PPC 101

PPC 101: Negative Keywords

There comes a point on the road to search marketing success where you will find yourself face-to-face with the often misunderstood, never quite appreciated Negative Keyword. While Negative Keywords are a great way to optimize your ad placement in the search results, the mere mention of adding these to an existing campaign is enough to cause many an advertiser to roll their eyes inward. For many, adding Negative Keywords is an idea that sounds good in theory, but is increasingly frustrating in practice.

It doesn’t have to be.

In today’s edition of PPC 101, we are going to shed some light on the best practices for acquiring Negative Keywords for your advertising campaigns. Here are some tips on how to effectively add these terms to your campaigns both before and after they go live.

Tip #1: Never underestimate the value of common sense [pre-launch]

Before taking your campaign live, stop a moment and consider what keyword(s) absolutely do not describe your product. Are there any common irrelevant word associations a surfer might use in a query which could show your ad? Are there any incriminating keywords, like “fake”, “scam”, or “fraud”, that can be attributed to others(and by extension, YOU) in your industry?

If so, add these terms or phrases to your Negative Keyword list. To quote a famous green lizard, “15 minutes can save you alot of money…”

Tip #2: Use Predictive Search to get rid of negative keywords presented in popular queries. [pre-launch]

Imagine you were running an ad featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger (humor me). It would be beneficial to the success of your campaign to spend a few moments checking the predictive search results of variants of his name to weed out some additional negatives (sorry, Arnold Palmer…be gone!).

Tip #3: Use free Keyword Tools to remove non-applicable phrases early [pre-launch]

There are numerous free keyword suggestion tools which a marketer can mine for negative keyword information. Simply enter your top keywords and review the top keyword suggestions the tools generate. This strategy provides great insight into what is popular on the different search networks, and a bit of research time here will definitely show results in your ad performance.

Two Free Suggestion Tools we recommend:

Google Keyword Suggestion Tool
7search Keyword Suggestion Tool

Tip #4: Consider the “Free” Conundrum [pre & post-launch]

It has been said that “You can’t beat free” when it comes to advertising, and there may be no more inviting keyword to a potential prospect. As a marketer, you need to consider whether the potential exposure gained by queries looking for “free + your product” are worth the advertsing costs you are likely to incur. We recommend always adding “free” as a negative unless a)your product is so niche that it might affect your traffic or b)you actually offer something free on your website.

Tip #5: Review your the actual received search phrases for your campaign to find any terms you might have missed [post-launch]

Once you have compiled search data, review the actual search phrases delivering traffic to your ads. This allows marketers to unearth Negative Keywords that are actively impacting their ad performance before it becomes a repeat issue. This information should be readily available either via your standalone analytics and/or via your search traffic provider.

The review time for this practice is minimal compared to the positive outcomes. Effective use of Negative Keywords can make your campaign a success; don’t overlook them. Dive in!


  1. I have never done negative keywords that is because for my small clients or my own sites I had limited budget and I was bidding on exact match keywords. Only when I did broad match I thought I wold need negative keywords but my client wanted traffic and they didn’t care on what keywords because they sold advertising. As long as I was getting them hits below 15 cents a click they were happy.

  2. […] reviewing for negative keywords,you have to consider how closely your received searches reflect the content of your site. If you […]

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