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What Are Negative Keywords? Google Ads Definition & Examples

This guide answers the question, “what are negative keywords?”

Below, you’ll find out all about negative keywords in Google Ads, including the definition, how they work in ad campaigns, the various negative match types, and see examples of negative keywords for pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

You’ll also find a list of tips on using negative keywords in your Google Ads more effectively to help increase the return on investment for your digital marketing budget.

What Are Negative Keywords?

What Are Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are negative match keywords that let you exclude search terms from your ad campaigns. A negative keyword prevents your ad from being shown to users who search for that term online.

How Do Negative Keywords Work?

Negative keywords work by preventing your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase. The negative keyword filtering process helps you focus your ad campaigns only on the keywords that matter most to your target customers

Adding negative keywords to your Google Ads campaigns also works to increase your return on investment (ROI). By creating negative keyword lists, you can stop your ads from appearing in Google Search and the Display Network for search terms that have a low probability of generating new leads, customers, and sales.

Download the SEO Keyword Research CheatsheetDownload the SEO Keyword Research Cheatsheet

For example, if you had a Google Ads campaign targeting the phrase, “web hosting services”, you may want to add terms like “free”, “free trial”, and “no credit card required” to the negative keywords list to prevent your ad from being displayed for people who are looking for free trial web hosting services. This will help eliminate freebie seekers who are not as likely to convert into paying customers.

Negative keywords in Google Ads also work to filter out unrelated searches (on Google Search) and websites and videos (on the Google Display Network) that may artificially inflate the number of ad impressions and clicks from the wrong types of customers. A good example of this process for Google Ads is adding negative match keywords like “wine glasses”, “drinking glasses”, and “dinner glasses” to a campaign that’s focused on selling eyeglasses. In this instance, you wouldn’t want to waste your campaign budget on ad impressions or clicks from people who are looking for glasses to drink out of instead of eyeglasses for their faces.

Negative Keywords In Google Ads: Laptop Screen

Types of Negative Keywords In Google Ads

There are three types of negative keywords in Google Ads:

  • Negative Broad Match: This is the default type for ad campaigns. Ads will not show if the search, website, or video contains all of the negative keyword terms, even if the terms are in a different order. No special syntax is needed.
  • Negative Phrase Match: Ads will not show if the search, website, or video contains the exact keyword terms in the same order. Syntax includes quotes around your keyword like “iPhone”.
  • Negative Exact Match: Ads will not show if the search, website, or video contains the exact keyword terms, in the same order, without extra words. Syntax includes brackets around your keyword like [iPhone].

Note: You can learn more about keyword match types here. That guide explains about the various positive and negative keyword match types in Google Ads.

Negative Keywords Examples

Negative Broad Match Examples

Negative Broad Match Keyword: travel pants

Search TermCould Ad Show?
black traveling pantsYes
travel pantYes
cotton travel pantsNo
pants for travelNo
travel pantsNo

Negative Phrase Match Examples

Negative Broad Match Keyword: men’s watch

Search TermCould Ad Show?
digital watchYes
man watchYes
brown men’s watchNo
watch men’sYes
men’s watchNo

Negative Exact Match Examples

Negative Broad Match Keyword: makeup kit

Search TermCould Ad Show?
makeup gift kitYes
travel kit for makeupYes
portable makeup kitYes
kit makeupYes
makeup kitNo

More About Negative Keyword Lists In Google Ads

  • You can add up to 5,000 negative keywords per list.
  • Each negative match keyword list can contain up to 20 search terms.
  • Negative keyword lists can be applied to multiple Google Ads campaigns.
  • Keywords can be added or removed from a list at any time, and the changes will apply to all ad campaigns using the list.
  • It’s best to organize negative keywords in Google Ads by themes so you can target different products or services you offer. That way, you can help prevent your ads from being triggered for irrelevant search queries based on a particular theme.
  • Include negative keywords that have low conversion rates. This can help increase the ROI for your ad campaigns.
  • Be smart about negative match types. Only use negative exact match when you want to prevent your ads from being shown to people looking for a specific search term. And use negative phrase or broad match when you want to remove your ads from searches, websites, and videos that have anything to do surrounding a specific term.

Note: These tips also work for other ad platforms. See this related guide on the top Google Ads alternatives if you’re looking for additional ad networks for managing digital marketing campaigns. Or this page other explaining Google Smart Display Ads for online advertising.

Negative Keywords Summary

I hope you enjoyed this guide answering the question about what are negative keywords.

As you discovered, negative keywords in Google Ads are negative match keywords that let you exclude search terms from your ad campaigns. A negative keyword is beneficial because it prevents your ad from being shown to people who are searching for that specific term or closely related phrases on Google Search and the Google Display Network based on the match type.