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How to Add Negative Keywords in Google AdWords

One of the best recent comments from a student who took our Google Marketing Boot Camp was, “I had no idea negative keywords existed.” He happened to be in the business of kitchen cabinets and was using AdWords, but didn’t really know what he was doing. He also didn’t know that when people searched for file cabinets, his ads appeared and people were clicking on them anyway, and he lost money. After class he sent us a note letting us know that the money he saved by learning what negative keywords were more than paid for the class. So, we figured we’d share the wealth. ‘Tis the season, right?

So, what are negative keywords? They are search terms that are similar to your keywords but are for people searching for a different product or service. By using negative keywords you can:

  1. Reduce your costs, like our student mentioned above.
  2. Expose your ad to people who are more likely to click and purchase your product.
  3. Prevent your ad from displaying to people who aren’t interested in your product.

Where do you go in your AdWords account to set up negative keywords?
Go to the campaigns tab and then keyword tab. At the bottom of the keywords table you will see “negative keywords.” Click on the + sign to the left and it will expand negative keywords tables for both your Ad groups and Campaigns.

How do you actually add the negative keywords in Ad groups and Campaigns? It’s the same for both:

  1. Click the add button at the top of the table. It will expand.
  2. Choose which Ad group or Campaign you want to add the negative keyword to.
  3. Add one word or phrase per line.
  4. Click save.

Google has an excellent video for these steps as well.

What negative keywords should you add to your campaign or AdGroup?
There’s a button for that within AdWords, too. It’s called a search terms report. Go to the campaign or ad group you’d like to get ideas for negative keywords and click on the keywords tab. Check the boxes next to keywords to run a report. You’ll also want to add a date range to limit your results to more recent searches. One month of search terms should be enough. Click the keyword details button and selected to generate the report. A list of negative keyword terms will appear. You can choose all or some of them and add them as negative keywords with one click.

Another method is to select any or all of your keywords, then select the “Details” butting above the keywords table, and then select “Search Terms.” Once you choose between all or just your selected keywords, you’ll see a list of actual searches that triggered your ads. You can look through this list and select any terms that you do not want to trigger your ad. Select those keywords by toggling the box to the left of the search term and then select “Add as negative keyword” above the keyword table. You can choose to add that search term as a negative keyword across the whole campaign or just a specific ad group.

Are there exceptions in Google in which my ad could still show on a search query that contains a negative keyword of mine? Of course, and here are a few:

  • If your negative keyword is after the first 10 words of a search
  • If your keyword terms are more than one word
  • If the page has variations of the negative keywords you chose

As always, keep in mind to monitor and test. If you add too many negative keywords, you may exclude so many search terms that your ads rarely appear. Make sure to choose carefully, and don’t forget to adjust as you need. Each campaign is different.

Do you have more questions about AdWords features? Let us know and we may just write a blog post for you!

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