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Managing Search Queries & Negative Keywords Tutorial

Welcome to the seventh lesson ‘Managing Search Queries & Negative Keywords’ of PPC Advertising Tutorial which is a part of Advanced Pay Per Click (PPC) Certification Course offered by SimpliLearn.

In this video, we're going to look at how to manage search queries and another keyword type, known as negative keywords.

Let us now look at the objectives of this lesson.


After completing this lesson, you will learn to:

  • Define negative keywords and defend the importance of using negative keywords

  • List negative keyword match types and describe how each one works

  • Decide whether to apply negative keywords at the campaign level or the ad group level depending on the situation

  • Analyze paid search data to determine when to use negative keywords

  • Manage keywords in your account and delete or expand keywords based on data

Introduction to Negative Keyword

Negative keywords are great to use in your account because they stop your ad from showing. This could be times when it's a word that does not describe your products or your services or

it could be a word that doesn't convert.

When you want times, but you do not want an ad to show, you can use negative keywords. Let us look at some benefits of negative keywords.

Negative keywords benefits

Negative keywords have specific benefits in your account. They:

  • Help Increase CTR: They should help raise your click-through rate because you'll stop your ad from showing on irrelevant queries.

  • Help increase conversion rates: They should help your conversion rates because again, queries that don't convert, you can stop your ad from showing on them.

  • Increase your add relevancy: They should increase your ad relevance

  • Lower Marketing Cost: They should lower marketing costs.

Negative Keyword Match types

Negative keywords have match types, just like positive keywords do, but there's a big difference between the two.

The differences between these two are explained in the given below the table.

Positive Keyword

Negative Keyword

With Positive words, you can often show for:

  • Misspellings

  • Plurals

  • Similar words.

Negative keywords do not show for these other variations.

With Positive words, the search engine looks at your Positive keyword and match types for the ordering of the words to the query.

With Negative keywords, the search engine looks at your negative keyword and does not match it to any other similarities.

Consider some negative keywords as shown in the below table.

Negative Keyword

Match Type





So for instance, if we have a negative query like television, the search engine just says is the word television anywhere in the query, if so, don't show the ad.

Now if we have a two word or a three-word negative query, like ‘LCD TV’, the search engine, when it's broad match negative, just says, these two words are in the query, anywhere in the query regardless of the order.

Consider search queries like LCD Television, LCD vs. Plasma TV, LCD TVs, with these negative keywords as shown in the table given below.

Search Query

LCD Television

LCD vs. Plasma TV


Note: TV is not equal to TVs

Let us look at each of these search queries.

LCD Television:

In LCD Television, the word Television in this the search query is our negative keyword, and our ad doesn't show.

LCD vs. Plasma TV:

For something like LCD vs. Plasma TV, we have a negative keyword LCD TV. Here both the words, LCD and TV, are in the search query. They're not in the same order, but it doesn't matter with broad match negatives. It just has to be in the queries.


LCD TVs is plural. Our negative is singular LCD TV. We would show, for that search query, assuming we have a word that could be triggered that ad because LCD TV would not block it because it does not match to singulars, plurals, so forth but only that word.

You can use phrase match negatives. With phrase match, those words must be in the query in the same order for your ad to not show.

A one-word phrase match is the same as a one-word broad match because these words don't match to plural, singular, so forth.

So, if we had the word Television in phrase match, it's no different than having the word Television and broad match. It's in our negative keyword list; it's in the query we don't show.

However, for a term like LCD TV, in phrase match, those words must be in the same ordering. In this second query, LCD vs. Plasma TV, both those words are in the query but not in the same order.

Therefore, we would show if we used phrase match negative. Now we can also use exact match negative. So, only if the query is that exact negative word, your ad not get displayed.

So if we look at those same queries, we show for all of them. Only if we added one, LCD TV, which is exactly what negative keyword, does our ad not get displayed.

So with negative keywords and match types, the only thing that matters is the ordering of the words in the query. If you don't want to show for plural and a singular, or you don't want to show for a certain misspelling, you must add those as negatives.

Negative Keyword and Account Structure

When looking at our account structure and where we can use negatives, there is a negative campaign list you can use and apply it to one or more campaigns and that negative list is used in every campaign where it's applied.

