How to do Negative Keyword Research (Part 1)

In PPC, The Digital Marketing Blog by Eloi2 Comments

Negative keywords can often be overlooked by search marketing managers eager to expand their keyword list and get as many searchers as possible to click their ads and follow through to their site. However, negative keywords can play one of the most important parts of your paid search marketing campaign by eliminating the traffic you deem not relevant, thus raising Click Through Rates (and therefore quality score), conversions and conversion rates.

“Photo: Bernat Casero

For those unaware of negative keywords, these are elements in your PPC campaign that will ensure your ads are not triggered and displayed when this keyword is included in the searcher’s query: if I have the negative keyword “boat” in my “rentals” campaign, then my ads will not show when someone types “rent a boat” into a search engine.


The absence of negatives in your campaign may lead to a complete waste of your budget if you are not careful. It is also very important to include these keywords from day one to your campaign, and then add new negatives as and when you find them. The other thing to note here, is that the simpler your keywords are, the more you will need to use negatives: if you are bidding on “rental” for your car service, then you will need to exclude anything else in the world you think people might rent. (boats, planes, flat, power tools…)

So how do you research for negative keywords that should apply to your campaign?

When you use your favorite keyword tools to build up a keyword list of terms relevant to your campaign, there are usually more suggestions you reject than ones you accept. Well instead of simply dismissing these terms, put them aside, and factor them into a negative keyword list.

Once this is done, type in the most generic keywords of your campaign into the keyword tool (the shortest ones: usually one word, possibly two words). This will churn a long list of keywords in which you can select irrelevant keywords, put them aside in your master negative keyword list. You then need to go through your negative keyword list, and make sure you DON’T want to appear for any of these terms.

Now you have a decent list (10-20 terms can sometimes be all you need, but it can be anything really) you want to add these to your campaign. In AdWords, it’s never been easier: go into your campaign page, and there should be a link there to the campaign negative keywords. Copy + Paste your negative list into the box, hit enter, and your negatives are now active and refining your campaign objectives.

You still need to monitor your campaign’s performance over the next couple of weeks, to check that impressions have not gone down dramatically and that the CTR has gone up. If you are missing conversions after having installed some negatives, use the MyChange history tool to see what went wrong.

Part 2 of the Negative Keyword Research Series will review some more advanced negative keyword management techniques.


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