Using Negative Keyword Lists

December 07, 2018

Negative keywords are an essential aspect of any successful advertising campaign. They help weed out any irrelevant clicks by filtering out terms that are not relevant to your business. You can filter out numbers, words, or phrases of the search query. For example, if a luxury car dealer doesn’t want to appear for searches like “cheap cars” then their campaign would include negative keywords for “cheap”-related negative keywords.

By serving your ads to more relevant users, you will see more clicks which will ultimately lift quality score and increase advertising potential!

So, you know about negatives, but what about Negative keyword lists? Negative keyword lists are a method of sharing negative keywords across campaigns without having to manually input the same keywords across each and every ad group or campaign. From the Google Ads Dashboard they can be found after clicking the wrench icon: TOOLS > SHARED LIBRARY > Negative keyword lists. The beauty of these lists is that they can easily be applied across multiple campaigns at once and keywords can added/removed in one place and causing those changes to flow to all the campaigns that share the list. You can select from up to 20 negative keyword lists or create a new one in which you can add up to 5,000 negative keywords to then apply to your campaign(s). Prior to this bulk feature, negative keywords had to be applied to each campaign/ad group one at a time.

If you’re just starting new campaign(s) and lack any user search data, you can try applying premade negative keyword lists which include high-volume terms that can generally be applied to most paid search campaign.

At Four15 Digital, we have built some default negative keyword lists for various categories like ‘branded’, ‘jobs’, ‘cheap’ to get our customers quality clicks:

Building a negative keyword list can be simply done by analyzing the search terms report which is located under: Keywords > SEARCH TERMS. This report contains data on what search queries triggered your ads to appear. Here you can find which of your keywords are overspending and underperforming. You can also conduct a search of your primary keywords and analyze the SERP to see what else google deems relevant to your query. You can include these negative terms in your negative list with their appropriate match type.

Be aware that negative keywords function differently than their positive counterparts. Mainly, you need more granularity like including synonyms, plurals, misspellings, and close variations if you want to ensure your ads don’t appear on these searches. For more clarification on negatives please see our blog post about match-types.

Another quirk with Google is that negatives are limited in that they are only applied to the first 10 words in the search query. Ultimately, there is still some machine learning aspect involved and Google is constantly adjusting their algorithms in an effort to connect users to ads.  Be aware there is currently no way of managing negative keyword lists from Google Adwords Editor.

Also keep in mind that negative keywords function differently in Display and Video campaigns compared to Search campaigns. Some places where your ad appears may contain excluded terms. This can be assisted by implementing site category options and placement/content exclusions.

Negative keyword builds are an ongoing task if you want to keep your account running optimally. According to Google, as much as 15% of all searches are completely new and your negative keyword lists must keep up if you want to stay on top of your game. Get ready to save tons of money so that you can spend more in areas that matter to your bottom line. With your campaign better optimized to convert, your ROI, quality score, etc. improve all while you sit back and watch your advertising efforts pay off.