Negative keywords
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Create positive results with negative keywords

If your company is advertising on Google, it is a "must" that you know about negative keywords!
It's a smart feature on Google Adswhich allows you to increase your return on investment and ensure a narrowed focus on relevant keywords.

It's a crucial feature for your ad dollars!

Nicolai Vittrup
Last updated: Jul 27. 2023

Why do you need to control negative keywords?

As we mentioned before, negative keywords are there so that you can increase your return on investment with greater certainty and focus exclusively on search terms that are relevant to your campaign and interested users. This allows you to target your campaigns and avoid them being influenced by other traffic.

So you should welcome negative keywords with open arms, as they ensure that your ad budget is not wasted on clicks where the user has a completely different search intent than what your campaign intends. Improved targeting means greater return on investment, and real potential customers. That doesn't sound too bad, if we do say so ourselves.

So how do you create negative keywords?

If you're thinking that setting up negative keywords sounds a bit overwhelming, we can only say: "Fear not". Fortunately, it's pretty straightforward.

When you create your campaign in Google Ads, you need to add keywords to a 'Negative keyword list', which will then be linked to the specific campaign, list, ad group or ad. This allows you to exclude searches where you do not want a particular search type - for example, interrogative searches (Hv words).

The difference between campaign, list and ad

You add your negative keywords at different levels - depending on what makes the most sense for your Google Ads. In most cases, all the levels below are used across the ads.

  • Campaign - If you want specific search terms for different ad groups across the campaign, create your negative keywords at the campaign level.

  • List - A super smart feature that lets you create and save lists of negative keywords that you can later add across your Google Ads account.

  • Ad - Here you work at the most specific level, really caring about each ad group. It's time consuming, but can save you a lot of money and unnecessary ad dollars if the negative keyword is specific to the ad group.

The difference between 'broad match', 'phrase match' and 'exact match'

When creating negative keywords, you can also choose which variant the search term should be included in - a 'broad match', a 'phrase match' or an 'exact match'. We'll go through the three different match types for you now.

Negative broad match
A 'broad match' is the most standard type when creating negative keywords. It excludes searches where all your negative keywords are included - even if they are in a different order to the one you created. However, your ad may be visible if the search contains only some of your search terms.

In the example below with the negative search term "shoes for running", you can see how a negative broad match will trigger your ad.

Negative keywords with a broad match

Negative phrase match
A 'negative phrase match' is used relatively rarely, as it excludes the exact search terms in the same order. If the user's search includes other words, your ad may still be visible unless all the search terms are included in the same order.

You can see an example of negative phrase matching below.


Negative exact match
'Negative exact match' is a combination of the other two match types. This means that your ad will not appear if the search contains the exact search terms in the same order and without any extra words. However, if the search consists of additional words in combination with your created negative match, the ad will still be displayed.

The example below shows a negative exact match in action.


How do you choose the right negative keyword and search match?

That's deep water you're moving into when you start working with negative keywords. Because creating the wrong search terms can have big consequences for your ad dollars. One of the few ways you can avoid this is by using something as simple as your rational mindset and assessing for yourself what makes the most sense for your Google Ads.

When creating search terms, you can also think of negative keywords that are similar to your chosen search terms. For example, if your store sells new shoes, it would be a good idea to exclude the keyword "used shoes". Then your ads will not be shown to customers who want to buy used shoes and you will avoid unnecessary clicks.

So it's all about getting into the mindset of your segment and thinking about what they want to Google to find your products, while also considering search terms that have nothing to do with your company's services and products.

Negative keywords have both advantages and disadvantages ...

Negative keywords are generally a really smart feature in Google Ads's toolbox. But benefits rarely come without a number of drawbacks. We list them for you.


  • Negative keywords improve the quality of traffic coming to your website.
  • Gives you the opportunity to increase the average time visitors spend on your site.
  • Your business saves money.
    You increase your ROI and lower your cost per conversion.


  • Too many negative keywords can limit your campaign, so it reaches fewer users/customers
  • Negative keywords don't match close variants, so your ads may still appear on searches or pages that contain close variants of your negative search terms.

General negative search terms that you should consider adding to your Google Ads account

  • "Employment" and "job" related keywords.

Unless your business is in recruitment, in most cases your ads should attract new customers, not new employees. Job seekers often use Google to find job vacancies in their industries, and click on company ads. For that reason, you should create job-related keywords as negative search terms.

  • Information and facts related keywords.

Many search the web for "how-to's" and other information. Unless you provide this, consider creating these as negative search terms so you don't waste ad dollars on information seekers rather than potential customers in the marketplace with a clear search intent.

  • Search terms such as "free" and "cheap".

If your business does not offer free products or services, these should be negative keywords. If your products or services are of premium quality, you will obviously not be associated with keywords like "cheap". This is an important internal decision for your company, which you should define early in the creation of your Google Ads.

  • Keywords that your competitors are using.

Competitor search terms can be very useful if you dare to invest your ad dollars in them. If a potential customer searches on your competitor's name, your ads can make themselves visible and thus convert traffic to your business via competitor searches. It's smart, but a risk you must be willing to take!

  • Searches that do not convert.

If a keyword does not convert after a long period of time, it may be a good idea to pause it.

Need help creating negative keywords?

Our seasoned PPC specialists are here for a sparring session, where you can assess together which negative keywords you should include in your Google Ads!

Fill in the contact form or call us on 70 60 50 28!

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