Reach your customers with the right keywords

Refine your traffic with negative keywords

Negative keywords are an essential part to a well-rounded keyword strategy. This guide to negative keywords can help improve your Google Ads account.

Make negative keyword additions a regular part of Google Ads account maintenance

You can increase your profitability and better control the flow of traffic in your account by using negative keywords to the fullest. Use the Keyword Planner or your search terms reports to find the most impactful negatives.


Adding the Right Negatives

On the most basic level, negative keywords prevent you from showing ads to people that are less valuable to you or less interested in what you have to offer, even though their queries may be syntactically related to the keywords in your account.

There are two main tools that you can use to find negative keywords: the Keyword Planner and the search terms report. Look for terms that don’t fit your business model among the queries where you’ve received traffic, or in the keywords suggested to you in the course of planning. In addition to reviewing the stats in these reports, also look for the intent behind a search.

When looking for negatives, don’t worry about adding negatives for terms that are unlikely to match to your current keywords. A lack of relevance will usually prevent you from showing on those queries.

Read more about how to add negative keywords.


Look for trends of keywords that are incompatible with your business model. Ex. A luxury goods retailer would exclude phrases that contain words like “cheap” and “discount.” Be careful of one-word negatives though. Someone may be looking for free shipping with your product, which is quite different than looking for a free product.


Negative Match Types

As with your positive keywords, you can add negatives as broad, phrase and exact match. While matching behavior is largely similar with your negative types, there are a few key differences.

The biggest difference is that negative broad match won’t exclude queries that are synonyms or close variations of the negative keyword. It will only exclude queries that include all words within a keyword, irrespective of the order in which the words appear.

Another difference is that queries that are close variations of phrase and exact match negative keywords won’t be excluded. Because of that matching behavior, you’ll need to add poorly performing queries that would be considered close variations of positive keywords explicitly as their own negative keywords.

This video references the previous version of Google Ads. Learn how to check which version you're using.

Google Best Practices - Improve Keyword Efficiency

Negative keywords can help improve the efficiency of your account in AdWords. Learn two ways to find negative keywords that can help you save time and money. Find out more at

Just like your main keywords, focus negative keyword management on the places that will do the most good

Approach your negative keywords as you do your main keywords. Focus your efforts on the places that will do the most good (or, in this case, save the most money).

Managing Negatives Efficiently

Look for recurring themes in queries that aren’t showing a strong return, and spend time looking at what drives traffic that you don’t want. Instead of reading through every single query that triggered your ads, it’s more efficient to focus on negatives that occur with reliable frequency.

As you go about finding negative keywords, create negative keyword lists in your shared library. If you find keywords that will never fit with your brand, add them to a list and exclude them across all of your campaigns.



Understanding your keywords can unlock previously untapped potential in your account. Connecting with user queries via thoughtful keywords is what search advertising is all about within Google Ads. Your customers are constantly connected — be sure that your keywords account for all the different paths that their journeys take.


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