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In this article, we discuss negative keywords. We explore what exactly they are and several ways to make a great universal negative keyword list. We even give you a free download of a general negative keyword list we have seen to work great in most companies advertising accounts. We also show you how to do the best practice of reviewing account performance to make a custom negative keyword list.

Negative Keywords for Google Ad Optimization
What Keywords Should you place in your universal negative keyword list?

What are Negative Keywords?

Pay-per-click advertising platforms allow you to choose negative keywords and positive keywords. Positive keywords are when you want to show ads.

Negative keywords are when you want your ads to not show. That is even if you are bidding on the other portions of the search phrase. For example, if you run a restaurant and are bidding on “Italian restaurant”. You may bid negatively on “cheap” or even “pizza” if you feel you are not a good match for those terms. Maybe you don’t serve pizza. In that case, you don’t want to bid for any web visitors looking for that. Several online advertising platforms let you enter negative keywords. These include Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Amazon, and Twitter. That is the definition of “negative keywords”. Some platforms like Google Ads call them “negative match”.

What are negative keywords in Google Ads?

While optimizing your Google Ads Account, it is vital to pick good buyer-type keywords. It is also important to use negative keywords to prevent paying for unlikely-to-convert traffic. Paying for online advertising like Google Ads is getting more competitive. Improving Return on Investment is key to breaking even. Many companies have had to suspend their unprofitable Google campaigns. Negative keywords allow you to avoid people that are typing off-target phrases. Or they are not worth the cost of paying for a full-cost keyword. In Google Ads negative keywords are in the same section as your positive keywords. You are not forced or even encouraged to make them when you start an ad group.

Are negative keywords important?

Google Ads is more competitive than ever. It is very important to prevent showing your ads to poor prospects and actually be aggressive with excellent prospects. Negative keywords allow you to drop searches from people typing phrases that are goods and services that you don’t provide. Keyword targeting has gotten less specific in Google Ads over time. It is more important than ever to add negative keywords in Google Ads.

What are some examples of negative keywords most accounts should have?

Below are 5 keywords that we have seen to be good negative keywords. That is because these people are searching for cheap options, images, or videos. None of that is a very good candidate for someone to get out their credit card and purchase something. But there are lots more keywords that are bad. Let’s keep learning!

5 Examples of Keywords to Negative – Quotations means Phrase Match
Keep Reading for Reasons to Use Negative Keywords

As you can imagine, those are most likely not buyers or are not in the buying funnel. Most companies should focus on people more likely to buy and not people looking for a funny video. Before you worry about adding those, look at the free universal negative keyword list of 940 general keywords below.

Why should I use negative keywords?

Higher Click-Through Rate

Your account will get fewer off-target impressions as soon as you input the keywords. The number of clicks will most likely not go down much. So the CTR will improve. This will make most search platforms like your account more. In Google, this is likely to result in better Quality Scores.

Reduce Spend

There will be fewer clicks and we hope bad clicks. This will lower your spend. If you would like this, that is great. If you are looking to have more conversions, you could raise your bids on the rest of the account. Then you will get more conversions at a lower cost per conversion.

Less Maintenance

Some accounts get lots of clicks from seasonal and unexpected things like TV shows, movies, and seasonal changes. A large universal negative keyword list will prevent this from happening as much. It will make your spend more consistent day to day. It will make managing your accounts easier.

Run Campaigns More Often

We have seen the efficiency of a good universal negative keyword list make the account easier to run. This happens even when in the past the conversion rate was not high enough to run year-round. Many accounts get better in the holiday season. A better account might be able to run in October or even September, with enhanced efficiency.

How to Find your Negative Keywords Now

Next, you will want to review your campaigns to see if you have negative keywords placed in them now. In the Google Ads web interface next to “Keywords” is a tab called “Negative Keywords”. How many are you using? How many of each match type do you have? Are they different in different campaigns? Are they different in different ad groups? Are they longer phrases or one-word terms? You might want to download them now.

Above you can See Negative 2 Keyword Lists Assigned to 4 campaigns. And “login” as a single negative phrase keyword.

What are negative keyword themes?

There are types of keywords or themes that are like each other. This is also a good way to find new negative keywords that might be good for your company. For instance, in our past universal negative keyword lists, we had youtube, twitter, facebook, and other social media sites. You might now think you need “tiktok” and other new social media sites if they target different demographics. Next, we will discuss the themes that we see keywords in.

