Negative keywords are very widely used by most intermediate AdWords advertisers. However, just using negative keywords and then using negative keywords optimally are two different things all together.
Many advertisers don’t go further than adding a minor amount of negative keywords to their campaign. This usually happens in the creation phase or intermittently, when optimizing AdWords campaigns.

However, there are several aspects that are important in order to take full-advantage of the power of negative keywords. By not thinking about the aspects of negative keywords prior to adding them, you end up losing valuable gains.

These can be very simple things like thinking about misspellings or ensuring that the negative keyword in question isn’t coinciding with other regular keywords in your campaign.

By not managing your negative keyword lists properly, you significantly risk limiting your AdWords campaign’s potential in ways that can prove to be very frustrating for you. I’ve listed 5 considerations that I always review before adding a negative keyword to any AdWords campaign or account.

1) Does My Negative Keyword Conflict with a Regular Keyword?

On ad group level, it’s usually very simple to see if your negative keywords conflict with another keyword.

But when you start building bigger accounts and use the power of campaign and account-level negative keywords, it’ll be harder to keep track of everything so easily.

Always remind yourself to review your account for conflicting keywords. If I personally have doubts, I usually use AdWords Editor to assist me. AdWords Editor can tell you if a keyword is already in the account or, it offers to manually search for the negative keyword you’re considering adding.


> Regular keyword: marine pump price comparison


  • > Negative keyword: pump price comparison

In this example, I’ve found the search term pump price comparison, which is bad for several reasons. It’s too generic and pump can actually have different meanings (hint: high heels).

If you were to exclude the pump price comparison keyword, then you would also exclude the high value keyword marine pump price comparison.

Hint: To add the negative keyword above, without disrupting the effectiveness of the high-value keyword, then add the negative keyword in exact match.

2) Does It Exclude Keywords with the Kind of Intent We’re Actually Looking For?

Once in a while, you’ll note keywords that can have several meanings.

By using a keyword from within our field, AdWords optimization help might in fact stem from users looking for an AdWords agency to help them with optimizing their campaigns. However, it might also just be a DIY advertiser who’s looking for blog posts and videos on how to optimize AdWords accounts properly.

By blindly adding negative keywords to your account, you risk losing some users that would otherwise have been interested in your product.

Most industries have double-meaning keywords, so be on the lookout for them.

3) What Match Types Should I Add the Negative Keyword In?

When deciding what match type to add your negative keyword in, it’s all about effectiveness, as the considering factor.

If you’re looking to exclude all searches that are even closely related to the search term, then I advise you to use broad match. This will not only exclude the actual search terms in question, but also unwanted long-tail variations.

Example of Adding a Negative Keyword in Broad Match:

Regular keyword: mold inspector pricing

Negative keyword: mold inspector job

Instead of solely adding the exact keyword, you might as well add the negative keyword in broad match, too. This will exclude all searches for mold inspector job no matter if you add a city or other variations.

Example of Adding a Negative Keyword in Exact Match:

 Regular keyword: mold inspector pricing

> Negative keyword: inspector pricing

You’re most likely not looking for ‘generic inspector’ queries, but if you added the negative keyword inspector pricing in broad or phrase match, then you would have excluded searches for your main keyword, as well.

4) Should I Include This at Ad Group, Campaign or Account Level?

The next aspect I review is what level of my account the negative keyword will work the best at.

We have very granular methods of applying negative keywords, so there is no reason to add the same negative keyword in several ad groups, etc.

My main thoughts regarding what level I want to add negative keywords at are based on how far I want the negative keyword to reach.

If I know that my iPhone accessories store doesn’t sell any iPhone covers, then adding the negative keyword covers at account-level, will be my best choice.

However, if I’m looking to exclude a keyword from showing up in various ad groups, then the ideal approach is to add the negative keyword in the actual ad group.

5) Common Misspellings, Plural and Singular Variations of the Keyword

When you add a negative keyword, always think about whether you should expand it as well.

For instance, the negative keyword job can lead to several new negative keywords:

Plural: jobs
Misspellings: jops, jop
Variations: work, intern, internship, resume

All users search differently. Always use the different variations of a negative keyword for maximum effect.

The Round Up… and Final Tips for Negative Keywords

The proper usage of negative keywords is essential to the success of any AdWords campaign. There are several ways to finding high-quality negative keywords, but one of the key ways is to identify them via your See Search Term Report.

Remember however to always think twice before adding a negative keyword to your account. You need to be fully aware of how exactly, the negative keyword will affect your other keywords.

— About the author, Andrew Lolk is the CMO at; an AdWords agency for small and mid-sized businesses.

Written by Andy Kinsey SEO Consultant
For over ten years I have been working with all kinds of clients big and small, start ups to multi-nationals, helping them to make the most of their online assets and ensure they can grow.