How to Choose Negative Keywords

How do I choose negative keywords?

A savvy negative keyword strategy can cut costs, increase click through rates and sharpen the association between the keywords you pursue and your ads.

As feature of Google AdWords and Bing Ads, negative keywords are essential to all PPC campaigns. But businesses need to be strategic. There are several types of keywords that should be added as negative keywords before starting a campaign.

If you’re reading this and asking yourself the question, “what is a negative keyword?” or don’t understand the role the play in Google Ads, here are some refreshers:

Part 1 | The What and Why of Negative Keywords
Part 2 | Addition by Subtraction in Paid Search 

We’ve compiled a list of negative keywords for you to consider to better-focus your PPC campaign and strategy. But remember, the keywords in this list are a primer and not suitable for all business. For example, if your business operates in only one state, it’s likely that adding all other states to your negative keywords could help your campaign.

This guide acts as a companion to the list of negative keywords and provides best practices when choosing and implementing negative keywords in your accounts.

For job seekers

The internet is a great place for job hunting. If you offer a product or service, odds are that there are people looking for employment within these verticals. Unless you’re specifically looking for applicants, it’s recommended to block these search queries from triggering your ads.


Many search engine users look for instructions on how to make, approximate or otherwise construct the products and services your business offers. Depending on your business goals and the information on your website, it may be in your best interest to weed out these DIYers before they rack up charges on a per click basis.


Unless you are a discount retailer or you have a noteworthy pricing advantage in your market, you may want to exclude “cheap” and similarly-phrased keywords from your strategy, thus limiting searches looking for only a great deal. Or, you may consider adding these keywords into campaigns or ad groups going after regular priced items to help ensure “cheap keywords” only trigger your “cheap ads.”


Most searchers using keywords like “reference” may be conducting informational searches about your product. These may be top-of-funnel searches, or, they may be people conducting research for any number of reasons. Regardless, these types of search queries rarely convert well.

Price shopping

Although these keywords may have buying intent, chances are these users are just browsing and not looking to convert at this moment. Something else to consider: If you don’t have pricing information on your site, any visitor looking for pricing information is likely going to have a disappointing experience.

Gender and life stages

These queries are about qualification and ensuring which ads display for which query. If you only sell clothing for adults, you might want to remove all keywords referencing kids, babies and teen clothing.

States, state abbreviations and cities

If you’re a local business using default AdWords settings, your ads will trigger to local searchers looking for products and services elsewhere. That is, if a user is in Chicago and searches for “Boston steak house” in preparation for an upcoming trip, Chicago ads are still eligible to display. This happens regularly.


Within a given campaign, an advertiser should target a single country. Ensure this happens by excluding countries that your business does not serve. Of course, some countries show up more frequently than others. India and the UK are the most popular in our experience.

Chicago suburbs

If your business serves most of Chicagoland but does not reach as far northwest as Antioch or as far south as Tinley Park, exclude these keywords and make sure your budget only goes toward gaining new business.

Image: Search results for Boston steakhouses for a user located in Chicago. AdWords is serving an ad for Wildfire, a Chicago-based restaurant. With such an explicitly targeted search, it’s unlikely a click on this ad would lead to sales.

How to insert negative keywords in campaigns and Google Ad groups

AdWords editor

In our opinion, AdWords Editor is the best and easiest way to add negative keywords in bulk to your account.

AdWords Editor has the flexibility to easily add multiple negative keywords to your account across multiple ad groups or campaigns. You can also copy and paste existing negative keyword lists from one campaign or ad group to another.

You can easily delete negative keywords as well and can even export and have others review your work before you choose to publish your new negative keywords.

AdWords interface

You can always add negative keywords directly to the campaign or ad group you select. This is a tried-and-true method but is also tedious with larger accounts. Simply navigate to the keywords tab on the campaign or ad group level and open the “+ Negative Keywords” fly-out to add your negative keywords.

Seach Term reports

When reviewing your search terms report, you will have the option to add any given query as a campaign or ad group negative keyword. This is an easy way to add negative keywords that fit into your account management workflow. The only problem is, you’ll need to manually add these keywords to other ad groups or campaigns later if you think they would make good additions elsewhere.

It’s important to note that, by default, the negative keywords added from your search terms report will be exact match negative keywords. This means they will block out only that precise keyword. You can give your negative keywords wider applicability through finding the component of each search query you wish to block and using a phrase or broad match negative match to exclude even more variations of the offending keyword.

Shared Library campaign negative keywords

Are you planning to use the same negative keyword list again and again across your account? Then the Shared Library might be a good place to store a negative keyword list. The shared library is a powerful method to manage lists. They can be accessed by any user across the account and can be grouped by theme.


It’s essential to understand how to add negative keywords to your campaign, and even more important is the strategy that informs your decision making. Choosing the right negative keywords for your campaigns and ad groups can help make your PPC account more efficient and more profitable.

If you have any questions or issues with negative keywords, don’t hesitate to reach out (we love this stuff!).

Want to learn more about Negative Keywords and how they can drive better results for your marketing? We’d love to hear from you!


Lyndsey Maddox

Chief Executive Officer

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