02 8413 6400Mon. - Fri. 9:00am-5:30pm

The Art of Exclusion in Paid Search

Posted by in Industry News

In paid search, a successful campaign is all about having good aim. Good aim involves excluding the people who aren’t likely to convert from seeing your ads to reduce your wasted spend, resulting in incremental top line growth for your business.

Adding negative keywords to your paid search campaign may seem a simple solution for improving its aim, but most of the time this isn’t enough by itself. Other factors that you must also take into consideration are:

  • The level of targeting
  • Whether to use keywords or lists
  • The different match types of your negative keywords

Level of Targeting

Negatives are a filtering tool used to limit your potential impressions, thus your level of targeting. At the highest level, you can exclude impressions for entire campaigns, e.g. luxury brands will commonly want to avoid wasting impressions on search queries containing the words “free” or “cheap”. Thus these words would be added as negatives at the campaign level.

Alternatively, you can exclude impressions at the ad group level. One instance where you might want to do this is if you are running a campaign for a branded products. The keyword “Mossimo Sweaters”, for instance, may trigger impressions for ads in the Mossimo brand ad group, the sweaters ad group,  or a custom ad group built around both the brand Mossimo and the product sweaters. If you want to spend all your budget on the custom ad group, you can add “Mossimo Sweaters” as a negative keyword to the brand and sweaters ad groups so they don’t appear for that keyword, leaving more impressions to be had by your custom ads.

Keywords or Lists?

There are two ways to add negatives: through keywords combined with a match type or by using keyword lists.

  • Keyword lists: These allow you to create and save groups of your commonly used campaign negatives. You can find this in the Shared Library section of your Campaigns tab.
    Google Keyword List Suggestions
    Once you form a list of negative keywords, you can apply it to your campaigns more efficiently than adding each individual keyword one by one. This is also the best option for excluding frequently avoided terms (“cheap”, “free”, adult terms, etc.)
    Keyword List
  • Match type: By default, Google adds negatives as broad match, but you can use any match type (broad match, phrase match and/or exact match) to fine-tune your list of negative keywords. To learn more about the different match type options, click here.

Negatives for Other Ad Types

Each type of ad requires some degree of filtering to opt-out of potentially useless clicks.

  • Product listing ads work by connecting your product feed from your Merchant Centre account to your ad. These also have negative keywords which can be useful for handling product specific queries, such as size, colour or material.
  • Display campaigns have two types negatives: excluded placements and excluded audiences. Excluded placements ads allow you to filter your ads from specific websites and web pages you don’t want your ads to show on. For example, you might want to prevent your display campaigns from appearing on apps or mobile sites. And the excluded audiences function groups the people you have cookied with an AdWords tag (usually for remarketing purposes) whom you wish to distinguish from the rest of your ad viewers. A common example is to filter out those who have already converted from your remarketing campaigns.

How to Find New Negatives

Here are some less common ways to discover additional negatives which you can use for your campaign.

  • Keyword Research Tool: Rather than just accepting the list of negatives or search queries that have been auto-suggested to you by Google, run them through the keyword research tool to come up with synonyms and related terms. This is particularly useful if you’re planning on using more restrictive match types with your negatives.
  • Organic Keywords: Filter your organic keyword report in Google Analytics for any words that may have a lot of clicks but hardly any conversions.

Excluding Impressions Without Using Negatives

Even if you’ve built out an extensive negative list, you can filter the way your ads appear with by using a few advertising and conversion rate optimisation tricks.

Text ads are the best way to qualify people before they click. Is your product for small businesses? Then you should consider adding the price to your ad to attract or filter out price-conscious consumers.

Paid Search Text Ads

If your business is geographically specific, make sure your ad clearly mentions your locations, so locals can opt in and others will opt out.


Much like eating healthy and getting enough exercise, adding and refining negatives is a never-ending commitment. You will constantly need to work at it in order to keep your paid search campaigns optimised and running as profitably as possible. The good news is that it gets much easier the more you practice. And once you get to master it, your expertise with paid search negatives will allow you to play at a much higher, aggressive, and more cost-effective level than your competitors!

About

Annie Nguyen has always spent too much time on the internet. As a meme lover and an avid blogger, she decided to leverage her hobby and indulge in the world of Online Marketing. Annie's former role as an Account Manager at E-Web Marketing has enabled her to further her digital expertise which she is continually applying in her current role as the Head of eCommerce for Bellagio & Co.

Leave a Reply