You can also use negatives at the campaign level. You use Negatives at the Campaign level they affect the Ad Groups and all the Ad Groups within that Campaign.

You can then use Negatives at the Ad Group level as well. They only affect the keywords in that ad group.

If we add it to this blue ad group and negative keyword at the ad group level, it won't affect our yellow one and vice versa. But, if we made it at the campaign level, it would affect all the ad groups in that campaign.

Let us now look at the Campaign Level Negatives.

Campaign Level Negatives

Blocking Search Queries

Let's say then that we've been running our ads for a bit, and we start to get some information about our cost for acquisition, and we have a target CPA of $25.

Target CPA: $25

Search Query


Nike Running Shoes


Trail Running Shoes


Black Tail Running Shoes


Running Shoes


Blue Tennis Shoes


Women’s Tennis Shoes


We look at our search queries and have some search queries that are below our target CPA. We have some that are significantly higher than that.

So, for the keywords that are just slightly above our target cost per acquisition, such as blue tennis shoes and women's tennis shoes, they're not that far off. We could just adjust the bids downward to hit the target CPA.

Now we have two keywords that are significantly above our target CPA, trail running shoes and black trail running shoes. So, we have a couple of options of what to do with these keywords:

  • We could lower the bids dramatically and hope to hit that target cost per acquisition.

  • If you're a larger account with a healthy span, that's probably going to be your option.

Now, let's say though that we don't have a huge budget and we only want to spend the budget on words that lead to good conversions for us.

We don't want to have to do all this bid manipulation where an ad may never really show for a keyword, to get to our target CPA, because there are other words we could use.

Then, we could take those two words and make them negatives, so we don't show for these words significantly above our target.

So, now when we go to add these, there are two options for how we can make the negatives. So let's just make the assumption we don't want to show for these words. So we want to make sure they're negatived out.

Option 1: Add all non-converting keywords as negative.

We add the term trail running shoe, and we add the term black trail running shoe.

Search Query



Nike Running Shoes



Trail Running Shoes


Trail Running Shoes

Black Tail Running Shoes


Black Trail Running Shoes

Running Shoes



Blue Tennis Shoes



Women’s Tennis Shoes



If we added these as exact match negatives, we're not going to show for those exact queries. It's not going to match to anything else. Before we do this, we probably want to take a look to see if a term like green trail running shoes, is converting.

If we add trail running shoes as a phrase or broad match negative, then if a word like green trail running shoes were converting, we would stop ourselves from showing. We've made trail running shoes a negative keyword, and any query with those three words in it was not going to show for.

So, that's considered one is when you add these negatives, are you going to suddenly stop yet other words from converting? If so, then you probably want to use an exact match negative and not a phrase or broad match negative for a term like a trail running shoe.

Now, if we notice, both these negatives have the word trail in them. So, what happened here is we add, you know, trail running shoes and black trail running shoes as negative keywords, and suddenly, we start showing for something like trail running or trail shoes.

Those words might not convert either. So if we look at our whole account and we look for the queries with the word trial in them, and say, oh wow!

Option 2: Add the ‘common word’ as a negative

When the query contains the word trail, our conversion rates aren't very good, or we don't have any conversions. We just want to stop all queries with the word trail from showing from our account.

Search Query



Nike Running Shoes



Trail Running Shoes



Black Tail Running Shoes



Running Shoes



Blue Tennis Shoes



Women’s Tennis Shoes



In that case, we could add just the one negative trail, and we would stop both those queries and all the others.

This is where, when you add negatives, you're going to stop your ad from showing on potentially more than just that word, unless you use exact match negatives. So, in some cases, that's good.

If we look at our account and say the word trail, we don't convert for; we should just make this a negative. Use the word trail, you stop it from your whole campaign or your whole account, depending on the level you use it.

If you realize, green trail running shoe converts, we would not want to use this word, because we'd stop our ad from showing in that query, as well.

So when you add negatives, you'll be aware of the implications of not showing for yet more queries. Negatives are important; you will have some. But just make sure as you add them, you didn't stop other good queries from showing.

Before Adding Negatives

It can also be used to just take a step back before you add negatives and say, is the problem a query and landing page combination? Or a query and ad combination, and it's converting somewhere else.

