Negative Keywords of Wisdom

by | Jun 22, 2015

Does a bear defecate in the woods? Yes.

Does someone walk into a dog shelter looking for cats? No. Cause’…that’d be a cat-astrophe.

Meow, wouldn’t it help if a shelter worker told you that cats were excluded from their lineup, so that you could steer your search towards a place that did have cats?

In terms of ad campaigns and pages, a negative keyword is that shelter worker that will help you find what you’re looking for, and not what you aren’t.

Side note: Here at the War Room we LOVE cats. We have an office cat named Bella. She’s great, and unapologetically steals sips of our smoothies when we’re not looking.


Negative keywords can help you reach the most interested customers, reduce your costs, and increase your return on investment (ROI).

With negative keywords, you can:

  • Prevent your ad from showing to people searching for or visiting websites about things you don’t offer.
  • Show your ads to people who are more likely to click them.
  • Reduce costs by excluding keywords where you might be spending money but not getting a return.

As a real world example, let’s say you work at a wine store and you sell wine glasses. You’d want to prevent your ad from showing to someone searching for or visiting webpages that contain terms like “sunglasses” and “eyeglasses,” since that person isn’t likely to buy those at your establishment.

…Unless you’re preparing them for the morning after purchasing said wine.

The right implementation of negative keywords helps to funnel viewers to your ad, helping to spend ad money in the right places to increase ROI, show your ads to people who are more likely to click-through and engage, and overall reach the most interested customers!

Negative keyword searches can be done through your favourite campaign management system, Google Adwords. Through the keyword planning section, click the negative keyword tab on the bottom left corner of the screen. Here, you can find the key words to be excluded from your ad campaign that show data on search volume and competition to help steer viewers in your ad’s direction.


If you’d like to steer viewers towards an ad for things you do offer, and away from those that you don’t – negative keywords are your go-to! Steering viewers towards what you do offer is only half the battle; steering them away from things you don’t offer is the other.

Negative keywords are often useful for paid search campaigns that are a part of a broad field with a large spectrum of keywords, such as employment.

Basically, negative keywords = funneled viewers which = higher conversion rates.

Words of Wisdom:

  • Don’t use too many negative keywords – you don’t want to steer away too many potential viewers, especially in broad fields
  • Your ads can still show on pages that carry variations of the keywords selected. Say you add sunglasses as a negative keyword, you might have search terms like “red wine and sunglasses” and more show up. This reinforces the importance of careful selection when it comes to negative keywords, to be used sparingly.


Generating Negative Keywords

The old mentality behind negative keywords was for a bunch of marketers to dust off a few Red Bulls and let a massive brainstorming session begin, which often times looks like this:

To save time and efficiently generate negative keywords, try using Wordstream’s services or Google Adwords’ broad match/phrase match options for a large spectrum of keywords.

Again, Google Adwords search query report does offer set keywords for your ad group that you can choose selectively as “negative,” but the list is ideal for a few keywords at best.

Paired with Google Analytics or other PPC metrics systems, you can determine what keywords have performed well, segmented by dates, times and more to maximize the effect of your negative keywords – without breaking the bank.

And if all else fails, look at what the competition is doing in terms of keywords/negative keywords! Depending on the context of your ad or page, you can always refer to pre-set negative keyword lists to give you a better idea.

In a nutshell – be wise about your negative keyword choices, but don’t miss out on an opportunity to engage the viewers that matter, and maximize the effectiveness of your PPC advertisement efforts!


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