the Keywords section in your account, click on Negative Keywords and type them in. Or, when you are checking on the search terms in your account, you can add them from there.

Side note for those unfamiliar with the terminology—Keywords are the words and phrases you’ve set up to match in your search campaigns and Search Terms are the words and phrases that people actually typed in that match with your keywords and resulted in clicks.

Search Terms can be found under the Keywords section in your ad account. When you find a search term that you want to make into a negative keyword, simply check the box next to that search term and then click “Add as Negative Keyword”. You will then select whether you want it added at the Campaign level or at the Ad Group level and specify the match type you’d like to use. I recommend using phrase match or exact match for negative keywords. Then you’ll click the Save button and it is added!

Using negative keywords can help you improve metrics like Click-Thru-Rate and Conversion Rate, which can help you achieve lower Costs-Per-Click, over time. Most importantly, they help to reduce wasted spend and allow you to focus your budget on more qualified clicks which will get you to your goals faster.

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About the Author Melissa Prostrollo // Senior Search Strategist

Melissa is our one-and-only Senior Search Strategist. She deploys data-backed strategies to help our clients thrive in the competitive arena of paid search.

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