How To Use Negative Keywords To Get The Most From Your Adwords Spend

5 April, 2014

Throwing Money Away

What Are Negative Keywords?

A negative keyword is a term you add into your Adwords account. This stops your ad from appearing when someone searches for that particular term.

Negative Keywords can help you stop wasting your Adwords spend on people not interested in what you sell. Your click through rate will be sure to thank you for it.

Finding potential keywords to include in your Adwords campaign is relatively straightforward. You know what you’re trying to sell – and you know how people go about finding it.

There’s a bunch of places to look for inspiration:

  • Your own site
  • Your customer’s questions
  • Your competitor’s websites
  • Your products
  • Different colour, size and style options
  • Product categories

Finding Your Negative Keywords

Selling Bananas Online

Working out the keywords you don’t want to show up for is the hardest part. You need to understand how negative keywords work to get the best results.

If you’re advertising targets a keyword like ‘Bananas’, but you’re only selling to Australians, your ad might still be appearing in search results for ‘New Zealand Bananas’. Those Kiwi folk don’t know they can’t purchase your delicious fruits in the land of the long white cloud.

They’ll click on through and send a little Adwords bill your way. When your paid overseas visitor finds out they can’t buy, the bounce away from your site will put an an All Blacks rugby star to shame.

You’ll reduce your wasted spend by registering ‘New Zealand Bananas’ as a negative keyword.

Types Of Negative Keywords

Just like normal keywords, negative keywords have three match types:

  • broad match
  • phrase match
  • exact match

Negative Keywords are a little hard to understand before you see them in action. As a team of particularly chic gorillas, we thought women’s shoes would provide an appropriate case study:

Negative Keywords Example

You can view the search queries your ads have previously appeared for if you have an Adwords campaign up and running. This data is an ideal resource to help you identify potential negative keywords. Watch our old friend Google’s video below for instructions…

Setting Up Conversion Tracking

ConversionBe sure to set conversion tracking up in your Adwords account. This well let you identify your target terms that are not resulting in sales on your site.

Although it is getting tougher (due to “not provided” responses), you can see the keywords leading to conversions and the ones that are not.

For more detailed info on finding your high converting keywords, Search Engine Journal has got you covered with this post.

(PS – The Flickr Image is courtesy Damian Synott. We’re not exactly talking about rugby conversions… we love a good pun though).

If you haven’t set up conversion tracking, get yourself in the game (see, bought it back around to rugby).

Assisted Clicks Will Also Help

Assisted clicks are keywords that do not directly lead to a sale. Instead the same visitor makes a purchase in a later search using a different keyword. Potential buyers may use a search term to visit your site for information before returning at a later time armed with a more specific keyword (product model number, brand name etc).

The specific keyword gets all the glory here. Make sure you look at the whole picture before you give up on your Adwords targeting. If you excluded the more general term, you could be cutting potential customers out of your sales funnel.

Remember, informative and educational content is the ideal way to help potential customers through the buyer journey. Developing Adwords campaigns targeted to increase engagement with helpful content is a winning strategy.

You might not be scoring direct sales, but you’re building the foundations for a more solid long term relationship with a customer.


Those bright young folks at Google have found a way to determine assisted click keywords. Jeff Allen from Hanapin marketing explains how to find the goldmine of assisted clicks information to help you increase sales with assisted conversions. Jeff gets a little techie on occasion, so if there’s anything you don’t understand, jump on Twitter or email us a question.

How to Add Negative Keywords to Your Account

Negative keywords can be added at campaign level or ad group level. Find out how with this instructional clip

Negative Keyword Tools

Here’s a couple of handy helpers that will give you some guidance for your negative keyword research:

While you’re at it, check out this super post from Darian Schouten, who ever so generously lists 75 negative keywords that (almost) all Adwords campaigns should have. Read the comments below the article for extra juicy tips.

We also found some inspiration for standard negative keywords in this list by Ko Marketing.

How You Can Use Negative Keywords To Maximise Your Adwords Sales

  • Add negative keywords when you set up your Adwords account
  • Use negative keyword tools and common negative keyword lists to maximise your campaigns
  • Look at the search queries leading to clicks to find negative keywords you don’t want to appear for
  • Consider adding negative keywords from results not leading to conversions or assisted clicks
  • Review and add negative keywords over time to optimize your campaign performance

Using Negative Keywords is a simple way to make significant improvements with your Adwords conversions. These type of Adwords skills separate the chimps from the chumps, so make sure you keep reading up. Your bottom line will thank you for it.

Let me know how you’ve used Negative Keywords to boss your Adwords conversion rates. We love to hear stories of the good stuff in action. Drop a cheeky comment below with your negative keyword light bulb moment.

In the meantime, good luck online.

Gorilla Out…

By Nathan Manning
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