5 Ways Negative Keywords Can Save You Money on Google Ads

5 Ways Negative Keywords Can Save You Money on Google Ads

You’ve heard of keywords, I’m sure.

Even if you aren’t an SEO whiz or Google Marketing expert, you know what keywords are. They’re the digital marketing equivalent of #hashtags on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

They make sure your content reaches the people who are actually interested in it.

But if you haven’t heard of negative keywords, then it’s safe to assume you aren’t using them in your Google Ad campaign.

And if you aren’t using them in your ad campaign, then you’re sabotaging your ad reach, your click-through rates, your ad spend, and a whole lot of other metrics besides.

Let me tell you why.

What Are Negative Keywords? 

As the name suggests, negative keywords are the opposite of general SEO keywords.

When someone searches a term or phrase, negative keywords ensure your ad is not brought up if the search term matches.

How Do They Work?

Say you’re running an ad for a Buy 1, Get 1 offer on your product, which happens to be handmade leather bags. They’re not budget-friendly due to their imported material, but they are high quality.

So your keywords for this ad would include terms like buy, leather bag, sale, online, and good quality.

Now, if someone searches “buy leather bags sale cheap,” they could potentially get your ad because three of your keywords match the query. They click on it, they’re taken to your Shopify or Amazon store…

… and then they’re promptly dismayed because your prices are out of their budget.

So they click out without buying anything.

Now, if you included the word “cheap” as a negative keyword for your ad, this wouldn’t happen. 

Because even if three of your keywords match the user’s search query–buy socks sale–the word “cheap” in the query cancels it out. Because it matches your negative keyword. The user won’t be shown your ad because you’ve basically told Google, with your negative keyword, that the ad isn’t meant for them.

Here are a few more examples:

Product General Keywords Negative Keywords Search Query Ad Triggers?
Leather Shoes for Men Shoes for men, men’s shoe, leather shoes, buy men’s shoes online N/A buy running shoes for men yes
Leather Shoes for Men shoes for men, men’s shoe, leather shoes, buy men’s shoes online running shoes, sports, hiking shoes, hiking boots, workout shoe buy running shoes for men no
Gentle Skincare Products for Women skincare, beauty, skin care, skincare for women, women’s skincare, serum, moisturizer, face lotion, face wash, skin products N/A makeup beauty bag for women yes
Gentle Skincare Products for Women skincare, beauty, skin care, skincare for women, women’s skincare, serum, moisturizer, face lotion, face wash, skin products foundation, eyeshadow, concealer, makeup, make up, lipstick, face mask, makeup products makeup beauty bag for women  no

As you can see, negative keywords allow your Google ads to be more targeted and refined.

If you want to learn how to implement negative keywords in your Google Ad campaign, check out our step-by-step guide!

Why Do You Want to Implement Negative Keywords?

Negative keywords are a critical component of any Google Ads campaign. By positively limiting your ad reach. 

They are words or phrases that you specify to prevent your ad from being triggered by certain search terms. When you add a negative keyword to your campaign, Google Ads ensures that your ad won’t show up for searches containing that term. This is vital because it allows you to refine your audience, ensuring that only the most relevant and interested users see your ad.

Now that you have a rough idea of what negative keywords are, here are five reasons why you want to spend the extra effort implementing them in your Google Ads.


You probably know this by now but every click on your Google ad costs money–regardless of whether it results in a sale or not. 

That’s why it’s called Pay-Per-Click advertising. 

Using negative keywords ensures your ad isn’t shown to users who are unlikely to convert, effectively saving you money in the process. 

Say you pay $0.10/click. If your ad gets shown to 10 people but only 2 convert to a sale, you essentially pay $1 for two conversions. 

A negative keyword can filter the same 10 people down to 6 or 7 targets, removing those who specifically do not match your intended audience. This means you would pay only $0.70 for those same two conversions.


A Search Quality Score basically dictates how relevant your Google ads are by measuring how well your ads match search intent. Typically, the higher your search quality score, the better your ad position.

Google calculates an ad’s Quality Score using the following metrics:

  • Expected Clickthrough Rate (CTR). This refers to the likelihood that a user will click on your ad once it’s shown to them
  • Ad Relevance. This component measures how closely your ad matches the user’s search intent
  • Landing Page Experience. This component measures how relevant and useful your landing page is to the user who clicks on your ad.

