What are Negative Keywords?

When we set up Google Ads campaigns, our first thought is generally in regards to the the type of traffic we want to attract. The keywords that our target customers will type into their browser. We want them to see our ad, click our ad, and then convert to a lead or a customer on our website. In doing so, we inevitably also attract some clicks from terms related to our keywords, but not necessarily the traffic we want. Negative keywords are keywords we add to our Google Ads accounts, campaigns, or Ad Groups as word to avoid, words that will prevent our ads from being displayed.

Why Use Negative Keywords

The first and most important reason to use negative keywords in your Google Ad campaigns is to save your self money on clicks that will not help you reach your business goals. We want to use negative keywords as a quality filter, to stop unwanted clicks and save our budget dollars for the customers who are more likely to convert to leads and customers.


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In Google Ads, Negative Keywords can be set up to apply specifically to the Ad Group level, more broadly at the Campaign level (which includes all the Ad Groups within that campaign) or overall at the Account level.

Negative Keywords for Ad Groups

If you want to eliminate the use of some keywords within a specific Ad Group, then we want to set up our negative keywords at this level. By doing so, we are not putting these negative keywords in effect in other Ad Groups, unless we specifically ad them there as well. This is a good strategy to use when the negative keywords are not desired in association with the keywords in one Ad Group, but might actually be attractive in another Ad Group. This is one method of focusing your keywords and ads very tightly. For example, you might have an Ad Group set up with keywords and ads to target terms related to fishing rods. You only want people looking to buy fishing rods, not other fishing tackle items, such as fishing reels. So you would add fishing reels as a negative keyword, plus other types of fishing tackle.

To set up negative keywords specifically in an Ad Group, within your Account, select the Campaign, then select the AD Group, then select Keywords. In the banner above the performance graph you should see Search Keywords, Negative Keywords, Search Terms, Auction Insights. Click the link for Negative Keywords. Click the plus sign to add negative keywords. Type or paste in your list of negative keywords and then Save.

Negative Keywords for Campaigns

Setting up negative keywords for a Campaign is similar to setting up for an Ad Group. Within your Account, select the Campaign, then select Keywords. In the banner above the performance graph you should see Search Keywords, Negative Keywords, Search Terms, Auction Insights. Click the link for Negative Keywords. Click the plus sign to add negative keywords. Type or paste in your list of negative keywords and then Save.

This list of negative keywords will now apply to all the Ad Groups within that Campaign.

Negative Keywords Lists for Accounts

Negative Keyword Lists are used to avoid unwanted clicks (unwanted ad spend) and impressions across multiple campaigns. The process is to create a negative keyword list, including the the keywords you want to avoid, and then simply apply the list to campaigns as needed. You can have up to 20 negative keyword lists in your account so the list can actually be tailored as needed.

To create your negative keyword lists, begin as above by selecting a Campaign, clicking Keywords, click Negative Keywords, then the plus symbol to start a new set of keywords. When you have built your list, before you click the Save button, click the checkbox to Save to new or existing list. You will give this list a name. The list can then be easily added to campaigns as needed.

Finding Negative Keywords – Search Terms Report

Your initial list of negative keywords will likely be easy to come up with. Using our previous fishing tackle example, if you only sell new fishing rods, you will likely want to include negative keywords such as “used” or “repair”. You will likely find you can come up with an initial list of 10 to 20 negative keywords quickly. After your campaign has ran for about a month, you will have a new source of data to help you. In the same banner where you clicked on Negative Keywords, to the right, is the Search Terms report. This report will show you actual search terms that triggered your ads. If you find search term that are costing you click traffic dollars, do not result in conversions, and are clearly terms you don’t desire, you can simply click the check box, scroll to the top of the list, and click on Add as a Negative Keyword. You can select to add to specific Ad Group negative keywords, broadly to Campaign negative keywords, or overall to a keyword list.