Negative keyword reviews – best practice

Rob Laver | 13th October 2016 | Paid Media

Add negative keywords to your campaign from search query reports

Negative keywords are keywords that you do not want your advert to show for. These keywords may have no relevance to the client’s products or services on offer or are simply something they do not want to advertise. If these crucial negative keywords are not added to an account it will result in ads showing on results pages that you don’t wish to appear for  or are irrelevant to your product or service. Ultimately this means you are spending money unnecessarily and therefore means negative keywords are a crucial aspect of a successful and economical campaign.

How do I run a search query report?

To run a search query report, you will need to select the ‘keywords’ tab and then select the ‘search terms’ tab just below.


Presented you will see a list of search terms which have triggered your adverts to show on the Google network. This doesn’t mean your advert has necessarily been clicked on but it has appeared in a search result (you can see how many times your advert has appeared under the impressions column). From here, you can begin to select the search terms you would like to add as a negative keyword. Once you have ticked the search terms you would like to add, you simply need to scroll to the top and select ‘Add as negative keyword’. If you are unsure what match type to add your chosen keyword with – see our guidance on keyword matching options below!

From a client’s perspective, negative keyword reviews reduce the number of irrelevant ad impressions received for their ad campaign. This contributes to a lower cost-per-click, a higher click-through-rate, a higher Quality Score and a higher return on investment overall.

 Your keyword matching options and implementation

When performing negative keyword reviews, there are 3 negative match types that are used: exact negative match, phrase negative match, and broad negative match. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

Exact – this type of negative match will exclude the search terms exactly as they are typed and searched. Exact negative keyword match types are defined with [] around the keyword.

Phrase – this type of negative match will exclude any search results where the negative phrase keyword appears in the same order. Phrase negative keyword match types are defined with “” around the keyword.

Broad – this type of negative match will exclude any search that includes the negative broad keyword anywhere in any order. Broad negative keyword match types are defined as if they are written normally, without any additional markings around the keyword.


The selection of the correct negative keyword match type is very important. If you save your keywords without inputting a match type, Google will automatically save this as an exact match – so make sure this is correct! If you were to select the wrong match type it could result in your chosen keywords being blocked by your negative keywords.

Another method for building up a negative keyword list is to use the Google Ads Keyword Planner to conduct keyword research. Take a list of keywords that you already have in your campaign and put these into the keyword planner to run a search for new ideas. You will then find lists of keywords that Google feels could be relevant to your campaign. From here, examine the list of keywords and note any single words or possible phrases that are appearing regularly and have no relevance to your product or service. This starts to build a negative keyword list with all 3 negative keyword match types included. Overall, it is advised to take a very granular approach to building negative keyword lists; in the long run it will greatly benefit your AdWords campaign.

An ongoing task

Developing the negative keyword list is a task that requires regular attention when managing an AdWords campaign. In reality, it’s something that should be done weekly, perhaps even twice weekly for a larger account that receives a lot of traffic – After all you wouldn’t buy size 10 shoes if you were looking for size 5, so why waste money advertising for something you don’t have?

So how important are negative keyword reviews? The answer is essential. Negative keyword reviews greatly increase the likelihood of your ad reaching its target audience and that audience only. This will result in highly relevant ads, which will increase the Quality Score within Google and in turn increase the ROI of your Google Ads campaigns.

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