Maintenance and Improvement Search Theme

If you are selling complete items, there will also be people searching for parts, power cords, manuals, and batteries. You may bid on those terms, but the ads, bid amount, and landing pages should be different. If you do not supply some of those items, you will want to add them as negative keywords.

Maintenance Theme Keywords to Negative
“power cord”
19 More Maintenance Keywords in the Excel file below

Job Seeker Theme

It is great if people want to work in your industry. But you don’t want to pay for that traffic. If you do you want that search traffic at a different price than your products or services. Some of these searchers will be job-seekers considering a change. Words like salary, job prospects, resume, recruiter, and contractor should be made negative keywords. They should only be used in brand recruitment efforts, if at all.

Job Seeker Theme Keywords to Negative
71 More Job Seeker Keywords in the Excel file below

General Researchers or Other Business Owners

A good assortment of image, video, and article keywords should be included since they are unlikely sales. They may be creating articles or websites of their own. They are, at times, children looking for pictures or videos and have no means of buying your product or services. Searchers for image, picture, video, mp4, warez or crack are unlikely to buy.

General Researcher Theme Keywords to Negative
“bad review”
114 More Researcher Keywords in the Excel file below

Low Price Shopper Theme

Most Google Ads advertisers are selling top-quality, unique items not found at low-priced local stores. We recommend that you consider removing these from your account by adding them as negatives and pausing them if you have them. Words like cheap, free, discount, walmart, amazon etc mean that people are looking for something different and are unlikely to convert. Amazon buyers may like the shipping and familiarity they have with Amazon and your website will not have the same conversion rate. You could always place items for sale on Amazon but that does not mean you have to advertise on words including amazon in Google Ads.

Low Price Shopper Theme Keywords to Negative
63 More Price Shopper Keywords in the Excel file below

What match type should negative keywords be?

In the Google Ads system, you can place negative keywords in the same match types as positive keywords. So that means you can make them exact, phrase or broad match. In our experience, you only need to place negative keywords in phrase or exact match. Like in our example above if you do not offer pizza and that is not your market you can place “pizza” as a negative phrase match. That will prevent your ad from showing if the word pizza is in the term like “italian restaurant with pizza in newport”. If you need to prevent certain searches from triggering an ad, you use an exact match. But those are unlikely. We use exact negative match if there is a brand with a very similar name. Then we do not want to show for those terms. All the included free generic keywords below are negative. You should find a short word that is un-targeted and you do not provide, then add it as a phrase match negative.

How do I create a negative keyword?

There are actually several ways to add a negative keyword in Google Ads.

You can add negative keywords in the web interface

You can just click on the Plus “+” sign at the top of the page and then you will see the below image. It prompts you that you can enter keywords, create a new universal negative keyword list or use an existing keyword list. You can apply the keywords or list to an ad group or campaign. Then below you can enter as many as you wish. But we actually think this is not the best way to do this. We think you should review account past queries and if they converted or not.

Several ways to Enter Negative Keywords.

You can run a keyword phrase report and then click exclude for any keywords you don’t like

You can add multiple keywords to a negative keyword list

Make Large universal negative keyword list, then apply it to Many Campaigns

You can add multiple keywords as a negative keyword in Google Ads Editor

Good – Upload a Universal Negative Keyword List to All Campaigns

Now that you have learned a lot about negative keywords, we are ready to review the universal negative keyword list. Click the orange button below and you will get access to the 940 list immediately.

This universal negative keyword list will help control your spending by not showing your ads when people are including these unrelated words in their search term. Since these are unlikely to be buyers, you can cut them. We have included 940 of these in the list.

Since this is something you will want to apply to more than 1 campaign, the best way to enter it is a negative keyword list. After you enter it, your universal negative keyword list should say there are 940 negative keywords in it. They are all phrase match, one word, and applied to your non-brand keyword campaigns. Now let it run for a day or 2 and log in and see if Google is giving you any warnings that you have a keyword conflict. That means there are negatives that are blocking your positive keywords from showing. Then you can decide if you should remove a negative keyword or pause the positive keyword. Then wait a few weeks and see if metrics improved and spending is down. Are your conversions down at all? If they are, you might increase your bids on the rest of the things that are converting. You want more conversions for the same budget right?

