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Negative Keywords

Term: Negative Keywords
Definition: Negative keywords are terms or phrases that prevent your advertisements from being triggered by specific search queries in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing. They help to focus your ads on the target audience, reducing irrelevant clicks and, therefore, saving an advertising budget.
Alternative Names: Excluded Keywords, Negative Search Terms


Expanded Explanation:

Negative keywords are an important component in PPC campaign management. This is because they allow advertisers to filter out irrelevant search queries that aren’t related to the product or service being advertised. By setting negative keywords, advertisers can ensure their ads aren’t shown for those particular searches, thereby reducing the chance of receiving clicks from non-relevant users.

Benefits or Importance:

Negative keywords bring several advantages to a PPC campaign. Firstly, an improved click-through rate (CTR) will follow by preventing your ads from appearing in irrelevant search queries. As such, you can increase the likelihood that the users who do see your ad will find it relevant and click on it. This can improve your ad’s CTR. You’ll also typically obtain a lower cost per click (CPC) rat by lowering your average CPC with fewer irrelevant clicks In addition, you’ll gain a better conversion rate. After all, if more relevant users are clicking on your ads, then there’s a better chance they’ll complete a desired action, thereby improving your conversion rate. Finally, a higher quality score is more likely. Google AdWords uses a Quality Score to determine the rank and cost per click of ads. Relevant ads get higher scores, so using negative keywords can help improve your score.

Common Misconceptions or Pitfalls:

One common misconception is that having a longer list of negative keywords will always lead to better performance. While negative keywords can help filter out irrelevant traffic, having an overly extensive list may limit your ad exposure excessively, causing you to miss out on potential new clients.

Use Cases:

Negative keywords are typically used in PPC campaigns on platforms like Google AdWords or Bing Ads. They’re beneficial for businesses aiming to reach a more defined audience, reduce wasted marketing spend and increase ROI from their ads. For example:

1. A brand selling only high-end luxury watches may include ‘cheap’, ‘discount’ or ‘imitation’ as negative keywords to ensure their ads do not appear in searches that are unlikely to convert.

2. A company offering only professional services could use ‘jobs’ or ‘careers’ as negative keywords to avoid showing up in searches from people looking for employment rather than their services.

Real-World Examples:

A real-world example would be a vegan restaurant advertising on Google Ads. They might set ‘steak’, ‘fish’ and ‘chicken’ as negative keywords to ensure their ads don’t appear for users searching for these types of non-vegan foods.

Best Practices or Tips:

  • Research your negative keywords thoroughly, using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to find potential irrelevant terms.
  • Consider different match types (exact, phrase, broad) for your negative keywords.
  • Regularly review your search term reports to identify new negative keywords.
  • Don’t overuse negative keywords – an extensive list may limit your online exposure.

Limitations or Considerations:

Negative keywords can’t eliminate all irrelevant traffic. Also, if used excessively, they might limit your ads’ exposure to potential customers. It’s, therefore, crucial to find the right balance and continually refine your list based on actual search query data.


Negative keywords are similar to conventional keywords but serve an inverse purpose. While normal keywords are used to match your ads with relevant search queries, negative keywords prevent your ads from showing for particular terms, refining your marketing activity.

Historical Context or Development:

Negative keywords have been a feature in Google Ads since the early days of the platform. They were introduced as a tool to help advertisers improve the precision of their ad targeting and have remained a fundamental aspect of PPC advertising.

Resources for Further Learning:

Here are some resources to learn more about negative keywords:

Related Services:

Related services from a digital agency may include:

  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Management – We are a leading PPC agency with plenty of experience to share.
  • Keyword Strategy Development – Benefits from our expertise with keywords to improve your digital marketing strategies.
  • Conversion Rate Optimisation – Ensure the number of customers converted from your website is optimised with our expertise.

These services can help improve your PPC performance by identifying and applying the most effective negative keywords for your campaigns.

Related Terms:

Keyword Match Types, Quality Score, Pay-Per-Click (PPC), Cost-Per-Click (CPC), Click-Through Rate (CTR)