Marketing & Advertising

Negative Keywords Improve Pay-per-click Performance, Save Money

Implementation of negative keywords to your paid search account is one of the most effective methods to improve its performance. Negative keywords allow you to filter out unwanted traffic and only pay for clicks that have a higher probability of converting. Here’s how it works.

Negative Keyword Example

Let’s say you’re selling high-end designer shoes. Your target audience is consumers looking to spend at least $500 on a pair. When reviewing your paid search keyword reports, you find that keywords similar to “designer shoes” tend to convert much better than keywords like “cheap shoes” or “Payless shoes.” In this example, you’d want to add words “cheap” and “Payless” as negative keywords to your paid search campaigns, so that search engines would not display your ads to people who have search on “cheap” or “Payless”. Specifically, here’s how excluding “cheap” and “Payless” would impact your ads, using the following search terms.

  • “designer shoes” – your ads would show as usual.
  • “cheap designer shoes” – ads would NOT show (due to “cheap” being part of user’s search term).
  • “Payless shoes” – ads would NOT show (due to “Payless” being part of user’s search term).

How to Locate Negative Keywords

I suggest the following ideas to locate negative keywords for your pay-per-click campaigns.

  • Pull a keyword log from your web analytics provider (i.e. Google Analytics, Yahoo! Analytics) and look beyond the first few pages. Look for instances of keywords that are completely irrelevant to what you do.
  • Pull a Search Query report in Google AdWords; ask Yahoo! Search Marketing support team to send you your search query report. (Yes, they have do that.) Again, look for instances of keywords that are irrelevant to what you do.
  • Look at keyword tools such as Google Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery for instances of high traffic keywords similar to what you sell but not applicable to your products (i.e., “shoe donation center” and “donation” would be a good negative keywords for an ecommerce store selling shoes).
  • Brainstorm on your own. Think of obvious keywords that do not apply to your products/store (i.e., “free”, “no cost”, “no charge”, “broken”, and so forth).

Based on my experience, a negative keyword strategy, if implemented correctly, improves campaign efficiency by 10 to 20 percent after the first 60 days.


Negative keywords improve efficiency of your paid search campaigns. They improve click-through-rates since your ads are not shown for irrelevant searches. And they save you money because you filter out users (and clicks) that are unlikely to convert on your site anyway.

Greg Laptevsky
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