Immediate Download – Click Orange Button Below!

How to Implement: The above file is an Excel file with the negative keywords in column A, the theme in column B, and our notes in C. You should look through them with your team to see if any of these words might conflict with your products or services. Look carefully through a theme if you see some conflicts in that area. Once you have identified the ones that should be in your universal negative keyword list, search for “shared library” in Google Ads. Make a new List. Copy the column with the “9” surrounding the term. Paste that into a text editor. Then find and replace “9” with a quotation mark. That will be phrase match which is what we want for all of these. Then copy them from the text editor and paste them in your universal negative keyword list. Make sure they look about right and are phrase match. Save them and apply this universal negative keyword list to your Search campaigns that are not your brand terms.

Better – Create a Universal Negative Keyword List with your Data

Ok, now you are a little more serious, have some more free time, or saw positive results from the free generic negative keyword list above. Are you ready to do a better job and find some more waste specific to your account and use the data stored in your account?

This is how you do that. You log in to your Google Ads account, go to Keywords > Search Terms and we are going to run a report to get a lot of terms. These are actual terms people search for and your ads have been showing or getting clicks. The best results come from at least 6 months of data. Google will not give you all your clicks or impressions but a sample. You can always stop marking things good or bad if you think you are at the point of diminishing returns. When your date range to 6 months or more, you will have hundreds or thousands of search phrases across all campaigns. Google allows you to check the box next to a phrase now and exclude it, but that is not the best way to do it.

We are going to download ALL of these and take them to a spreadsheet and make the shortest phrase that is bad. We are going to do that for all or most of them. Then we are going to dedupe them and then upload them as another negative keyword list. We want the source to be clear and these are different from the generic ones we did above. If you don’t want the same negative keywords in different keyword lists. You can place all your new possible negative keywords at the bottom of the above list and then dedupe. Then only place the new ones left at the bottom in this new keyword list. We will then place them in all non-brand campaigns. Then after a few days log in again and see if there are any problems with a keyword conflict. If we have a conflict, then we decide what we want to do to correct it. Then wait a few weeks to months and see if the performance improved.

Best – Custom Universal Negative Keyword List per Campaign

Ready to take control of your Pay-Per-Click Account and prevent waste and make your account work best? We are going to do it by making campaign-level negative list and placing negative keywords at an ad group level for all ad groups new and old.

By reviewing data in your account, you should be able to make sure that you are not eliminating anything that has been converting. You may still decide to drop some keywords if they are converting so rarely that the cost is much more than the profit for a sale or lead. We have seen some keywords that cost $500 in clicks but only have $40 in profit, so there is no reason they should be on. Each sale was costing our client $460 and hurting the account and reducing our budget for productive keywords.

Make Custom Negative List for Each Campaign

Instead of looking at a long-time account performance, click on one campaign. Then run the Search Terms report and download the result. Add a column right next to the keyword and mark the ones you see as bad.

Once you do all or most of them, sort by the column marked bad. So all the bad ones are at the top.

Now save the document so you have a backup. Then shorten the search term to one or 2 words that are bad. So that might be words like “rolex” or “apple” if you don’t sell those brands. Do that for all the bad terms.

Then de-duplicate. Then upload that as a new negative list and ONLY apply it to the one campaign that you pulled data from.

Make Custom Negative List for Past Ad Groups

Depending on how different your different ad groups are, you might now click on only your largest ad groups. Or do keyword research again for the keywords in that ad group. Is the keyword tool you are using telling you there might be some bad keywords that were not in the generic account list or campaign level lists? If so, you can add them as negative in only that ad group. You might also decide they are always bad and need to be added to your campaign negative list.

Make Custom Negative List for All New Ad Groups

Now that you have worked through your entire account, you need a policy to prevent that from happening again. When your team or agency is doing keyword research for new ad groups mark keywords as good or negative. Make all the good keywords positive and place them live with the ads. But also add the negative keywords on the same day. This will improve CTR when the ad group is new and will help it get good Quality Scores.

Conclusion about Universal Negative Keyword Lists

Hopefully, you have learned more about the power of negative keywords. And have at least implemented the universal negative keyword list that we have seen help most companies. Let that run a week or two and gather some metrics for how they have improved. And if this helped you, please share this on social media.

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