How to Reduce Your PPC Spend with Negative Keywords

5 Minute Read | Search Engine Marketing

According to a recent study by WordStream, half of the small businesses out there using Google Ads run their campaign on auto-pilot, logging into their account less than once a month.

Reduce Your PPC Spend with Negative Keywords


But even if you do spend time optimising your account on a regular basis, there’s one important technique that you’re more than likely neglecting: negative keyword lists.

Beef Up Your Negative Keyword List

There’s an abundance of advice on the Web on how to best optimise your AdWords campaigns e.g. delete/review low performing keywords, adjust your bids during poor converting hours, test your ad extensions etc. However, I’ve never seen/heard or read anyone sharing this tip before. But before I jump into the ‘how-to’, let me first outline how I came across it myself.

Last week I attended Search Engine Boot-Camp in Sydney, a collaborative conference where online marketers, SEO & PPC gurus come together to share tips and advice on keyword research, link-earning, site architecture, paid advertising and a whole lot more. The conference as a whole was very informative, but one pearl of wisdom in particular got stuck in my mind, “beef up your negative keyword list”, said Monte Huebsch from AussieWeb during his presentation, ‘A Beginners Guide to Paid Search’.

For those, who aren’t familiar with negative keywords lists in AdWords, here’s a video from Google.

Basically, by adding negative keywords to Campaign or Ad Group level you prevent your ads being shown to irrelevant audience. You will reduce your spend on unwanted clicks, improve your click through rate [CTR], conversion rate, and ultimately, your ROI.

How To Find Negative Keywords for Your Industry

There are many ways for you to collate an effective list of negative keywords, including:

These techniques are fine, but how about when you’re just getting started and don’t have the luxury of any historical data (i.e Search Term reports)? Options 2, 3, 4 are obviously time-consuming. For example, option #4 means going through all of the relevant searches suggested by Google (using the feature called Google Autocomplete). So let’s say you’re selling fly screens and want to see a list of other relevant searches, you will type “fly screens” and wait for Google’s suggestions (DO NOT hit “Enter”!):

Negative Keyword Autosuggest

Instantly, you’ll see keywords that you can make negative in your AdWords campaign. Don’t want your ad being shown to users looking to buy from Bunnings? Add the word [bunnings] to your negative list. You can add the word in other match types (phrase or broad), such as “bunnings” or just bunnings (no quotes,or square brackets), but I prefer exact match type (word in square brackets), to ensure that only that word and its close variants are made negative.

This tactic is ok, but it takes loads of time and if you do it manually, it’s very likely you’ll miss something along the way.

Take a look at this example:

Adwords in Search Engines

If you’re in the insurance game I’m guessing that you don’t want your ad showing up when someone is searching for “worst insurance companies”, right? Especially when many users do to not understand the difference between paid and organic placements in Google search results. In this case, these advertisers should have listed the word ‘worst’ as a negative keyword in their campaign.

So, what is my advice? The tip I’m going to share utilises Keyword Tool. This tool generates long-tailed keywords from Google Autocomplete and extracts Google suggestions and presents them in a convenient format.

Guide to Expanding Your Negative Keyword List

Step 1:Type your keyword into the search box, choose Google.com.au and English as your defaults

Keyword IO - Search

Step 2: Go through all suggestions and add irrelevant search phrases by clicking “+” sign next to it.

Step 3: Copy your selected keywords by clicking the “copy” button in the bottom right hand corner:

Keyword IO - Copy

Step 4: Paste these search queries into Notepad.

Step 5: Delete your keyword “fly screens”, leaving only the words that you want to make negative in square brackets. In this example it would be: [bunnings], [diy], [gumtree], [installation melbourne].

Keyword IO - Paste

Step 6: Add those negative words to your AdWords account, either on a campaign level or ad group level (it’s up to you).


Google AdWords is a great advertising platform. However, it’s very easy to waste your money on unwanted clicks if you haven’t done your homework and filtered your audience using negative keyword lists. Thorough and regular optimisation of your AdWords account, as well as properly targeting your audience is the best way to increase the ROI on your paid advertising.

Have you used negative keywords lists to optimise your PPC advertising?

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