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About negative keywords

Negative keywords let you exclude search terms from your campaigns and help you focus on only the keywords that matter to your customers. Better targeting can put your ad in front of interested users and increase your return on investment (ROI).

This article explains how negative keywords work and when they might be useful. Learn more about how to Add negative keywords.

How they work

One key to a highly targeted campaign is choosing what not to target.

When selecting negative keywords for search campaigns, look for search terms that are similar to your keywords, but might cater to customers searching for a different product. For example, let's say that you're an optometrist who sells eyeglasses. In this case, you may want to add negative keywords for search terms like “wine glasses” and "drinking glasses".

If you’re using Display or Video campaigns, negative keywords can help you avoid targeting unrelated sites or videos, but bear in mind that negative keywords work differently for Display and Video campaigns than they do for search. Depending on the other keywords or targeting methods in your ad group, some places where your ad appears may occasionally contain excluded terms. For Display and Video ads, a maximum of 5,000 negative keywords is considered. You can also avoid targeting unrelated sites or videos by implementing site category options and content exclusions.

Types of negative keywords

For search campaigns, you can use broad, exact or phrase match negative keywords. However, these negative match types work differently than their positive counterparts. The main difference is that you'll need to add synonyms, singular or plural versions, misspellings and other close variations if you want to exclude them.

For Display and Video campaigns, negative keywords are always considered exact match. You won't be able to change the match type for negative keywords that you add to Display and Video campaigns.

Negative broad match

This type is the default for your negative keywords. For negative broad match keywords, your ad won't show if the search contains all your negative keyword terms, even if the terms are in a different order. Your ad may still show if the search contains only some of your keyword terms.

Example

Negative broad match keyword: running shoes

Search Could an ad show?
blue tennis shoes Yes
Google running gear Yes
blue running shoes No
shoes running No
running shoes No

Negative phrase match

For negative phrase match keywords, your ad won't show if the search contains the exact keyword terms in the same order. The search may include additional words, but the ad won't show as long as all the keyword terms are included in the search in the same order.

Example

Negative phrase match keyword: "running shoes"

Search Could an ad show?
blue tennis shoes Yes
Google running gear Yes
blue running shoes No
shoes running Yes
running shoes No

Negative exact match

For negative exact match keywords, your ad won't show if the search contains the exact keyword terms, in the same order, without extra words. Your ad may still show if the search contains the keyword terms with additional words.

Example

Negative exact match keyword: [running shoes]

Search Could an ad show?
blue tennis shoes Yes
Google running gear Yes
blue running shoes Yes
shoes running Yes
running shoes No

 

Bear in mind

  • Choose your negative keywords carefully. If you use too many negative keywords, your ads might reach fewer customers.
  • Your ad might still show on searches or pages that contain close variations of your negative keyword terms. 
  • Your ad might still show when someone searches for a phrase that's longer than 10 words, and your negative keyword follows that 10th word. Let's say your negative keyword is "discount". Your ad can show when someone searches for "nice clean hotel rooms in Los Angeles close to beach discount" because your negative keyword is the 11th word in the phrase. On the other hand, we won't show your ad when someone searches for "nice clean hotel rooms in Los Angeles beach views discount" because your negative keyword is the 10th word in the phrase.
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