negative keyword list

5 Practical Ways to Build Your Negative Keyword List

We already know that a high-quality keyword research is an absolute must for having well-performing ads in Google. However, there is one important factor for increasing your quality score that not always gets the attention it deserves: negative keywords.

A well-curated negative keyword list can be extremely beneficial for your campaigns. Let’s find out why!

negative keyword list checklist

But first…what exactly are negative keywords?

Before we move on to explaining the best ways to build your negative keyword list, it is important to understand the concept of negative keywords first.

A while ago, I used to work for a company that offered payment gateways for other businesses.

Our product was a software that enabled secure payments for companies. Then, these companies used the software for transactions with their customers. However, the final customer wasn’t precisely our target audience.

software product example

A while after we launched our campaigns, we started to notice some weird things about our search terms. They looked like that:

  • How to pay my electricity bill;
  • Water payments online;
  • Online payment options;

You get the point. Things that had nothing to do with our business! We were developing a payment software for other companies, not enabling facility payments for final customers.

To wrap it up, negative keywords are simply the ones that you don’t want your ads to show up for. Either because they are not relevant for your business or because you don’t want them for a specific ad group.

Irrelevance vs Keyword refining

Sometimes, you can use negative keywords not because they are not relevant but because you already have them included in another ad group. And you want to make sure that they don’t appear for various ad groups ad the same time.

As I already explain in my previous post, a common practice for improving quality score is to create an exact ad group and an opposite broad match group for your keywords:

Exact match groups include restrictive keywords while broad match is used for more generic searches.

However, it is a good practice to put your exact keywords as negative for your broad ad group. This is done because you’ve already covered them in the exact group, and this way you can refine the generic one more precisely.

Now, back to my example. Needless to say, we had no intention of paying for expensive clicks that wouldn’t attract us any customers. So, we had to do something about it!

long term committment buyer saas free trial

And here is how we started building our negative keyword list:

1. Search Term “Spring Cleaning”

The first thing we did was to check our search term report for all the keywords that were triggering our ads. We needed to see what exactly people wrote on Google to end up clicking on our ad – and arriving on our landing page.

To do that yourself, the first thing that you need to do is go to your Google Ads account. Then, select All Campaigns (or just the campaigns you want), and click on the Keywords tab.

search terms revision google ads negative keyword list

The Search Terms report is an excellent way to discover what search terms are causing your ads to show up in Google. Then, you can just to add them to your regular keyword list or your negative keyword list:

building your negative keyword list

You should do a regular revision (I would say at least weekly) of your search terms to refine your keywords list.

By doing so, you can detect keywords that are not relevant for your business – and add them to your negative list.

What I like to do is to download the report in an Excel file and order the keywords by cost per click:

search terms negative keyword list

This way, I make sure to remove the most expensive irrelevant keywords first, as soon as possible.

After that, I order the results by impressions. After all, an irrelevant search term with a low CPC can become quite expensive if it has a huge share of impressions.

Of course, this is just what I personally do. 🙂 You can play with the results to find the best approach for you. The important point is to revise your search terms regularly!

2. Research Google results

google negative keyword list

Another clever way that will help you build your list of negative keywords is manual Google research.

It is very easy, and you will need to use more generic search terms for that.

Let me explain. Let’s say that you are an online Marketing Academy that sells Digital Marketing online courses. If you go to Google and type in “online courses in Digital Marketing”, you won’t find many keywords to add to your negative list.

This is because this keyword is already quite specific and very relevant to your product.

However, if you just type in Digital Marketing, you will see a lot of different results, such as Masters in Digital Marketing in paid results:

digital marketing courses google ads example

Or Digital Marketing agencies and blogs in organic results:

This is a great source of information when it comes to building your negative keyword list.

As a company that sells online courses in Digital Marketing, you now know that you could label the following keywords as negative:

Masters and Bachelor’s degrees in Digital Marketing

They might or might not be your competition, depending on your business model. If you don’t consider them as your competition, not excluding these keywords might bring you users who are interested in a Master – and don’t care about brief online courses.

Why pay for clicks that will not bring you interested users? Advertising in the education industry is already expensive anyway.

Marketing Agencies and Consultancy Companies

We already know that you are not a company that offers Marketing or any sort of Consulting services. So way pay for clicks by users who are looking for something else entirely?

negative keyword list google search

Now, you can add keywords such as “marketing agency” or “marketing consultant” to your negative list.

Marketing events

You don’t organize any Marketing events either. So why would you pay for users who are just looking to attend an event?

Don’t forget to revise both paid and organic results to get ideas for your negative keyword list.

Bonus tip: you see the suggested search terms in the example above? They are called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords, and Google suggests them because it considers them related to your current search. Make sure to check them as well for more negative keyword ideas!

3. Use Already Curated Keyword Lists

A quick tip to start building your negative keyword list fast is to use lists curated by other experts.

And although the majority of the negative keywords will depend on your product and industry, there are some that don’t belong to any campaign. Either because they are controversial, too generic, irrelevant, or because they might violate Google’s ad policy:

google ads policy negative keyword list

So, here is a list of some good and comprehensive lists 🙂 that you could use in your campaigns as well:

Of course, don’t just copy and paste them. Take a good look at all the proposed keywords – some of them might not necessarily be bad for you.

4. Use a Negative Keyword list tool / generator

Another excellent way to research negative keywords is to use a negative keyword list tool. 

They are very simple to use. The majority of them usually work by analyzing the broad term that´s related to your business and suggesting possible negative keywords from Google Autocomplete.

The key here, as in Step 2, is to work with broad terms for more relevant negative suggestions. If you use keywords that are already specific and highly-relevant for your business, it won´t be very useful.

After all, Google wants to know what you don´t want to show up for – not what you want to show up for.

negative keyword list generator

Here are some good negative keyword tools that you could use for this exercise:

5. Use Amazon

If you are in the ecommerce sector, Amazon can be a surprisingly good way to find popular search terms that might not be relevant for your business.

It works with an Autocomplete feature the same way Google does. For example, let´s say that you are an online shop that sells home appliances.

Maybe you are looking to build your negative keyword list for your Refrigerator campaign in Google. You can go to Amazon, type in the word Refrigerator, and you see multiple keywords that pop up:

For example, keywords like “refrigerator magnets” or “refrigerator calendar” are probably not exactly what you are selling.

Building your negative keyword list

Now that you already have the necessary tools to start building your list of negative keywords, the obvious next step is to start doing it. It might require some manual work in the beginning but trust me, it will be worth it!

If done right, a good negative keyword research might be really beneficial for getting a better quality score for your keywords.

Now it’s your turn! Do you have any questions or suggestions? Do you use any other techniques for researching negative keywords that I didn’t include?

Let me know in the comments below! As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article! See you in the next one!

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