Back to Insights

Why You Should Use Negative Keywords in Paid Search Campaigns

by Brian Colling - March 04, 2020

Using Negative Keywords in Paid Search Campaigns

When spending marketing dollars on pay-per-click platforms such as Google Ads, you want to know you’re getting your money’s worth. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case when searchers are clicking on your paid ads with no interest in the products or services you provide. Using negative keywords may increase your results.

What Is Paid Search Advertising?

If you’re new to online advertising, getting familiar about pay per click advertising — also known as PPC advertising — is a must. PPC advertising is most often used on search engines and the most popular system is Google Ads.

With Google Ads, keywords or keyword phrases are bid on, helping you target potential clients or customers. If you “win the bid,” this means that someone (a searcher on Google) has clicked on your advertisement. It also means that you must pay for that click. With Google Ads, you only pay for the clicks you get. If no one clicks on your ad, you don’t pay.

Google Ads campaigns have set budgets. Once the budget is reached, Google stops featuring campaign advertisements on search results pages.

A Google Ads pay per click advertising campaign might look like this:

Let’s say you own a bakery in Scottsdale, Arizona which sells blueberry muffins so good, they fly off of the shelves. Targeting online searchers who are looking for the “best blueberry muffins in Scottsdale” is a good idea. “Best blueberry muffins in Scottsdale” is the keyword phrase you will bid on.

Winning the “best blueberry muffins in Scottsdale” keyword bid is determined by three factors Google weighs for featuring ads:

Quality Score. Google has a reputation to live up to and only wants to show advertisements relating to a searcher’s inquiry. Each ad receives a “Quality Score” based on factors like how well keywords, ads, and landing pages align.

Keyword Budget. Google wants to know how much you would be willing to pay when someone clicks on your ad. If you only bid a small amount, Google may not feature your ad at all, or it might not be featured in the ideal spot.

Ad Impact. Google wants its ads to perform well. Based on features like ad extensions (adding a phone number or extra relevant info), it helps Google determine how likely your ad is to get clicks. Using all of Google’s available ad features is one way to hedge your bet of producing an impactful ad.

Choosing Keywords

Whether you’re a doctor with a new practice, a school administrator running a school’s website, or a mechanic looking for new clients, keyword, and competitor research are essential in targeting the right online searches.

Brainstorm words and phrases your customers might type into search engines when looking to solve a problem.  A dental practice may target the keyword phrase, “best dentist in [city]” and target individuals searching for a specific procedure offered, like root canals, by choosing the keyword phrase, “root canals [city].

Research what the competition is targeting. One way for receiving higher search result listings than competitors is knowing what keywords or keyword phrases they are targeting. Researching competitor websites and looking for repetitive words or phrases should provide clues.

Analyze marketing statistics and other data. Keyword ranking software like SEM Rush, WooRank, or SEO Profiler helps identify the most relevant and specific keyword or keyword phrases internet searchers are using.

The Big Issue with Keywords

You’ve analyzed keyword data, checked out the competition, and thought like a customer. Now, it’s simply a matter of setting your budget, placing bids within your ad campaign, and waiting for those clicks to come in.

While it’s likely your return on investment (ROI) is acceptable, your campaigns could be wasting a lot of money on clicks not leading to sales or clicks from users never intending to purchase.

A dental office in Scottsdale, AZ may target the keyword phrase “best dentist in Scottsdale.” Ideal customers looking for typical dental services may click through to its site and find what they are searching for.

Unfortunately, the dental office may also end up with visitors who are looking for services not offered like wisdom tooth removal, teeth whitening, or dental implants. A significant amount of budget can be wasted on clicks from searchers who will not turn into clients. This is where negative keywords may help.

What are Negative Keywords?

According to Google, “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).”

Negative keywords are search words or phrases you don’t want in your ad campaign. Selecting negative keywords to enhance your advertising strategy, helps narrower the number of online searchers seeing your ad. Ideally, searchers who are interested in your products or services, not those services by other companies in your industry.

Why Use Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords help improve PPC budget efficiency by reducing non-converting clicks from related searches. The goal of incorporating negative keywords into paid search campaigns is for increasing the number of ads shown in searches most relevant to your products or services. Increasing exposure to searches with a higher likelihood of conversion keeps your ads away from less relevant searches.

Start choosing relevant negative keywords by listing products and services your business doesn’t offer in its industry or verticle. For example, a doctor’s office only treating children may want to list adults as a negative keyword. Don’t worry about how long your list is, Google allows for up to 5,000 negative keywords and up to 20 negative keyword lists in your account.

Asking salespeople or other customer-facing employees for words or phrases most commonly used by unconverted leads may also contribute to your negative keyword lists.

Google’s free Keyword Planner allows you to add your business URL, your main advertising goal, and a description of what your advertising is, then shows results. These results should help you improve keyword and negative keyword lists.


At Colling Media, we’ve seen dramatic improvements in paid search campaigns for our clients when utilizing negative keyword lists. In our experience, incorporating negative keywords increases lead quality, minimizes budget “waste”, and increases conversion rates.

You may find this blog post helpful: 7 Top Keyword Phrases You Should Never Use

Get In Touch

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.