Utilize Search Terms Report to Formulate a Killer Negative Keyword List

negative keyword list for seo

Note: This article was updated on June 28th to reflect more up-to-date information. 

A negative keyword is a type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase. Your ads aren’t shown to anyone who is searching for that phrase [source]. When you create a great negative keyword list, it can help with the following:

  • Save your business money 
  • Lower your cost per conversion 
  • Improve traffic quality to your site 
  • Improve your conversion rate percentage
  • Increase average time spent on your site 

With all of the benefits of keeping your negative keyword list up-to-date, it’s often overlooked. 

Before we dive into how to formulate a negative keyword list for your Google PPC campaign, it’s important to understand search terms. Without looking at the search terms report within Google Ads, you cannot put together a great negative keyword list. We expand on the following components of search terms: 

  • Differentiating quality versus low-quality search terms 
  • Understanding match types (broad vs. broad match modifier vs. phrase vs. exact)
  • How to add low-quality search terms as a negative keyword

Related Article: How to Build a PPC Campaign from Scratch

In the second part of this article, we link out to several resources that have negative keyword lists you can copy and paste into your Google Ads Negative Keyword Lists. There are hundreds of negative keywords to choose from within the links we share.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We encourage you to analyze each and every keyword from the lists we link out to before adding it into your ad groups, campaigns or account. After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of what types of negative keywords will work and not work for your business. We provide an example of a keyword that worked for one client whereas another client would have fired us for adding it to their negative keyword list! The last thing you want to do is add a negative keyword that will prevent quality searches from populating within your account.

IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY: No two businesses are exactly alike, so no two negative keyword lists should be the same.

After reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of whether or not the following keyword types should be added as negative keywords within your campaign: 

  • Competitor Keywords 
  • Industry Related Keywords 
  • Non-Converting Keywords
  • Research & Informational Keywords 
  • Employment Keywords 
  • Free/Cheap Keywords

Understanding the Importance of Search Terms

Most people overlook the importance of Google’s Search terms when it comes to their PPC performance. Conversion rate percentage and cost per conversion are important metrics that are frequently talked about. I can’t tell you the last time a client proactively asked us for their search terms report. It’s often an afterthought, and in many instances not even known about by the client.

You cannot create great Negative Keywords Lists without fully understanding what a search term is, where to find the search terms report within Google Ads and how to identify low-quality search terms that likely won’t convert for your business. 

What’s the difference between a keyword and a search term? A search term is the exact keyword someone types into Google. This is not to be confused with a keyword, which is the word or set of words used to target your ads to customers.

Recommendation: Watch the video below where I dive into a Google Ads account and identify quality versus low-quality search terms. 


The screenshot to the left illustrates an example set of keywords within Google Ads. Since the keywords in this example are broad match modifier, ads will only trigger in searches that include the words marked with a plus sign. Extra words can appear in the search though before, after, or in between your “+” terms.

This is why it’s important to monitor your search terms. If you don’t have “free” added as a negative keyword, someone can type in, “Free Jan Marini Product,” which likely will never convert.  


Within each campaign and ad group, you can click on “Keywords” and a drop-down will populate with “Search Terms.” This is where you can view your search terms.


Within each campaign or ad group, you can click on “Keywords” and a drop-down will populate with “Negative Keywords.” This is where you can add negative keywords at the ad group or campaign level.

You can also click on “Tools and Settings” –> “Shared Library” –> “Negative Keyword Lists” to access your negative keyword lists.


Once you dig into the Search Terms Report, you’ll find interesting variations of searches. Some of these searches are extremely relevant and of high- quality, while others can be low-quality. Once you start to identify low-quality search terms is when you can start creating a negative keyword list.

Within each campaign or ad group, you can click on “Keywords” and a drop-down will populate with “Negative Keywords.” This is where you can add negative keywords at the ad group or campaign level.

You can also click on “Tools and Settings” –> “Shared Library” –> “Negative Keyword Lists” to access your negative keyword lists.

Note: If you watch THIS VIDEO, you can see how I access the search terms report and negative keyword lists. 


The example above used a broad modifier. When you are bidding with a broad match, the search terms can get out of control, so be careful! A broad match campaign needs the most oversight pertaining to search term oversight since the words in the keyword don’t have to be present in a user’s search, unlike broad match modifier, phrase match, or exact match.