So for instance, if we have this search term Trail Running Shoe and we realize that it's going to two different landing pages. And one landing page has a $25 CPA, which is our target, and one page is the $76 CPA.

In this case, it's not the matter of stopping your ad from showing for Trail Running Shoe across your whole account.

It’s from stopping it for that landing page, whether it's adding it to just that ad group or removing that landing page being associated to that query. It's also possible there's an ad problem.

Search Query



Trail Running Shoes

Page 1


Trail Running Shoes

Page 2


Trail Running Shoes

Ad 1


Trail Running Shoes

Ad 2


So if we look at the query and when it's shown with Ad 1, we have a $19 CPA. When it's shown with Ad 2, we have $109 CPA. So in that case, it's a matter of removing Ad 2 from showing from that particular search query.

So we'll look at a higher level of your account if you have a query showing for multiple ad groups. Because that's sometimes the issue is you're using some modified broad match or some phrase match, and suddenly a query is showing from multiple ad groups.

In cases like that, that's when ad group level negatives are useful. So campaign level negatives, great for stopping an ad from showing from every ad group in the campaign.

Let us now look at the Ad Group Level Negatives.

Ad Group Level Negatives

Sometimes you want it shown from one ad group but not from another one. That's when ad group level negatives are good.

Now, ad group level negatives only stop ads from showing in that specific ad group. So, let's say we're a hosting company, and we have one ad group that's about hosting. Online hosting, hosting type of keywords.

We have a different ad group that's website hosting as shown in the diagram.



Let's assume the website hosting keyword is another ad group. Another ad group has VPS hosting and virtual private server hosting in it and yet another ad group is about cheap hosting and discount hosting.

Now that's a decent segmentation for a hosting company. But let's say we have a search query. Like cheap VPS website hosting.

Website hosting

Let's assume the keywords in these ad groups, are the ad group name modified broad match.

In this case, every ad group could be triggered. Hosting ad group, if hosting in the query. We have a website hosting ad group, website hosting in the query.

VPS Hosting

We have a VPS Hosting Ad Group. VPS Hosting is in the query and we have a Cheap Hosting ad group.

Cheap Hosting

Cheap's in the query and so you don't control which ad is going to be displayed with this query because all four can match it.

So when you have these types of situations, ad group level negatives are great to use because we could take our VPS hosting ad group and say well mine is cheap because we've got a cheap VPS hosting ad group.

We could take our cheap hosting ad group and say mine is VPS so if the query contains VPS, don't trigger this ad group, we could have yet another ad group, website hosting, minus cheap and minus VPS and find our hosting ad group and then more of these.

So by layering these negative what we can do now is force the search engine to show the most specific ad for the query and you can take back your ad serving control. Now not everyone has this problem.

In the next section, we will talk about pivot tables.

Pivot Tables

What pivot tables do, is let you aggregate data or pivot data based upon some key. So, what we could do is take our query data, put it in a pivot table and then say, for my search query, which is the row label, the search query.

How many ad groups have this query shown from? And if you've got a query that's being shown from 13 different ad groups or eight different ad groups, then you might not be in control of your ad serving, because multiple ad groups have shown for that particular search query.

So then you probably want to use some ad group level negatives, so that you're control of ad serving, of which keyword will be triggered by a search query, what ad is going to be used, and what landing page will be used.

Now, it's very easy at an account level, which could be 20 campaigns, could be one, to run this kind of data and say how many ad groups per query. But there are times, ad group could be more than one, and it's not a problem.

This is when you might have geographically separated campaigns. You might have a campaign to Los Angeles, a different campaign shown to San Francisco. Both these campaigns could have the same keywords in them.

They are shown to different regions. So just because a query at an account level has come from two ad groups when you dig into it, it's shown once from our LA campaign, once from our San Francisco campaign, they don't compete so it's okay.

So if you use the same keywords in multiple campaigns because they're not competing against each other, then you need to add a campaign level segmentation to this kind of data. If your campaigns don't compete, then just saying, here's my search queries.

How many ad groups have they displayed taking action? If more than one, I need to use ad group level negatives. If no, then I don't need to.

Cost Data

If you use modified broad match at all, and especially broad match, you're going to have some ad groups that are more than one, some search queries that are shown for more than one ad group.

