Negative Keywords: A Huge Positive for Your PPC Campaign

By Marty Schneck, April 16, 2015

magine you’re at a wonderful burger restaurant. Food is great. Food is love, food is life. So naturally, you order one of everything on the menu.

Stay with me here. Just pretend this is a fantasy come true and you order everything on the menu.

But you don’t like pickles. Gosh darn it, pickles are nasty and you refuse to eat them, and they ruin anything they touch! But all the burgers come as-described on the menu, and 40% of the burgers have pickles on them. Yuck!

You’re paying for these burgers, but refuse to eat them.

In the real world, you’d just ask “no pickles.” Then no burgers would have pickles, and you’d get your money’s worth.

This is, in essence, the function of negative keywords. Convoluted example, but I love convoluted things.

Negative Keywords In Your Ads

Of course, negative keywords are not literally pickles on cheeseburgers. It’s time to shift gears to your PPC campaign. When you set up ads, before you even take time to design and plan your ad, you choose relevant keywords for your campaign.

Related Post: Using Exact Match Keywords to Boost Your PPC Campaign

Assume you’re promoting, say, cheeseburgers. So you decide to make the very broad term “burger” a keyword. Great, now when people search for burgers, they will see your ad!

Now assume that someone searches for Burgermeister Meisterburger, the infamous holiday villain. Your ad could be called into this search, appearing right at the top. The person may click on this ad, unaware that it’s not what they’re looking for.

Then you pay for that click. And the person never wanted cheeseburgers. What a waste!


Now, if you had set up the negative keyword “meister,” this would have never happened. Negative keywords are your way of telling the ad network: “I want my ads to show up for this keyword, but never for anything that includes this other keyword.”

So your burger ad would still appear for people searching for burgers, but never for someone who searches for Burgermeister Meisterburger. And people do search for that. I literally just did.

Related Post: What's in a Keyword?

This example may never happen. But the situation itself is quite common. Someone searches for something completely unrelated to your ad, but a keyword causes your ad to pop up anyway. Someone clicks on it, causing you to lose money.

Some Strategies


As with most things we post on eZanga, there’s a definition and there’s a strategy. Sure, now you understand what negative keywords do, but how do you use them to best capitalize on your ad campaign?

Many people don’t use negative keywords at all. We don’t recommend this. After all, the main goal of any ad campaign is to reach the right people. Clicks are clicks, you pay the same in the end. However, you want the best quality clicks to come through, from people who want what you advertise. (Tweet this)

Negative keywords help you in this endeavor. They further segment your markets and allow you to better cater to certain searches. This should, naturally, increase your conversion rates.

  • But on the flip side, don’t use too many negative keywords. If one of your keywords is causing you to lose valuable clicks, you have to figure out which one that is. That’s nearly impossible when you have a biblical flood of negative keywords in your campaign. And once you have so many, it does begin to impact the efficiency of your campaign. Negatively.
  • Using the same negative keywords for your whole campaign can also be a mistake. Don’t just copy and paste lists across keywords and ads. Take some time to forge the right set of negative keywords for each component of your campaign.
  • It also might be a good idea to set up an Excel spreadsheet of your keywords and their corresponding negative keywords. Spreadsheets are always fun. Well maybe not always, but they are always helpful.
  • Don’t know which keywords to even use? There are some tools out there that might help. Some places will give you a list of negative keywords for a given keyword.
  • You can also plan your campaign by searching for your keyword, or similar terms, playing the role of your customer. Take note of what results come up, and plan your negative keywords accordingly. In that case, you can play the role of a field operative. Dive in, get dirty, and become the searcher. This can help immensely when playing from the “searched” end of things.

Negative Keywords in AdWords and AdPad

As for the specific, “How do I even do this,” we’ve got that covered.

The glory of AdWords is that it’s run by Google (obviously). If you Google search the subject, Google delivers with this glorious summary of how to use negative keywords in AdWords:

  1. Sign into your AdWords account.
  2. Click the Campaigns tab, then select the Keywords tab.
  3. Scroll down to the "Negative Keywords" link below the keywords table. Expand the section by clicking the link.
  4. Add negative keywords to an ad group or a campaign by clicking Add.

When it comes to AdPad, eZanga’s own advertising platform, it even simpler.

  1. Start by going to the Campaign MGMT tab, and clicking on Manage Existing Campaigns.
  2. Click on your campaign, and go to the keywords area. Negative keywords have their own tab, right next to Active Keywords and Keyword Uploads.
  3. From there, you can add, delete, enable, or disable the negative keyword function. You can either type inyour negative keywords or import them via file upload.

We also uploaded this video to uncomplicate things:

Also, if you have any more questions on the matter, our sales team knows exactly what they’re doing, and would be more than happy to help you.

Related Post: Siri, What's a Long-Tail Keyword?

As for other advertisers, you can view their FAQ page, or contact their team directly. Not everyone offers a negative keyword function, but your account representative could work with you to make your campaign work just as well.

Moving Forward

We stress this quite often, but the right set of negative keywords really depends on your ads and your campaign. Be sure to test, test, test different sets of keywords and negative keywords to see which give you the best results.

I’m sure you can even set up a nice AdWords script in Google to help you chart results. Otherwise, if you advertise on a tier 2 network, your account representative can most likely assist you in maximizing results.

It definitely takes some setting up to do, but it’s definitely worth the results. What’s the point of running a campaign if it’s not running at max efficiency? As a marketer, you should want to get the best results on a project.

Ultimately, negative keywords are just easier than setting up countless campaigns to achieve similar results. They’re definitely something to look into.

This post was original published in August 2014 and has since been updated.

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Marty Schneck

Marty Schneck

Marty is the former Digital Content Specialist for eZanga and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied marketing. He thinks he’s a reality show superstar. (We think so, too.) Marty describes himself as a “foodie, beer ethusiast, coffee connoisseur, and Kardashian.” Not necessarily in that order. More Articles by Marty Schneck