So why are negative keywords important?

Knowing how critical the importance of maintaining a list of negative keywords requires a thorough knowledge of how broad match keywords really work. For example, if I use the keyword coffee shops and keep it as a broad match (assuming no modifiers are being used), this opens up my ad to being seen by people for are searching for terms that are related to coffee shops. So that I means if I search for mocha java shops in jersey city that is a close enough variant to my original broad match term that my ad may appear.

This allows me the opportunity to have my ad be exposed to a wider net, but what if my shop doesn’t actually sell mocha java? And what if it’s not in Jersey City? This is where we need to start tightening our campaign – and keeping a thorough and recurring list of negative keywords is an excellent practice to get into.

How do I know which search terms are triggering my ads?

This used to be much more difficult to find within the AdWords UI, but Google has made it much easier to find now. The list can quickly build up if your campaign is generating enough clicks – remember that this isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the queries that were served impressions, its a list of queries that both were served an impression and clicked. As your campaigns build up clicks, you’ll see a list of mostly longer, intent-based keyword phrases. I would wait a day or so for things to really build up.

As you look thoroughly into your list, you’ll start seeing some very interesting queries that people write in Google search. Take advantage of this rare glimpse into the souls of thousands of searchers. Unfortunately, while your list will hopefully show you some great opportunities for potential long-tail exact match keywords, you’ll also see terms that either too weird or very incompatible with your business.

For example, in this screenshot below, this is a campaign for Facebook marketing services. I already see that someone is searching for Katana is the name of the app package for Facebook’s Android app? Do I want my ad to appear for these types of queries? No, not really. So I’m going to just put this entire query into the negative keyword trash bin. You can now see on the Added/Excluded column that this is now Excluded.

Keep the way you write your negative keywords in mind

One thing to keep in mind when making your negative keyword lists is that the broad, phrase, and exact match formatting still applies. Sometimes I may not want to throw out the entire query, as that usually doesn’t solve the problem. The likelihood of someone else typing a long tail query in such a specific way is too low for your negative keyword selection to make much of an impact.

Think of it this way: when I just deleted [market details id com facebook katana] I’ve just made sure that no one who types that exact keyword will ever see my ad again. Boy, I showed them didn’t I?

The more efficient and effective way to go about this would to constructively think about what part of the query is really causing the problem, and then add a broad or phrase match negative. My real problem is with “katana” – so let’s make that a phrase match negative keyword since I know that I don’t want any query with that word to see my ad.

Keeping your negative keywords on the ad group and campaign level

One mistake that accounts that I’ve looked at tend to make is that they have the discipline of adding negative keywords, but don’t think about where the negatives need to go. AdWords allows you to decide if you want your negative to be on the ad group level or the campaign level.

Let’s say that we sell are selling necklaces and you have ad groups for your product types. One ad group is for pearl necklaces and the other ad group is for diamond necklaces. You don’t carry black diamond necklaces but you do carry black pearl necklaces – so in this case you would want to keep black as a negative keyword for your diamond necklaces ad group, but not for your pearl necklaces group. Keeping black as a negative keyword on the campaign level would cause you to lose sales for your available pearl necklaces.

Know which keywords don’t support your business in advance

Negative keyword list-building usually occurs as a reactive move to your search terms report – but if you know the business you are advertising for well enough, you can have some preemptive fun with your list-building.

For example, for this business below, they offer social media marketing services, but are not an app. It would be a waste of time to mistakenly bid on those words, so keeping them broad in on the campaign level ensures that no potential leads will be confused back the lack of service.

Keep a disciplined regimen as opposed to dumping all of your negatives at once

I advise any client that I work with to never make too many moves in bulk – while the Change History is helpful when keeping a log of every single change that was made to the account, if you do a bunch of things at once and your numbers plummet, it’ll be difficult to know what caused it to happen. Add new negatives every day – if you stay on that disciplined regimen, you’ll always be able to know whether you dialed things up a little too much and fix the problem right away.

One my favorite time-saving measures: keeping negative keyword lists

So you’re off to the races and adding your negative keywords – good for you, you’re 80% of the way there! But let’s say that you’re as disciplined as I hope you are and after a few weeks you see something that looks like all of Santa’s lists put together.

Luckily, there’s a way that you can organize your negative keywords in a much better way by segmenting your lists.

If you haven’t created a list before, like in this example below, you can begin by creating your first list. You will then be able to manage all of your lists in one place and assign campaigns that you want to apply to. Remember to keep in mind that lists are for the campaign level and not for the ad group level.

Once you’ve created your list you can decide which lists you want to apply to which campaigns. You can even assign lists to more than one campaign. Just make sure you aren’t causing any conflicts with your ad group negative keyword lists!


And one final thought: make sure that you are checking on your old negative keywords

If you start selling those black diamond necklaces, you’ll want to make sure that you delete black as your negative for that ad group. The best rule of thumb is to know the business as well as the account itself. If you don’t really know the business that you are advertising for, well, then you really don’t have any business managing that account.

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