Four Ways to Add Negative Keywords in Google Ads
Negative keywords are some of the most important tools any PPC marketer can have. And unbeknownst to many marketers, there are multiple ways to add them to your account. How and where you add them depends on what you want to achieve.
First, a reminder about the importance of negative keywords
Paid search marketing is all about reaching the right people at the right time. That’s essentially the goal of all of your combined efforts, and that’s the most important component of PPC. Every setting within an account is designed to help you make choices that help you tell your target audience about what you have to offer them at exactly the time you’re searching for it.
It’s obvious, then, that you want to ensure that you don’t make choices within your account that result in you reaching the wrong audience. That’s where negative keywords come in. Negative keywords are search terms and queries that you specify that you do not want to trigger your ads. For example, if you sell sporting equipment, but only for watersports, you may want to make sure that search queries like “outdoor sporting equipment” or “indoor sporting equipment” are excluded from your account.
If you fail to add negative keywords, you will inevitably waste a sizable portion of your budget serving ads to people who aren’t in your target audience and aren’t looking for what you’re selling. We’ve seen this cause campaigns and entire accounts to tank. Adding them daily is vital to your business’s success!
So where do you put them?
The Google Ads platform gives you a few options for how you can add negative keywords to your account. We’ll take you step by step through four ways you can incorporate them.
1. Adding negative keywords at the ad group level
First, select “Keywords and Targeting > Keywords, Negative. Click “Add negative keyword” and then select “Ad group negative keyword”. You will then be able to choose the destination, and then click “OK”. Enter your desired negative keyword in the edit panel.
If you want to add multiple keywords at the ad group level, instead of clicking “Add negative keyword”, click “Make multiple changes”. Select “Use selected destinations”. Then select “Add as ad-group level negative keywords”. Enter your desired keywords in the grid, and click “Process”. When you’ve completed this step, the tool will show you how many changes you’ve made; you can finish and review the pending changes by clicking “Keep” or “Reject”.
If you want to paste negative keywords from another ad group into one you are currently editing or creating, simply copy the negative keywords, select multiple destination ad groups in the data view by pressing Ctrl (Windows) or ⌘ (Mac) when clicking the ad group name, and then pasting the keywords.
2. Adding negative keywords at the campaign level
This process is similar to adding negatives at the ad group level. First, select “Keywords and Targeting > Keywords, Negative. Click “Add negative keyword” and then select “Campaign negative keyword”. You will then be able to choose the destination, and then click “OK”. Enter your desired negative keyword in the edit panel.
If you want to add multiple keywords at the campaign level, instead of clicking “Add negative keyword”, click “Make multiple changes”. Select “Use selected destinations”. Then select “Add as campaign level negative keywords”. Enter your desired keywords in the grid, and click “Process”. When you’ve completed this step, the tool will show you how many changes you’ve made; you can finish and review the pending changes by clicking “Keep” or “Reject”.
If you want to paste negative keywords from another campaign into one you are currently editing or creating, simply copy the negative keywords, select multiple destination campaigns in the data view by pressing Ctrl (Windows) or ⌘ (Mac) when clicking the campaign name, and then pasting the keywords.
3. Adding negative keyword lists
Creating and maintaining negative keyword lists has different consequences than simply adding negatives to the campaign level. Adding at the campaign level will only allow you to add negative keywords to that specific campaign, and you cannot share that negative between other campaigns (outside of copy and paste). Negative keyword lists can be applied to multiple campaigns with just a few clicks. When you update the list, all of the campaigns to which the list has been applied are automatically updated as well. Depending on your specific goals, this could be a benefit or a drawback.
To create a negative keyword list, click “Keywords” on the page menu on the left. Click “Negative keywords” at the top, and click the blue “+” button. Click “Select a campaign” and then choose which campaign you want to add the negative keyword list to (remembering that you can apply this list to multiple campaigns later). Enter your desired negatives (one per line) in the text field. Select the checkbox next to “Save to new or existing list”, and enter a name for your negative keyword list. Click “Save.
To apply these words to multiple campaigns, click the tools icon in the upper right corner. Under “Shared library”, click “Negative keyword lists”. Check the boxes next to the negative keyword lists you want to apply to multiple campaigns. Click “Apply to campaigns”, and choose your desired campaigns, then click “Apply”.
4. Adding negative keyword match types
Though match types have changed much in the past several years, and Google keeps changing them, they have a major impact on your account performance. (For a thorough description of what match types are, you can read our blog post.) Frequently adding negative keyword match types, especially with the recent updates, is a critical habit.
Because the update was so recent (July 31st), it is uncertain as of yet the full extent of what that will mean for negative keyword match types, but what is certain is just how important it is to add these in.
Adding a negative broad match keyword means that any query containing that keyword won’t trigger your ad. For example, if you run an indoor photography studio and add “outdoor photography” as a negative broad match keyword, anyone who searches for both of those terms won’t see your ad (“outdoor photography poses, “best outdoor locations for photography”, etc.).
Adding a negative phrase match keyword will only stop your ad from being served when a search query contains your keywords together, in order (although the close-meaning variants update may change this). If you add “outdoor photography” as a negative phrase match keyword, your ad will not show for “how much is outdoor photography”, or “tampa bay outdoor photography”, or “outdoor photography near me”.
Adding a negative exact match keyword means that your ad will only be shown when triggered by a search query that contains that term and no additional words. So if your negative exact match keyword is “outdoor photography”, when someone searches “outdoor photography” and nothing else, your ad will be prevented from showing. If the search query includes additional words, your ad may still show, though.
At Empirical360, negative keywords are a huge focus for us. We research, add, and modify them daily in every single account we manage, because we know how necessary optimization is to the health of an account!
Have questions about negative keywords, or any of the steps in any of these processes? Wondering how the recent Google match type update will affect your negative keyword performance? We’d love to hear from you and share our knowledge with you! Leave a comment, message us on social media, or contact us through our website!
Shea Duncan - Author
Director of Content Marketing
Shea is an expert content writer and is a classic literary nerd! She loves writing highly engaging content and has a knack for making it convert!