This is a significant update to an article I wrote back in 2017 when Google changed what “Exact Match” keywords meant by definition. More changes have made negative keywords grow in importance.

Negative keywords have become more important than ever, and many small business owners don’t even know that they exist.  Just to clarify, when you advertise with Google Ads, you now basically give Google a concept that you want to advertise for, but you don’t get to pick the specific keywords. In the early days you could, other than Google adding plurals and close variants. Now you don’t really know what you will show up for. Google actually changed how they applied “close variants” to give them more space to take more of your money. In recent years Google has both changed the definition of these keyword matches to potentially allow for far more garbage and stopped showing you all of the “search terms” your ads showed up for.

Learning What Negative Keywords Do

Because of this, the always important and underrated negative keywords have become even more important.  A negative keyword is simply a word or phrase you can put into your account, campaign, or adgroup that tells Google that if that word is included in the search phrase, your ad should not show up.  Since we have a lot less control over what we do show up for, we need to work from the other side and tell Google what we don’t want to show up for.

Most people don’t even know that negative keywords exist, but you should learn about them and use them now.  All Google Ads professionals regularly monitor campaigns to look for new potential negative keywords to add based on performance or just relevance, but now you should think even more about this right from the start. This link is a great old article on some negatives to add to your campaigns from day 1 to avoid budget leaks and wasted money, but you should still continue to monitor and add things that pop up.  You may want to consider competitor names and words that can turn your search campaigns into irrelevant ads. Take a look at that list though. For example, if you are the cheapest option, you may not want to remove “cheap” from searches.

Examples of Wasted Spend

Google Wasted MoneyFor example, I once worked with a mold inspection company that was advertising for mold and found a considerable amount of their budget was going to advertise for searches for “cake molds”, “mouldings” and other “molds” that were not relevant.  Though maybe not as straightforward, your industry may have similar potential budget drains.  I once cleaned up a campaign for a video production company that advertised for videos and Google was showing their ads for “adult videos” and “free videos” and an abundance of video terms that they would never want to be targeting. In fact, we fond that company had wasted over 80% of their ad budget in a given month on irrelevant search terms.

Consider negatives from the get-go and add the standards as well as hunt for more as they start to come in.  You should do a deep analysis of the specific keywords you are showing up for each month to see what might be draining your budget and eliminate them. Even campaigns running for years will see new ones pop up as technologies change or even the way we talk and search.

Applying Negatives

Search Engine Journal did a nice overview of negatives a few years back.

Negatives can be applied to one of three match-types:

  • Broad: the word (or words) is anywhere in the search query.
  • Phrase: the word (or words) is anywhere in the search query in order.
  • Exact: the word (or words) is the search query (nothing added, nothing missing).

It’s important to note that negative keywords do not account for close variants. Naturally. Most adjustments Google makes are for you to spend more often on more things, so they won’t typically automatically restrict anything. You should always keep that in mind.

If you need help with a Google Ads campaign review, please give us a call. You should always have your Ads campaigns reviewed by someone that is concerned with your success, not with Google’s. I see a lot of business owners say that Google helped them set up their campaigns. Google is the one getting all of your spend. Do you really want to rely on them to set up how you spend it? We spend time with every review looking for new “negatives” to add. It is never-ending and can lead to huge differences in Return on Ad Spend.

Negative Keywords More Important Now Than Ever
Article Name
Negative Keywords More Important Now Than Ever
Google Certified Partner and SEM Specialist
With Google basically removing the concept of a true exact match keyword a few months ago, negative keywords have become more important than ever.
Jeremy Skillings
You Can Be Found