The Guide to Keyword Negatives

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27th März 2017

The Guide to Keyword Negatives

When you have set up all your campaigns, adgroups and keywords it is important to not forget about negative keywords. But why are they so important and how do you implement them in the best way? Let’s get started!


Negative keywords are of great importance for any serious PPC account. They stop your ads from showing to people who are not interested in your product and most importantly prevent irrelevant traffic on your website. Cutting out irrelevant clicks helps you to avoid wasted spend. Hence, they increase not only your click-through-rate (CTR) and reduce your costs, but ultimately also have a significant influence on your website conversion rate.


Just like for keywords there are different match types for negative keywords: Negative exact, negative phrase and negative broad.

Negative Exact

This match type only excludes the exact keyword, e.g. [ceiling light] will only exclude the term „ceiling light“. However, the search term „black ceiling light“ will still trigger your ad.

Negative Phrase

This negative match type excludes all search terms that include the negative keyword, no matter where in the search term. For example, the negative keyword “desk lamp“ will prevent your ads from showing for searches like „red desk lamp“ or „buy desk lamp online“. This match type is very useful to exclude all kind of irrelevant terms for ad groups or even whole accounts.

Negative Broad

This match type should be used with caution, as it excludes all variations of the negative keyword. However, this can also be very useful, if certain terms need to be excluded and show up in the search terms in many different phrase variations.

In this case, if we use the example of „desk lamp“ again, the broad negative keyword would stop ads from showing for searches like „buy lamp for desk“ or „desk lamp online shop“. But be aware, only search terms that include all words of the broad negative keyword will be restricted. For a search term like „buy lamp online“ your ad will still show, as the search does not include the word „desk“.


When you implement new keywords you should think about the search terms that these might trigger. AdWords Keyword Planner or the simple search on Google can be of great help here:

If any products or services that you don’t offer show up in the search you should exclude them right away.

For example, if you are offering ceiling lamps on your website, but only of a certain brand, color or material, all irrelevant characteristics should be added as negative keywords. Moreover, if you can only provide your services in a certain location, e. g. Berlin, all other locations like „Hamburg“ should be excluded in phrase match type. This will save you tons of money and make sure that only people who are really interested in what you have to offer enter your website.

As soon as your campaigns start running, the search terms need to be checked regularly. If anything shows up that is not connected with your product or service, block it!


Negative keywords can be put on three different levels: adgroup level, campaign level and in the shared library (on account level). But when should the different levels be used?

In the shared library, campaign negative keywords can be added to multiple campaigns at once. This is very useful if there are many negatives that need to be applied to a great amount of campaigns as it gives you a well-structured overview.

You can create different lists of negative keywords and apply them to any number of campaigns in your account. For example, lists could be about excluded “Cities”, “Brands” or other terms like “used” or “to rent” that generally don’t fit with your offering. Be aware that negative keywords in the shared library do not appear as “excluded” in the search term report of the individual campaigns.

Campaign level

Campaign level negatives are similar to the negatives in the shared library. If a negative keyword is only relevant for one campaign, it can be added on campaign level.

Additionally, this level can be used for so-called cross negatives: If your campaign structure is based on separate campaigns for exact, phrase and broad keywords (more about the Alpha/Beta campaign approach here), you should add the more specific keyword match types as negative keywords in the broader campaigns.

For example, add [red ceiling lamp] as negative exact in the campaign with the keyword “red ceiling lamp” to avoid traffic of the exact keyword being triggered by the phrase match keyword.

Ad Group Level

Depending on your structure, it might be more efficient to add cross negatives to the adgroup level instead of campaign level. This can be the case, if certain keyword negatives should only be excluded in a few adgroups and not in all ad groups of one campaign.

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