Clearing Up Negative Broad Match in AdWords


If there’s one topic in AdWords that seems to confuse all sorts of folks, it’s negative keyword match types, especially negative keywords on broad match.

Since regular keywords on broad match can cast a fairly wide net, people are worried about using that match type on their negative keywords. People are scared to use broad match on their negative keywords because they’re worried about potentially filtering out traffic they’d want.

The main thing to remember is that negative keywords set to broad match behave much more like modified broad keywords. Every word that you have in the negative keyword will need to appear in the query for the negative keyword to filter it out.

For example, if we used the negative keyword –nike basketball shoes, our keywords could still trigger on queries like:

  • adidas basketball shoes
  • basketball hoops
  • tennis shoes nike

The negative keyword would filter out queries like:

  • nike jordan basketball shoes
  • boston basketball shoes store nike

Other points to remember about negative keywords:

  • Negative broad keywords won’t match on synonyms or similar words like they can for regular keywords.
  • Negative keywords, even on broad match, won’t match on close variations or plurals.
  • For single-word negative keywords, there is no difference between broad and phrase match.

If you think a bit about it, you can understand one of the reasons why Google would not want broad matched negative keywords to behave like regular keywords on broad match – to prevent AdWords users from accidently killing their account performance when they’re looking through their search queries and adding some queries in as negatives. Google doesn’t want you to kill your traffic (especially your ad spend!) accidently.

Armed with this information that negative keywords on broad match don’t cast as wide of a net as you may have thought – should you start setting a bunch of negative keywords as multi-word broad match? I still wouldn’t recommend it as the primary way to set negative keywords, but for other reasons: When possible, you can usually be more effective adding negative keywords in as single words. With most queries you see in your search query report or QueryStream that you’d want to avoid in the future, you can usually find just one of the words that doesn’t fit your business offering. Plucking out that single word as a negative is usually the best way to eliminate future unwanted queries surrounding that theme.

Using our previous example, if I didn’t sell Nike shoes at all, I’d be better off just setting –nike as the negative keyword than coming up with several multi-word combinations.

If you have more questions about negative broad match, let me know in the comments! 

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Nov 04, 2013

Nice post. However, in my experience, negative broad-match keywords behave much more like exact keywords.

Nov 04, 2013

Negative keyword is  a type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.In other words negative keyword tells Google not to show your ad to anyone who is searching for that particular phrase.Whereby a Negative Broad Match keyword is set to block queries including the exact spelling and punctuation of theterm you have entered as a negative.This type of keyword control can help increase your CTR,reduce your average CPC and increase your ROI.

Tara Dee West
Nov 08, 2013

Nice toi get some clarification on this subject! My experience is the same as yorus and I've found they don't tend to block too much as broad match negatives. I tend to put all one word negative keywords as broad match providing there aren't any instances where they might be useful. 

Jan 20, 2014

Thanks for this psot, this is very helpful as there is not a lot information from Google availabel except a post from 2007, where i was not sure whether this post is still valid. Do you habe any guess, what is in average the efficiency potential by using "negative keyword matching".Best regards from MunichAlexander Holl

Feb 17, 2014

Any data , test to prove your theory ? 

Zach Katkin
Jun 12, 2015

Been searching everywhere and can't seem to find an answer. Google as of late seems to be getting very aggressive with the keywords it's allowing to trigger ads. Case in point we're bidding on exact, broad, and phrase for "bonita springs web design" - and our ads are being shown for "bonita springs". Anyway to prevent this without resorting to ONLY exact/phrase match?

Aug 02, 2015

It seems that neg kywords for Shopping campaigns act as exact match , anyone has the same experience ?

Jonathan Sanders
Oct 24, 2017

I feel like finally I'm wrapping up all I need to know about negative keywords.

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