Why PPC Marketers Need To Care About Negative Keywords

A clever way to stop wasted spend and irrelavnt clicks.

By Graeme Watt, 23 November 2016

If you have experience of running a PPC campaign in Google Adwords or any other platform then you will have most likely encountered the frustration of paying for clicks on search terms which are completely irrelevant to your campaign.

This often comes about as a result of using different match types in particular broad match and phrase match.  

Sadly paying for irrelevant clicks will quickly spend your budget and will affect your bottom line, these wasted clicks come about as a result of lack of proper negative keywords within the campaign.

A negative keyword is essentially a keyword which prevents your ad showing up when someone searches for a certain word or phrase.  In essence, it is a filter. 

So for example, say your company sells running shoes for men and you create an ad group and bid on the term “running shoes” in both exact match and phrase match, you want to be sure to include negatives such as “women” “children” “for kids”. This would prevent your ad appearing around searches involving these terms.

Negative keywords when used correctly bring a number of benefits to advertisers including:

  •         Reducing the amount spent on wasted clicks
  •         Reduces irrelevant ad impressions
  •         Higher quality score
  •         Lower cost per click
  •         Improved conversion rate

So how exactly do you go about creating a negative keyword list for your campaign? In this post, we outline a number of sources that can be utilised for this purpose. 

Have a go to master list for all of your campaigns

It is a good idea to create a list of negative keywords which you can apply to any new campaign which you create. This list will include general terms such as “careers” “free” “research” and a number of adult-related terms.

Depending on your specific campaign this list may need to be tweaked however, in general you will want to make sure your adverts do not appear for these terms. 

A number of lists can be found online including from Techwyse & PPC Hero 

Use pre-existing knowledge  

You should have a deep understanding of both your business and the industry in which you operate and so off the top of your head, you will have some terms which you definitely don’t want your adverts to appear for.

Add these to your negative keyword list before your campaign begins. 

Keyword research  

Keyword tools are just as good for finding negative keywords as they are for finding new keywords to target. As you conduct your research using the Google keyword planner or any other tool, you will naturally come across keywords which will never lead to a conversion or are not relevant to your campaign.

Take note of these and add them to your negative keyword list. This is a proactive approach to negative keywords and will save you both time and money. 

Search query report

Once the campaign is actually live the search query report is the most valuable resource which you can use to develop your negative keyword list.

The search query report allows you to review what people actually entered to trigger your advert appearing.

Search query report.png

As a recommendation check through this report on a regular basis, I personally like to do it at least once per week.

This report will also provide some comical value as you review some of the weird and wonderful search queries that trigger your adverts. You will find that the longer the campaign goes on, the more refined it will become and the less you will need to add to your negative keyword list from your search query report. 

Google search

A quick and easy to way to identify some negative keywords is by googling your target keywords. Look through a few pages of the organic listings and PPC adverts and note down any keywords which are irrelevant to your campaign. 


Remember when creating your negative keyword list that it works in a similar way as regular keywords and you must consider which match type you want to choose when excluding (broad, phrase or exact)

You also have the option of creating a negative keyword list at the account level, campaign level or ad group level.

Negative keyword levels.png

The Account level will create a list within the shared library that can be applied across multiple campaigns, campaign level will apply the negative keywords across all groups within the campaign and finally, the ad group will only apply the negative keyword to that specific ad group, other groups in the same campaign won’t be affected. 

Negative keywords a great way to get more from your PPC campaigns without increasing your budget and should be utilised by everyone conducting PPC.  We hope with this post that you now have a better understanding of negative keywords and can now begin to create your own lists for your campaigns.

If you would like to discuss PPC strategy with one of our experts or have any other digital project in mind then please get in touch as we would love to have a chat with you.


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