Fighting Cross-Campaign Ad Poaching with Negative Keyword Lists


A couple of weeks ago I told you that your first negative keyword lists should consist of your brand keywords. Doing so keeps your competitive (higher CPC), non-branded campaigns from poaching brand-related ad impressions.

Typically we see negative keywords being used to stop ad impressions from completely irrelevant search queries (or search queries that bring no business value), but there is a case for using relevant keywords as negative keywords.

Using brand-related keywords in negative keyword lists is not the only example of using relevant keywords as negatives. Depending on your business, you may find, after analyzing your search query reports, that your campaigns are poaching ad impressions from each other.

Because of this, I recommend that you create a negative keyword list for each of your major campaigns in your AdWords account.

For example, let’s say that you sell pet clothes for both dogs and cats. You may have both a DOG CLOTHES and a CAT CLOTHES campaign running in your account. Most likely, you have broad match keywords that may compete for the same ad impressions across campaigns.

The only way to prevent Google from choosing to serve an ad to the wrong search query is by explicitly telling them not to do so with a negative keyword. Otherwise, they enjoy the freedom you’ve given them by choosing to use broad match keywords.

To get your lists started, I would take the top exact match keywords in your campaigns and create a negative keyword list for each of your campaigns. Here’s what those lists might look like for the DOG CLOTHES and CAT CLOTHES campaigns:

Negative Keyword Lists

Now depending on how closely related your campaigns are, you may have to experiment with using different negative match types. In the example above, you should be safe using negative broad match keywords.

Next, associate your negative lists to all the other campaigns in the account (that might be an ad poacher) for each campaign. In order to do this you have to navigate to the bottom of the keywords tab for each campaign (don’t get me started) and open up the "Negative keywords" link.

The end and desired result is that Google can’t serve a "cat clothes" ad to a "dog clothes" search query because the only ads eligible to serve are in your CAT CLOTHES campaign.

Now once you have these lists in place within your AdWords account, regularly take the time to drill into your search term report located in the "Keywords" tab.

Adwords Keywords Tab

Add any ad poaching search queries that you find directly to your negative keyword lists.

Add Negative Keywords

Now sit back and enjoy getting Google to serve the right ads for the right search queries. Of course, you can push this same concept to the ad group level for even tighter control, but that’s a more complicated topic for a future post.

Chad SummerhillBy Chad Summerhill, author of the blog PPC Prospector, provider of free PPC tools and tutorials, and in-house AdWords Specialist at Moving Solutions, Inc. ( and

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Mar 01, 2011

Have you found that you've had to do this for ad groups within a campaign as well? I often find that Google will trigger a broad or phrase match keyword for a search query even when I have that exact keyword in another ad group. The only way I've found to combat this is to add negative versions of my existing keywords to other ad groups in the campaign.

Chad Summerhill
Mar 01, 2011

Yeah, there are a couple of ways to deal with this issue at the keyword/match type level.

1. like you described. You have to separate your keywords by match type and use negatives to force the right ad to serve.

2. The other way is to stagger your bids: exact gets the highest, then phrase, and the lowest goes to broad.

Mar 06, 2011

Hi Chad,

Isn't adding "dog" (or "cat' for that matter)as a neagtive broad on the campaign level solves the problem? why bother creating such an exensive list?

Mar 24, 2011

It probably comes down to control. Putting a broad match for dog will block any query with the word dog in it. What if the query contained "cat clothes, not for dogs." Granted, the chances of that query is low but in that case, the ad wouldn't have shown anyways.

May 22, 2015

The chances of that query to generate conversions is close to none. Just using the words cat and dog is enough :)

Chad Musgrove
Feb 17, 2015

I know this was written a few years ago, but it still holds true today. I have an account with 14 dentist office location as the campaigns each with 12 Adgroups for the individual dental services. Without this technique - these adgroups cannibalize each others keywords like crazy!

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