by Richard Ball - Apogee Web Consulting

When running a Google AdWords campaign, it is crucial to include negative keywords. This is particularly true if any of the keyword phrases in the ad campaign are broad- or phrase-matched. Negative keywords cause an ad to not be shown if any of the keywords are in the search phrase. This is important for a few reasons. First, because the ad will not be shown for keyword phrases that are not relevant, there will be fewer click throughs that do not convert to sales. Second, the overall CTR (click through rate) will be higher because there will be fewer instances of searchers viewing the ad but not clicking. The higher CTR will cause the ad to attain a higher position without requiring a higher CPC (cost per click).

Let's look at an example. Suppose an online store sells soccer balls. The store's Google AdWords campaign has an ad group with these phrase-matched keywords:

"soccer ball"
"soccer balls"

Using at least one keyword research tool (and preferably more) will reveal many keyword phrases that are searched on that contain the phrases "soccer ball" or "soccer balls" but are clearly not related to purchasing soccer balls. For example:

17836 soccer ball
1984 picture of a soccer ball
924 adidas soccer ball
884 nike soccer ball
479 select soccer ball
394 soccer ball clip art
368 kick a soccer ball
327 soccer ball clipart
325 soccer ball equipment

It would likely not benefit the online store that's selling soccer balls to display an ad next to search results for the keyword phrase "picture of a soccer ball". Adding "-picture" to the AdWords ad group will prevent the ad from appearing for that particular search phrase. From this list, here's how to set up negative keywords for the Google ad campaign:


Only place one negative keyword per line. Precede each keyword with a dash. The preceding "-" indicates to the Google AdWords system that the keyword to follow is a negative keyword. If any of the negative keywords are in a search phrase, the ad will not appear next to the search results.

Richard Ball is founder of Apogee Web Consulting LLC, a full service search engine marketing firm. Richard founded the company to help businesses succeed on the internet. He is a search engine marketing specialist and has over twenty years experience in software development, including a six year stint at America Online.

Subscribe Small Business Brief Via RSS   Follow Small Business Brief On Twitter   Small Business Brief on LinkedIn


Weekly Newsletter
Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Google AdWords Tip: Use Negative Keywords

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.