In PPC marketing negative keywords are used to prevent adverts that aren’t directly related to the products or services a business offers from being returned in the search results.

Negative keywords help to create highly targeted advertising campaigns by selecting what not to target. Negative keywords won’t match to other expansions or closely related variants. As a result, negative keywords prevent adverts from being displayed to searchers who may use similar terms to locate a different product or service.

A negative keyword strategy helps businesses ensure paid campaigns are accurately focused on the keywords that matter to them. This helps to ensure ads are displayed to users interested in their offering, thereby increasing an advertiser’s return on investment (ROI).

How Negative Keywords Focus Ad Campaigns

To take an example, a wine glass retailer has placed a bid on the term “glasses.” A searcher then enters the term “glasses” into a search engine with the intention of seeking out a new pair of eyeglasses.

As the advertiser hasn’t implemented a solid negative keyword strategy, the ad from the wine glass retailer is displayed next to an ad from a business selling eyeglasses. If the searcher then accidentally clicks on the wine glass advertisement, that retailer will need to pay the advertising platform for that click even though it is of no value to them because the searcher is looking for a completely different product.

Different Types of Negative Keywords

When conducting search campaigns, advertisers can use exact match, phrase match, or broad match negative keywords. 

  • Negative broad match keywords – Ads won’t be displayed if a search term contains all selected negative keyword terms.
  • Negative phrase match keywords – Ads won’t be displayed for search terms entered in a specific order. For example, if “running shoes” was selected as a negative phrase match keyword, ads would not be displayed in searches for “red running shoes” however they would appear in searches for “red tennis shoes” or “running shoe.”
  • Negative exact match keywords – Ads won’t be displayed in searches containing the exact keywords. Adverts may be displayed in searches containing additional words.