If it's been one impression or one click came from a second ad group and it cost you 18 cents, that's not nearly a big of a deal as if 50 clicks came from the wrong ad group, and it cost you 200 dollars.

So, when you go through this kind of exercise, look at your cost ad. It can be useful because if you've got one ad group that $200 has served incorrectly, a different one, it's 20 cents has been served incorrectly, you want to spend your time on the higher priority, higher spend ones.

You might not spend an hour diagnosing 18 cents of incorrect spend. Usually not worth your time, better things to do with it. So, campaign level negatives, are for stopping a query from showing for the whole campaign.

Potentially multiple queries showing for the whole campaign. Ad group level negatives are to ensure that this ad group doesn't show for a query, but a different one probably does.

When you start to get data, you can look at your query data by ad group, and say do we have certain ad groups that are multiple ad groups serving the same query and they're spending a lot of money.

If so, then we need ad group level negatives. If no, we don't need ad group level negatives, just campaign level negatives.

Match Type Organization

Something that is important to consider then is how are you doing your match types. So, if you have a campaign and you've got a broad match ad group, and a phrase match ad group and exact match ad group.

If you assume, you've got the same keyword in all three ad groups, just different match types. Well, what you need to do in your broad match ad group is add all those same keywords as [INAUDIBLE] phrase match.

Your phrase match tag at all those in keywords exact match and make sure those keywords are in your exact match ad group.

This sort of setup looks good when you create it. But you will add keywords over time; you remove keywords over time and in veritably, this setup starts to disintegrate because you added some new broad match keywords and you forgot to add the modest phrase matches.

There's not an easy way of catching up on this organization.

So, this kind of organization is rarely recommended, unless you have a pretty small account. If you want to segment out your match types by different ad groups, it's better to use different campaigns.

You could have a campaign that's all exact, a different campaign that's all phrase match uses the minus exact match keywords. Another campaign that's all broad matched uses the minus phrase match keywords. That's one way to do it.

Another way is using a Discovery and Managed Campaign campaigns. So, for instance, you start a new account, and you don't have any data yet, so you're not sure what's going to be your best word, what's going to be your worst word, you don't have this information yet.

So, you got a healthy budget, maybe not exceptionally large, but not tiny.

So, you start with all modified broad match words. And then, what you do is you look at the search query data. And you say, okay, does the query convert? If it is converting, then you add this word to your Manage Campaign, and in a phrase or exact match type.

When you make it a negative keyword in your Discovery Campaign and so, if you do this over time, what you find is that your discovery campaign is for finding good queries.

Your managed campaign is only for queries that are converting. Then, if you look at a query in your discovery campaign and it's just not converting, you make it a negative keyword. So, this is a pretty common way for mid-sized accounts to be managed.

Now for really, really big ones, it doubles your campaigns so that you won't see it as often. But if you're spending $10,000 to $100,000 a month, it's a good organizational structure.

If you've got 300 campaigns and you're spending $1M a month, it's not as good as just starting by match type spy campaign, and we will do a whole other section on really in-depth campaign structure and account structure which matters.

As you walk through keywords some high-level thoughts about management because match type is important too, to consider for your ad surfing. Now, it's okay to have a campaign with your ad groups and use all of the match types inside of one ad group.

This is common if you're doing a cost per action bidding, especially, if you use say, an automated tool from a search engine.

The only thing to remember if you have all the match types within a single ad group is that your exact match should be the highest bid, then your phrase, then you're broad, because exact match, you know what someone's looking for.

This should be a better conversion rate than your phrase match.

Your phrase match should be a better conversion rate than your broad match because you don't know as much about the user query with the broad match because they could have your words in different orders, different queries could go with this.

So, it's okay to mix some of the ad group as long as you're just controlling the bits.

Examining Query Data

Now just remember, the broad match does not convert higher than an exact match for the same word. What happens if you see stats like this that our broad match word has a better conversion rate and a lower cost per conversion than our exact match, the issue here is.

You know what someone typed in the search engine with exact much, it was that word or a singular plural misspelling of it. Your broad match work could be matching for a lot of different varieties.