If you’re curious why an advertiser would choose a broad match, it can lead to a cheaper cost per click and provide amazing long-tail search queries.

In the Jan Marini example, you can see that the search terms are of quality, which is a good thing for this business! 

Differentiating Quality Versus Low-Quality 

Every business is different and unique in its own way. For some businesses, the word, “Cheap” might be extremely important and relevant. For example, we worked with a car insurance company and one of their most coveted keywords was “cheap car insurance.” Another client of ours was a small business attorney and cheap was a keyword they didn’t want to associate their firm with.

For the attorney, cheap was added as a negative keyword. For the car insurance company, we would’ve been fired if we ever used cheap as a negative keyword.

TIP: Whoever is managing your PPC or Google Shopping Ads should always present the search terms to the product or service expert. They will be able to better pinpoint what’s quality and not quality based on their knowledge of their own company. 

How to Formulate a Negative Keyword List for Google PPC

There are plenty of resources that provide great lists of keywords that can be added to your negative keyword list. We strongly recommend you don’t just copy and paste these keywords. We encourage you to read our bulleted list below before simply copying and pasting the keywords.

Negative keywords can be added at the account level, the campaign level and the ad group level. For DermWarehouse, “gel” is added as a negative keyword within many of our campaigns. Yet we don’t have this added at the account level because we have several products that are gel specific. The keyword “Free” is added at the account level, as is “job” and “employment.” We know that these keywords won’t convert across our entire account. Again, before you just copy and paste a negative keyword list, you must be taking this into consideration.

  • Employment Keywords 
    • Most businesses utilize Google Ads to acquire new customers, not to find employees. There are a lot of people in the job market who conduct searches on Google for jobs within their industry and click on the advertisements. This is the reason employment-related keywords are often added as negative keywords for a business.
  • Free/Cheap Keywords 
    • If you don’t have a free product or service, free should be added as a negative keyword. If you offer a premium service, you won’t want your business associated with the word cheap or inexpensive. This is an internal business decision you must make.
  • Research & Informational Keywords 
    • In the digital marketing space (my arena) a lot of people are looking for “how-to” and informational types of searches. This isn’t what we would consider a quality search. It could get someone into our funnel early in the process. For example, if someone was searching for, “how to start a PPC campaign” and later realized they needed assistance from a professional firm, this could work. That being said, it’s more beneficial for us to go after someone searching for “PPC Company” as they are in the market and their intent is stronger.
  • Competitor Keywords 
    • Do you want to be paying money for competitor’s keywords? Many businesses view competitor searches as quality and feel they can convert the traffic from competitor searches. Others feel like they don’t want to pay money if someone types a competitor name into Google because they have a customer service related question pertaining to the competitor of theirs. If you want to bid on competitor keywords, we recommend creating a competitor campaign so you can differentiate competitor traffic versus non-competitor traffic. This will allow your business to still bid on competitor keywords in one campaign while adding the competitor keywords as negative keywords in the service or product-specific campaigns. If you don’t take this route, your campaigns that were built to generate new business can be flooded with competitor searches.
  • Searches That Require Industry Insight
    • For our in-house beauty brand DermWarehouse, we get a lot of searches based on ingredients within our products. The ingredient searches never converts for our in-house brand so we normally add these ingredients as negative keywords. For a client of ours who sells and rents heavy equipment, they know what type of searches aren’t relevant based on the inventory they have. Whoever is managing your PPC or Google Shopping Ads should always present the search terms to the product or service expert. They will be able to better pinpoint what’s quality and not quality based on their knowledge of their own company, which will further improve your negative keyword list.
  • Searches That Don’t Convert
    • After 100 clicks, if we see a keyword hasn’t converted, it can be time to pause the keyword. In some instances, if a keyword drives so much traffic and eats up so much of the budget, it can be a good move to add this as a negative keyword, even if the keyword is of quality. 

Jason Parks

Jason Parks started The Media Captain in 2010. He’s grown TMC into one of the largest digital agency’s in Ohio over the past decade.The Media Captain has worked with hundreds of small, medium and enterprise clients on digital marketing and development projects.The Columbus Based Digital Marketing Agency has received numerous accolades. TMC was named a Top 1% Agency in the U.S. by UpCity in 2019 and 2020. They also won the “Best PPC Campaign,” which was a national award from DashThis. They were also the recipient of the Top 10 Social Media Marketing Agencies in Ohio.

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