Negative keywords can improve your SQS by balancing your expected CRT with your ad relevance, effectively refining your landing page experience. 

By specifically filtering out the uninterested or unintended targets, they can minimize elements that negatively impact your search quality score (like bounce rate, flagging, and so on).


Relevant ads don’t just impress the Google algorithm; they also impress your intended audience.

If your ad pops up for literally every search query, people are going to get annoyed–especially if your ad has nothing to do with them. You’ll come off as spammy and opportunistic.

Because imagine getting an ad for leather bags when all you searched for was “maxi skirts.”

Negative keywords refine the parameters that trigger your ad. If your ad (with your brand name/logo) pops up only for relevant searches, people will perceive you as a genuinely responsible company rather than one desperate for sales. 


As mentioned earlier, negative keywords can balance your clickthrough rate with ad and search query relevance. By instantly filtering out users who aren’t interested in your product, they can massively improve your conversion rate through clicks.

Let’s use the handmade leather bags example. 

By filtering out people who are looking for cheap and affordable leather bags, you’re left with users who are looking for leather bags and are not concerned with the price. These users are more likely to take advantage of the Buy 1, Get 1 offer being advertised since they’re not held back by the price tag.

By filtering out irrelevant traffic, negative keywords ensure that more of your clicks come from people genuinely interested in what you offer, increasing the likelihood of conversion.


Negative keywords can help make your ad campaigns more specific–especially in terms of location, demographics, or consumer behaviors.

  • Location. By listing cities, states, or countries that you don’t want to cater to, there’s a higher chance you’ll get clicks (and conversions) from markets that you want to corner. This is especially useful for ecommerce stores that can only offer shipping to some areas.
  • Demographics. Specifying customers that you don’t want to sell to can improve your search quality score. It limits your chances of appearing to consumers who aren’t part of your target market and, therefore, won’t find your ad relevant. 

For example; you sell fragrances specifically targeted for mature women. By specifying through negative keywords that your products are not meant for children, teenagers, or young adults, your ads won’t show for females within these age ranges–even if their search queries match your general keywords! This can effectively minimize your bounce rate and improve your conversion rate.

Consumer Behaviors. Here are some examples of common consumer behaviors:

  • Abandoning shopping carts
  • Returning products/requesting refunds
  • Cross-buying
  • Buying local
  • Cautious spending
  • Resale shopping

    By specifying certain consumer behaviors in your negative keywords, you can refine your ad campaigns to appear only to potential customers who’s habits (i.e., spending habits, shopping habits, retail habits, etc.) match your target market. 


    To summarize, negative keywords can help specify and refine your Google Ad audience. While it runs the risk of limiting your ad campaign’s reach, it balances this out by improving major PPC metrics like click rate conversion and online perception. 

    The best way to ensure negative keywords help–rather than harm–your ad is through due diligence, proper research, and trial and error. 


    FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Negative Keywords

    Can negative keywords drastically affect my ad’s reach? Will the difference in results (no negative keywords versus negative keywords) be glaringly obvious? 

    • Always approach your Google ad campaigns with realistic expectations. If done correctly, you’ll definitely see an improvement in certain metrics (like expected CTR, bounce rate, and landing page experience) once you implement negative keywords. However, bear in mind that negative keywords limit your ad’s exposure, so you need to make sure that your general keywords are just as strong. 

    It’s all about striking balance; eliminate irrelevant traffic but don’t narrow down your potential audience too much.

    How often should I update my negative keywords?

    • Although the answer largely depends on certain variables that you control (like how long you plan to run your ad campaign, how many ad variations you have, and so on), many marketing experts recommend updating your negative keywords list at least once a month. This ensures that your Google ads keep pace with current search trends and consumer behaviors.

    Are negative keywords really necessary for Google Ads campaigns?

    • Absolutely. Regardless of the type of campaign you’re running, negative keywords are crucial for refining your ad targeting strategy. Refined ads typically lead to better campaign performance as a more structured and limited audience reach can improve multiple Google ad metrics.
    Back to blog