Ask the Experts: Intro to Negative Keyword Match Types



Hi everybody, thanks so much for joining us for today’s second installment of “Ask the Experts.” My name is Erin Sagin, and I’ll be walking you through today’s question.

So today we’ll be focusing on negatives. Negatives are hugely, hugely impactful to an AdWords account, and everybody out there should be using them. Negatives are important because they’re going to help you cut wasted spend, and eliminate unqualified traffic from seeing your ads.

The way this works is that if you set a word as a negative keyword, Google will understand that if anybody types that in a search query, they’re not a good fit for your business and it will prevent your ad from showing.

So let me give you an example. I have a client, her name is Kimmy, she sells cakes down in Baltimore. She sells every kind of cake you can imagine; birthday cakes, anniversary cakes, wedding cakes. The only type of cake that she doesn’t sell is crab cakes – but this is a huge issue for her, living in Baltimore where people are always searching for crab cakes, so it seems.

One day, I was looking through Kimmy’s Search Query report, and as we were looking through it, we started to notice she was getting a lot of impressions, and even clicks, for people looking for crab cake restaurants. So, we used negatives to take action on this, and eliminate it from happening again in the future.

One thing that I want to make clear to everyone out there is that not all negatives are created equally. They all work a little bit differently. Just like with regular keywords, there’s a concept of negative keyword match types. So just like with regular keywords, you have broad, phrase, and exact, same thing goes for negative keywords. Let me explain how each of these work.

So we’ll start with a negative broad match keyword. The way a negative broad match keyword works is, let’s take an example – crab cakes. If we set “crab cakes” to a negative broad match, any query that contains both “crab” and “cakes” will not trigger your ad to show. So, for example, if somebody types in, “crab and shrimp cakes” – because “crab” and “cakes” both appear within the search query – your ad won’t be triggered.

The next level is a phrase match negative. This works very similarly to a regular phrase match keyword. The only time it will serve as a negative is if “crab cakes,” as an intact phrase, appears within the search query. So if somebody types in “where can I buy blue crab cakes,” then my ad won’t show because “crab cakes” appeared as a phrase match.

And finally, the last and least common negative to use is an exact match negative. With an exact match negative, your ad will not be triggered to show if somebody types in that exact negative keyword. So that person would have to type in “crab cakes” in order for that ad to not show on Google.

If you guys have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out – I know negative match types can get a little bit confusing, but they’re really, really important to master because it is going to have a huge impact on how these negatives interact with keywords and search queries in your account.

As always, we’re happy to add more questions to the “Ask the Experts” series. Please don’t hesitate to send your questions to us via Twitter at @WordStream, or directly to me at @ErinSagin. You can also comment below!


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Apr 01, 2015

And why wouldn't you just use a broad match "crab"?

Apr 01, 2015

Good question! In this particular case, I'd probably recommend setting crab on a negative broad match. That said, I did want to make sure viewers were aware that there are other negative match types out there :)

Apr 02, 2015

Hi Erin,

when did Google introduce match types for negative Keywords?

Until August 2013 they were all exact match - no matter what type one did set up in the UI.
So at that time you could chose "broad match" and it still did only get triggered when an "exact match" negative keyword was entered.

Would be great to know when they did change this (in case they really did change it) ;-)


Apr 06, 2015

hi andreas-- hmm, i've been working in adwords for about 4 years and i've been using negative match types ever since. i think the big issue is that most people are unaware that these distinctions exist :)

Ben Gill
Apr 02, 2015

Very useful. Looking forward to more videos. I think compared to reading long articles, a five minute video provides more impact. Thanks!

Apr 06, 2015

thanks, ben! i have to admit, the videos are also way easier than writing a long article, too :) if there's any other topics you wish to learn about, just let me know!

Priyanka Kamble
Apr 06, 2015

Thank you for a very helpful and informative post.

Apr 06, 2015

of course, priyanka! glad you enjoyed :)

Permata Wardoyo
Apr 06, 2015

Hi Erin,
Thank you very much for your lesson. I felt more understand about negative keyword when you explain it with video, and now I'm fully understand about negative keyword and will apply it to my project as soon as possible.
Thanks again, Erin.

Apr 06, 2015

perfect! i'm glad to hear that you found the tips to be useful and actionable. let me know if you have any topic requests for the next lesson!

Apr 09, 2015

How much do you trust Google on Broad match? I see problems with this all the time with positives. Is there a Modified Broad match for negatives?

I have an ad group for "Red Wine" keywords and another for "White Wine" keywords. I obviously don't want to show "Red Wine" ads to "White Wine" searchers. I had to switch the positives to Modified Broad to eliminate crosstalk. I had "Red" as a Phrase match negative, but they kept coming up with misspellings like "RedItalian Wine" even though "White Wine" was the Broad keyword. Unfortunately, I lose out on all of the "White Wine" misspellings.

The flip of that is that I would be afraid to use "Red Wine" as a Broad negative, for fear they would block even more of the "White Wine" keywords that I'm trying to collect.

Apr 09, 2015

Hi Paul-- You've made some excellent points. One thing to keep in mind is that, the more matches Google makes, the more potential they have to make money. So, they've implemented policies like close variant matching to ensure you're matching to as much traffic as possible, which accounts for the strange matches your seeing with your regular keywords.
That said, I think you should be safe using red wine as a broad match negative for your white wine group because the close variants policy does NOT apply to negatives (again, Google wants as many matches to be made as possible!). So, setting red wine as a broad match negatives should not eliminate you from matching to any queries that are specific to white wine (unless the search is for red AND white wine).
Let me know if you need any further clarification. And, no, there's no modified broad match offered for negatives.
Thanks for commenting :)

Dec 03, 2015

Hi Erin, i am asking one questions. Why to change keywords Match types?

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