What is negative keyword sculpting?

With PPC and paid search, the keywords you configure in your ads help narrow down the user intent when searching on search engines. As your program grows and gathers data, campaign results become convoluted by search keywords that are irrelevant. In addition, certain ad groups’ keywords can conflict with one another.

Google says that using negative keywords help prohibit certain search queries from triggering your ads to appear (to a certain degree). They further refine when your ads are shown, drawing in more relevant traffic overall.

Depending on your campaign goals, they can be applied on the account level, campaign level, and ad group level. Similar to regular keywords, negative ones have different match types; broad, phrase, and exact.

Negative keywords work in the same way, however, Google cautions that negative keywords “do not match to close variants.” This includes abbreviations, reordered phrases, misspellings, synonyms, and more. Keep this in mind when creating your list.

negative keywords graphic

Why are negative keywords important?

Setting up keywords guides ads on the right track to a more relevant audience, but negative keywords aid in negating certain traffic that either has a different meaning, intent, or utility from those you intend to show your ad to.

Allowing them to filter through to your website’s landing page could most likely result in low-quality leads, unnecessary clicks, and additional cost. Although possibly time-consuming to implement, negative keywords are a must-have addition to your account/campaign settings that will improve performance results in both the short and long run.

How do I know which negative keywords to add to the list?

Besides using some educated guesswork, Google Ads has a tool that provides a clear idea about which search queries prompt your ads to appear—the search terms report.

Depending on the time range you set and the size of your account, the result can be an extensive list! Try sorting the data from most to least impressions or interactions, and take note of the search terms that have resulted in zero conversions. However, beware of seasonality trends and the searcher’s funnel stage before deciding they are negative keywords.

Best practices when implementing negative keywords:

  • Although utilizing match types for negative keywords are important, make sure to include “close variants” of the term so that it is truly negated.
  • If your account/campaign is new (or contains numerous broad match keywords), try performing an analysis of the search terms report on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. With more configuration and fine-tuning of your negative keyword list, reduce it to a monthly basis.
  • You can use negative keywords on an ad group level to make sure they aren’t in opposition with each other, especially if their purposes are similar but defined by some other characteristic (locations, funnel stages, synonyms, et cetera).
  • For more general use across campaigns or accounts, try creating a negative keyword list through the shared library. Learn more on how to implement it here.
  • Avoid uploading too many negative keywords at once, so that it is easier to identify the issue in case sudden performance drops occur in your account/campaign/ad group.

Overall, negative keywords can be a great way to boost campaign performance and quality of leads. For assistance with perfecting your paid ad campaigns, contact our dedicated team of paid media experts. 


Bonus PPC-related resources from Forthea

Struggling with increasing brand awareness through advertising on Google Display? Here are some best practices to help you with your campaign. 

With the increasing use and application of virtual reality technology in various industries, learn how to incorporate VR in your digital marketing strategy from this blog post

For those delving into paid ads on social media, Facebook can be a great place to start (for just about any marketing objective)! Go through our 5 Easy Steps for beginners on Facebook advertising.

About The Author

Mehvish graduated from the C.T. Bauer College of Business with a Bachelor’s in Marketing. She primarily enjoys the graphic design and content writing aspects of the field, and is always looking to expand her knowledge on the world of search engines. Outside of digital marketing, Mehvish enjoys creating stylized portraits on Affinity Designer, playing guitar, exploring new subgenres of music, and video games

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