Stop wasting ad spend on Google with Negative Keywords

Ever looked into your account and saw that you are paying for keywords that are not relevant to your business? It is frustrating and probably because Google was not told the keywords for which you don’t want to show your ads for. These are called negative keywords. They are phrases or keywords that prevent your ad from showing on a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Negative keywords can benefit your account by:

  • Improving click-through rate 
  • Make your ad more relevant 
  • Lower cost-per-click 


All of the above gives your ad a better quality score and allows it to be ranked higher and more visible to customers = better profitability! 

Examples of how negative keywords help

If your business is to help people sell their cars online and you bid on the keyword “sell car online”, your ad might come up for searches related to “buy used car” or “car coe”. You will still get charged for a click and your account will rack up spend while being unprofitable. 

By adding keywords that are not relevant to your business, you can avoid wasting money on clicks that are unlikely to get you sales.


Types of negative keywords

Similar to regular keywords, you can apply keyword match types to negative keywords as well. 

Broad match example – Negative keyword: buy used car

Phrase match example – Negative keyword: “buy used car”


Exact match example – Negative keyword: [buy used car]


Finding negative keywords

There are a few ways on the Google Ads platform that you can seek out negative keywords. 

One way is to look at your search terms report. Look for irrelevant keywords that your ads are showing for. Check the box next to the keyword and select ‘Add as negative keyword’. 

Sometimes, the negative keyword you want to exclude may not yet appear in your search terms report. Such instances include search terms such as competitor brand names that your ad may or may not show up for. In this case, it is still good practice to add these keywords as negatives. 

You may find ideas of such keywords through the Google Keyword Planner. Simply type the intended keyword you want to include and Google will show you other keywords that are closely related. 

In the screenshot below, there are clear negative keywords such as vroom car sales and cazoo cars for sale. 

Another place to get more ideas is to do an actual search of your keyword. Here, it hints that adding countries your business is not in could be useful.

Campaign, ad group level and lists

Once you have selected the keywords to add, you can choose to add them on a campaign or ad group level

Adding them to a campaign level means that the negative keywords will apply to the whole campaign including all the ad groups under it. Examples of how you will use this exclusion include completely irrelevant keywords or competitor brand names. 

Adding them to an ad group level means that negative keyword will apply to only that particular ad group(s). You can use this method of exclusion if you are segregating different services you offer. For example, you may want to exclude ‘car insurance’ keyword for ‘sell car online’ ad group.

Negative keywords can also be grouped into lists that are organised by themes or offer types. Lists can then be added quickly to multiple ads either on the campaign or ad group level. 

To learn more tips on how to improve your Google Search advertising campaigns, have a look at our Digital advertising course!

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Assistant Instructor: Yanling

About the author

Yanling is a Digital Marketer who is passionate in helping drive business strategy through digital platforms.