Getting your AdWords campaigns seen by more prospects is a good thing, unless those prospects have very little chances of becoming customers.

That’s where negative keywords can help.

Negative keywords instruct AdWords not to display your ads with specific search queries. They follow all the same rules of your standard keyword lists, meaning you can specify broad-, phrase- and exact-match negative keywords. The only difference is you’re filtering your audience rather than growing it.

If you’re new to search advertising, you may be asking: “Don’t more eyeballs on your ads eventually lead to more business on my website?”

Not always. Especially if you’re showing your ads to the wrong people. Rather than get more conversions, you’re likely to see a declining click-through rate and a rise in costs per click and end up paying more than you need to.

But fear not. By the end of this article, you’ll understand the power of negative keywords and how to use them in your AdWords account. And more good news – you’ll likely see an immediate boost in your conversion rate after implementing negative keywords.



What Exactly Are Negative Keywords?

Imagine you’re launching an AdWords campaign for a hair salon. Your keyword list contains the phrase-match term “haircut” to make sure your ads are seen by folks searching for all kinds of haircut-related terms. But after a week of running ads, you realize a good portion of your clicks are from people searching for “dog haircuts,” and not one of these people has visited the salon.

Clearly, this is a problem – but an easily fixable problem. Just go to your negative keyword list in AdWords and add the broad-match keyword “dog.” Immediately, anyone searching for any variation of “dog haircuts” won’t see your ads.

Then you can be proactive and take it a step further. Add “pet,” “cat,” “grooming” and other pet-related terms to your negative keyword list.  That will prevent your ads from showing for irrelevant search phrases.


How to Create Negative Keyword Lists

Building a negative keyword list is easy. You can do it at either the campaign or ad group level, and you’ll end up using both options as you get more comfortable with using these keywords.

In scenarios like the “dog haircut” example above, a campaign-level negative keyword list would make more sense considering no part of the business caters to pet haircuts. If you’re building campaigns for a multi-faceted business, then you may find ad-group level negative keyword lists to be more beneficial.

To create a negative keyword list, log into AdWords, click the Keywords tab and then click the Negative Keywords tab. Then simply add your negative keywords to either the “Ad group level” or “Campaign level” tables.


Benefits of Using Negative Keywords

Earlier in this article, we discussed why you need negative keywords for your campaigns to be successful. Now we’ll go deeper into how negative keywords can help.

#1: Weed out shoppers looking for discount prices.

Online shoppers often search for discounts, coupons, free trials and other bargains. But what if your business doesn’t offer discounts or coupons? Bargain-hunters who click your ads are more likely to bounce if they don’t find those deals.

If your business doesn’t offer any discounts or coupons, you can eliminate this problem by adding “discounts,” “coupons” and “free” to your campaign-level negative keyword list.

#2: Get the biggest bang from your ad budget.

Negative keywords filter out people who are most likely to click on your ads without becoming customers of your business. If you cut out those clicks, then you’re instantly saving money! And if you don’t trim your ad budgets, then you’re essentially reinvesting that money to attract other prospects who are more likely to become customers. The result is more traffic with higher conversion rates, which means more profits without spending more money.

#3: Focus on buyer-oriented keywords.

Earlier, we mentioned how negative keywords can help prevent your ads from being shown to people who are doing research. This is important because folks who are researching goods and services are usually not ready to make purchases.

By adding keyword terms such as “compare,” “what is” or “what are” to your negative keyword list, you’ll immediately stop your ads from being shown to people who are most likely in research mode instead of shopper mode.

#4: Cut out non-consumers.

In addition to shoppers doing research before buying, some Web users who see your ads might not even be consumers at all. Consider again our hair salon example; in most cases, you wouldn’t want your ads to be seen by unemployed hair stylists searching for “haircut jobs.” Entering campaign-level negative keywords such as “jobs,” “job openings,” “careers,” “part-time” and “internships” can keep your ads exclusive to consumers.



Negative keywords are often overlooked when you’re just learning how to use AdWords. However, failing to use negative keywords can put a strain on your campaigns and drag down their performance, leading to frustration and unnecessary second-guessing. Always think carefully about negative keywords and use them with all of your new campaigns.

The good news is that even a few basic negative keywords can make a big difference. Just remember – success in AdWords isn’t just about who sees your ads, but also who doesn’t see your ads. Why waste money on clicks that don’t convert? Fortunately, you don’t have to.


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