So if you don't have words in the campaign that aren't controlled in the ad survey, what's happening is we can have some other words here. Coffee mug blue, coffee mug red, coffee mug, that aren't in the account.

They have good conversion rates, but they don't match to the exact match keyword because the exact match, of course, is very closely related. So the stats get aggregated to the broad match word and make the broad match look better than exact match.

But if we added, in this case, blue coffee mug and red coffee mug as exact match words in that account, then those words would get the statistics. You could see the difference in that conversion rate.

What you want to bid for it and the then broad match would go back to what it is as finding these other queries, not your best one.

So whenever broad looks better than the exact metric standpoint, you need to look at your search query data, what the user typed on the engine, because you have keywords you want to add to your account.

So always go to the queries, look at the queries, look at their conversion rates, look at their cost per conversions.

If they don't convert at all, make them negatives. If they are converting, then make them actual keywords.

Aggregate Match Type Data

Now another way just to sort of view your account is to get an idea of how all your different queries are doing your matched types. Is you could make a pivot table again and aggregate it at the match type level. You'll see here's our conversion for broad match.

If you're using a true broad match, you may see something known as session-based matches. This happens when someone searches, they see your ad, and they don't leave the search results. They search again for something that could be unrelated to your ad completely.

Because they're in the same session, an engine may show an ad back to that user based upon their first query. So, those are session-based matches and you can't remove those. If you use broad match, you may see session-based matches.

Then you can see your exact matched data and then close variants. So close variants are the misspellings, the singulars, and plurals you can show from. Your phrase match and your phrase close variants.

What you usually see is your lowest cost per acquisitions are an exact match. Your second lowest phrase match. Your third lowest is modified broad match and then broad match and that kind of gives you a high-level picture of how each match type is doing for you.

If you see broad doing well, you have query data you need to look at and add keywords.

Search Query Flow Chart

From a workflow standpoint, this is really how to work with it, is look at the query data, what the user typed into the engine.

If you're using the conversion tracking systems the engines provide, you can see your cost per conversion, your conversion rates, how often a user is taking an action, by each of these search queries.

If it is converting and there is no better Ad Group for this, then just make that query a keyword in that existing Ad Group. If there is a better Ad Group, or you could have a better ad for it, then create a new Ad Group or add one.

Now, this assumes you're adding the keyword to that campaign. If you use a discovery and manage the campaign and if it is converting, let's make an exact match on another campaign.

So the first question is should it convert? Is this a word that is descriptive of your business? And if you think, you know what, this word should convert, but it's not. So what you want to do, is not just remove it because it should convert.  

If the word is not converting, you need to put it in the correct Ad Group, create an Ad Group, control the ad on the landing page. Make a note now to yourself, just to remind you to look at this data after a week or a month, depending on how fast you aggregate data.

If it is now converting, you have a new source. Now if you look at the word and say should it convert? No, right? This is not related to what we do; it's ancillary information. Then that's when you make it a negative keyword. So this is a good workflow to use as you look at query data.


Let us now summarize what we learned in this lesson.

Negative keywords should:

  • Help increase click-through rates.

  • Help increase conversion rates.

  • Lower marketing costs.

  • Increase your ad relevance

  • Watch total conversions. (If those items went up, your conversion rate goes up, conversions per day goes from 100 to 10, revisit negatives)

  • Great for controlling ad serving.

If you add keywords and these things don't happen, click-through rates don't go up, or conversion rates don't go up, total conversion drops, you want to revisit those negatives.

Negative Keyword Diagnosis:

  • Use search query report to find non-converters spending money

  • Consider if the word is showing from a different ad group

Global exclusions: If you never wish any ads to show - use lists.

Add Group Organization:

Make the PPC engine show the correct ad group when multiple ad groups in the same campaign show for the same query. Use ad group Negatives.

Campaign Organization:

Make the engine show the correct campaign. This is usually when you organize match types by the campaign. Use campaign negatives or campaign negative lists.

Use the correct match type or root word:

When adding a new negative, consider if you should add the entire word, only part of the word, so it blocks additional words, or if you want to use a specific match type for that negative keyword.


This brings us to the end of this Managing Search Queries & Negative Keywords Tutorial. In the next section, we will look at Creating Compelling Ad Copy, Part 1: Connecting Search Queries to Websites.

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  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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