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Why Are Negative Keywords Critical for AdWords Performance?

“Lock down your negative keywords,” it’s a phrase uttered often at Evolve Digital Labs. Negative keywords are a huge factor in wasted spend.

What are negative keywords? Negative keywords are words or phrases that are not relevant to products and services you offer within a pay-per-click advertising campaign. Leveraging negative keywords ensures your PPC ads show up only to people who are looking for what you offer.

Let’s say you run a website which sells  women’s hats. However, you don’t want your PPC ads appearing if someone searches “baseball hats” or “women’s caps” because you only sell fancy (Kentucky Derby style) hats so the words “baseball hats” and “women’s caps” should be included in a negative keywords list.

By setting up a negative keyword list, you’re ensuring your campaigns aren’t getting impressions for searches that don’t lead to sales or conversions. The increased specificity of optimized, negative keywords can help reduce average CPC, increase clickthrough rate and the overall ROI.  Maximizing use of negative keywords gives you better control of the traffic flow within your account.


Selecting negative keywords to include within campaigns is critical to success. But with the potential for so many terms where should you start?

Google’s Keyword planner tool is great a place to begin looking for negative keywords. It will enable you to identify the negative terms which have the most impact.

Let’s go back to our example. Search for women’s hats in the keyword planner and you’ll see terms you’d likely want to bid on. You’ll also notice terms that are not relevant, in this case, women’s caps, beanie hats and fedoras.


Go to Google, begin by entering  key terms, but don’t press enter. The results that show up in that drop down menu are called Google Instant Results and represent the most searched variations of the term which you have started to enter. This will show you tons of variations of this term, usually all with significant search volume. You can use it to identify search terms people may be using that are not related to your brand, products or service.

Don’t forget to scroll all the way to the end of the SERP (search engine results page) and look for related terms, that you’ll want to add to your negative keyword list.


Also, use the search terms report, to rule out keywords that are not relevant to your products or services. Review the biggest factors and terms that are driving irrelevant traffic.


Once you’ve got a good list going you can set up a negative keyword list in AdWords and link it to your campaigns. Follow these six easy steps for setting up a negative keyword list.

  • Choose the ‘campaigns tab’.
  • Click the ‘shared library’ link on the left side.
  • Choose campaign ‘negative keywords’.
  • Then choose ‘+List’
  • Name your list and then add ‘negative terms’ in the keyword box – only one for each line.
  • Make sure to click ‘save’.

After setting up the list add it to multiple accounts through the shared library link or one at a time through the keywords tab.

Making sure negative keyword lists are properly setup and maintained can generate exponential growth for campaigns. Appropriately leveraging negative keywords can  sometimes become the single biggest factor in eliminating wasted spend and putting budgets back on the right track.

Evolve Digital Labs prevented irrelevant search queries for a major telecom company by managing a database of 1.5 million negative keywords, this maintenance helped position and increased qualified queries over three years.