Negative Keyword Match Types: Essential Guide


Using negative keyword match types to customize your keyword targeting can have a significant impact on campaign performance.

Adding to your negative keyword list helps ensure that your ads only show for searches that are relevant to the products and services you offer. As a result, you’ll provide more relevant ad experiences for your audiences, reduce wasted ad spend, improve your ad quality scores, and increase campaign profitability. 

To help you get started, we’ve created this essential guide to negative keyword match types. We’ll explain everything you need to know about negative keywords, the three negative keyword match types you can use on Google Ads, why it’s important to customize your targeting with negative keyword match types, and how to get started.

What is a Negative Keyword?

When you create a search marketing campaign on the Google Ads platform, you’ll need to decide which search queries you would like to target with your advertisements. To do so, you’ll conduct PPC keyword research to create a list of target keywords for each ad group in your campaign. 

In addition to your keyword targeting list, Google also allows advertisers to create a negative keyword list for each campaign. Negative keywords allow advertisers to exclude specific keywords or keywords that contain specific terms from being targeted by their advertisements. 

When you define a negative keyword as an advertiser, you’re telling Google to avoid triggering your ad placements when users enter those queries into their Google Search.

Why are Negative Keywords Important?

Using negative keywords to customize your ad targeting can have significant positive impacts on your overall campaign performance.

Negative keywords help ensure that your ads are only triggered on searches that are relevant to the products and services you offer. Increasing the relevance of your ad placements has a direct impact on your click-through rate (CTR), and your ad quality score – a Google-specific metric that’s directly tied to the relevance of your ad to the people who see it.

When your CTR and quality score go up, you’ll receive more ad placements at a lower cost, and you’re likely to see a higher volume of conversions and lower cost per acquisition (CPA).

In contrast, ignoring negative keywords means that you’ll continue to tank your quality score and target disinterested audiences with search queries that are irrelevant to your business.

What are Negative Keyword Match Types?

There are three negative keyword match types that advertisers can use to customize their negative keyword targeting on the Google Ads platform:

  1. Negative Broad Match
  2. Negative Phrase Match
  3. Negative Exact Match

negative keyword list

Caption: This example of a negative keyword list shows the correct mark-up for the negative broad, phrase, and exact match types.

Understanding the differences between the three match types will help advertisers accurately customize their campaigns to target only the most relevant and profitable search terms. Now let’s take a closer look at each one and how it works.

Negative Broad Match

Negative broad match is the default match type for negative keywords. When advertisers choose this keyword, their ads won’t show for any search query that contains all of the terms in the keyword – regardless of the order in which they appear. Ads may still be shown for search queries that contain some (but not all) of the keyword terms.

Negative Broad Match Keyword Example:  digital advertising

Search queryCould this search trigger an ad?Notes:
digital advertisingNOSearches for the negative keyword will not trigger an ad placement.
advertising digitalNOAn ad placement is still not triggered when a search query uses the keyword terms in a different order.
digital advertising companyNOAny search query that contains all terms in the negative keyword will not trigger an ad placement.
digital advertisementYESNegative keywords do not target similar searches known as “close variants”, so a search like this one could still trigger an ad placement.
digital marketing companyYESThis search query does not contain all of the terms in the negative keyword, so it could potentially trigger an ad placement.

 

Negative Phrase Match

Advertisers can take advantage of this match type by adding the target keyword in quotations to the negative keyword list in their Google Ads account. Using the negative phrase match type will prevent ads from showing when all terms from the keyword are present in the search query in the same order as they appear in the negative keyword list.

Negative Phrase Match Keyword Example: “digital advertising”

Search queryCould this trigger an ad?Notes
digital advertisingNOSearches for the negative keyword do not trigger ad placement.
advertising digitalYESAn ad placement may be triggered when the negative keyword terms appear out of order in the user’s search query.
digital advertising companyNOThe negative keyword terms appear in order in this search, so an ad placement will not be triggered.
digital advertisementYES(See above)
digital marketing companyYES(See above)

 

Negative Exact Match

Negative exact match is the most restrictive targeting option for negative keywords. When using negative exact match, ad placements are only prevented when the search includes the exact keyword terms in the same order and with no additional words.

Negative Exact Match Example: [digital advertising]

Search queryCould this trigger an ad?Notes
digital advertisingNOThis is the exact match search query and will not trigger an ad placement.
advertising digitalYESWhen the keyword terms are used out of order in the search query, an ad placement may be triggered.
digital advertising companyYESWhen the negative keyword appears with additional words, an ad placement may be triggered.
digital advertisementYES(See above)
digital marketing companyYES(See above)

 

How to Start Using Negative Keyword Match Types

Advertisers can implement negative keywords at the campaign level or at the ad group level to improve their ad targeting.

Advertisers can create a negative keyword list by clicking on the wrench icon in the upper right menu, then selecting “Negative keyword lists” from the dropdown menu. Once a negative list has been created, advertisers can choose to apply that list to any campaign or ad group they manage on their account.

Creating a negative keyword list

Caption: Creating a negative keyword list.

Negative keywords can also be implemented by selecting a campaign and ad group, then opening the Keywords menu on the left side and choosing “Negative Keywords”.

Setting up a negative keyword list

Caption: Setting up a negative keyword list within a campaign.

When a keyword list is created in this way, advertisers can select from a drop-down menu whether they wish to add negative keywords at the ad group level or the campaign level.

campaign negative keywords

Caption: Advertisers can choose whether to add negative keywords to a campaign or to a specific ad group.

Summary

Building a successful PPC advertising campaign isn’t just about choosing the right keywords to target. Advertisers also need to identify irrelevant keywords that are triggering their ad placements and slowly weed them out using negative keywords. 

Advertisers who effectively use negative keywords will be able to target the most relevant audiences and consistently provide high-quality advertising experiences through their campaigns.

We hope this article helps you successfully use negative keyword match types to drive performance for your upcoming search marketing campaigns.

Keep Reading

10 B2B Marketing Plan Examples To Help You Stay Organized

As complicated as B2B marketing can be – it’s easy to get caught up in different B2B marketing strategies, channels, campaigns, and tactics. Having a plan is the best way to keep things secure and structured. Whether your plan is meticulous, loose, or a combination of both, having that plan will keep you focused. Depending […]

Jesse Seilhan In Content

The Recipe for a Winning B2B Facebook Ads Strategy

While a majority of B2C companies are crushing the social media marketing game, many B2B organizations are lagging behind. Even with Facebook’s growing popularity, many B2B brands still struggle to nail down an effective strategy. The problem? The B2B buyer’s journey is much longer and more complex than that of a general consumer. It’s going […]

Izabelle Hundrev In B2B Perspectives PPC

B2B Advertising Insights For Every Stage of The Funnel

For many business-to-business (B2B) software organizations, paid advertising is essential to generating leads and driving revenue. Through paid channels, marketers are able to segment and target audiences more precisely, leading to higher conversion rates and ultimately, more sales. As the SaaS space becomes increasingly crowded, marketers are tasked with creating contextual ad experiences that can […]

Izabelle Hundrev In B2B Perspectives