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Google AdWords Tip: Use Negative Keywords

When running a Google AdWords campaign, it is crucial to include negative keywords. This is particularly true if any of the keyword phrases in the ad campaign are broad- or phrase-matched. Negative keywords cause an ad to not be shown if any of the keywords are in the search phrase. This is important for a few reasons. First, because the ad will not be shown for keyword phrases that are not relevant, there will be fewer click throughs that do not convert to sales. Second, the overall CTR (click through rate) will be higher because there will be fewer instances of searchers viewing the ad but not clicking. The higher CTR will cause the ad to attain a higher position without requiring a higher CPC (cost per click).

Let's look at an example. Suppose an online store sells soccer balls. The store's Google AdWords campaign has an ad group with these phrase-matched keywords:

"soccer ball"
"soccer balls"

Using at least one keyword research tool (and preferably more) will reveal many keyword phrases that are searched on that contain the phrases "soccer ball" or "soccer balls" but are clearly not related to purchasing soccer balls. For example, using the Overture (Yahoo) search term suggestion tool yields these results for the keyword phrase "soccer ball":

17836 soccer ball
1984 picture of a soccer ball
924 adidas soccer ball
884 nike soccer ball
479 select soccer ball
394 soccer ball clip art
368 kick a soccer ball
327 soccer ball clipart
325 soccer ball equipment

It would likely not benefit the online store that's selling soccer balls to display an ad next to search results for the keyword phrase "picture of a soccer ball". Adding "-picture" to the AdWords ad group will prevent the ad from appearing for that particular search phrase. Keep in mind that the Overture search term suggestion tool usually does not differentiate between singular and plural forms of keywords. From this list, here's how to set up negative keywords for the Google ad campaign:


Only place one negative keyword per line. Precede each keyword with a dash. The preceding "-" indicates to the Google AdWords system that the keyword to follow is a negative keyword. If any of the negative keywords are in a search phrase, the ad will not appear next to the search results.

If you need help with negative keywords in your Google AdWords campaigns or with keyword research in general, please contact us.

Try our free meta keywords tool.

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Google AdWords Tip