How To Uncover Negative Keywords In Adwords

Google Adwords is a great way to drive targeted traffic to your website and also a very quick way to waste money if you are not careful or pay close attention to what is going on in the campaign. If you’ve been running your own Adwords account you know that there are a lot of settings, options, and it can be overwhelming.

I’m going to go over how to uncover keywords that are costing you useless clicks and how to set them as a negative keyword so your ad won’t display and cost you money.

First what are negative keywords?

According to Google Adwords Support; negative keywords are an important part of every campaign because they help make sure that your ads appear only to people looking for what you offer. This added level of control can help you increase your clickthrough rate (CTR), reduce your average cost-per-click (CPC), and increase your ROI.

When you build out an Adwords campaign you are asked to add keywords that you want your ad to appear for. Hopefully you’ve done some keyword research to uncover the most searched keywords for your products or services. One Keyword Research Tool you can use is Google Keyword Planner.

It’s easy to find keywords that relate to your product or service to show your ad. Depending on the keyword match type you are using, your ad could show and be clicked on for keywords that you may not want. If you get those unwanted clicks it will cost you money, NO BUENO.

Here is an example of how your ad could show and be clicked on for something you don’t offer:

Say you are a piano teacher and you are looking to get more students for your one-on-one piano lessons and decided to create an Adwords campaign to get leads. Some keywords you may bid on are – piano lessons, piano teacher, etc… The keywords are added in Phrase Match. Then someone searches Free Piano Lessons – your ad displays and gets clicked on – they go to your site and realize that you don’t offer Free Piano Lessons. Now you just wasted that click and spent money. (Side note: The ad showed because the keywords where in phrase match and no negative keywords. Learn more about Keyword Match Type)

In the example above some negative keywords you would want to consider are – free (your lessons are not free), online (you don’t offer online class), and group (you’re looking for one-on-one students).

As you’re building out your Adwords campaign you aren’t asked to add Negative Keywords so they are overlooked by most. You want to think of keywords that you wouldn’t want your ad to appear for and cost you a click. Think about the industry you are in and some of the crazy requests you may get and don’t offer. Such as free products or services. The word FREE is usually a good negative keyword, as your products or services aren’t free (or maybe they are). Other negative keywords to consider may be “cheap” or “inexpensive”. Negative keywords will depend on what you offer and the goals of the campaign.

It is very hard to think of all the negative keywords but I’m going to explain to you how to find additional Negative Keywords to add once your campaign is running.

How to uncover negative keywords in your campaigns

After you start running your Adwords campaign and receiving clicks you can go and see the keyword that was searched and generated the click. It may take 24 hours for the data to start appearing. I usually give the campaign at least 2 to 3 days to collect some data.

You will want to go one-by-one through your Ad Groups so if you spot a negative keyword you can make a note of the ad group it should go in.

Once you 1- select your  Ad Group, 2 – Click on Keywords, 3 – Then select Details, and 4 – under Search Terms select All.

Steps to Uncover Negative Keywords

Now you will be looking at all the keywords that people searched and clicked on your ad. Here you want to go through the list and look for strange words that don’t relate or you wouldn’t want to get a click for. Any strange word or phrase you find make a note and think if that word should be a negative keyword for the Ad Group only or the whole Campaign.

There are 2 ways to add Negative Keywords:

The first option – While looking at the Search Term Details you can – Select the box to the left of the keyword and then at the top you select “Add as a negative keyword”. A box will appear with options to add the negative keyword to the Ad Group or Campaign. Depending on the setup of your Adwords campaign and Ad Groups that will determine which to select. Also keep in mind what match type you want the negative keyword to be in also.

Find Negative Keywords for Adwords
Find Negative Keywords

The second option – Once you have your list and you know whether the negative keywords should be set at the Ad Group level or Campaign level you – go to the Ad Group, then the keywords, scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see it say “Negative Keywords” with a little Plus sign next to it. Click it. There will be two boxes that appear “Ad Group Level” and “Campaign Level”. Then simply select “Add” and enter your negative keywords in one keyword per line. Remember to set the Match Type.

Add Negative Keywords adwords

That is how you uncover negative keywords from your Google Adwords campaign.

If you’d like for someone to review your Adwords Campaigns and provide you with optimization tips you can contact me at

Also if you have any questions please feel free to email me at or message me on twitter @jvictorcast or @reconmediainc.

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About Jose Victor Castellanos

Jose has a passion for helping businesses understand and utilize internet marketing strategies to grow their businesses. Providing marketing consulting for over 5 years.