How to Use Match Types with Your Negative Keywords

Lauren Lawson

12 years ago



Negative keywords and their proper match type use are essential for your campaign structure. I would confidently say they are as important as your regular set of keywords.

Your negative keywords help you better reach your targeted audience. You should not neglect this powerful element of successful AdWords campaigns!

A well-thought out negative keywords list can boost three key metrics that will help you succeed in AdWords: CTR, Conversion Rate and ROI.

Negative Keywords Increase your CTR

If your ads are only showing to people interested specifically in the products/services you offer (relevant audience), then it is more likely your ads will be clicked on. As a result, your overall CTR will increase from the lack of presence on irrelevant searches.

Raise your Conversion Rate Through the Proper Usage of Negative Keywords

By excluding clicks from searches that have proven to be unprofitable for you, you will ultimately receive more clicks from searches with a higher conversion rate.

This will, in most cases, reduce your cost-per-conversion and thereby allow you to bid higher, enabling you to receive more clicks, which again translates into more conversions.

*Proper Use of Negative Terms will Boost ROI

You will block unwanted queries and save the expense of clicks that are unlikely to turn into conversions. Additionally, blocking irrelevant searches increases your relevance and thus your CPCs tend to go down.

Now, choosing the wrong match types for your negative keywords may mean blocking relevant searches and losing relevant visits and thereby conversions.

Use all 3 match types on your negative keyword list, but don’t misunderstand me; you don’t necessarily have to use all 3 match types for one specific negative keyword. Rather, analyze the goal of your negative keyword and choose when to employ each match type.

Negative Keyword Match Type Chart

proper match type 1

Exact Match Negative Keywords

Use negative keywords in exact match when you want to filter a term that by itself drives irrelevant searches, but combined with other words could actually get you quality leads.


Let’s say you offer catering services, particularly Wedding Catering services. You do not offer anything else related to Weddings whatsoever, however. If you include Wedding as a negative keyword in broad match, you will be blocking the search Wedding Catering. So in this case, using exact would be the best choice.

In this scenario for example, I would include the following negative keywords:

    • [Wedding]
    • [Wedding Dresses]
    • [Wedding Invitations]
    • [Wedding Vows]
    • [Wedding Planner]

And so on – you get it. By using such terms in exact match, you will avoid searches for services not related to “Catering”, and yet your ads will still show for anyone searching for “Wedding Catering”.

Also, it is good practice to make use of exact match when you offer products/services that feature famous characters or brands.

Another example:

You rent inflatables water slides for children. In stock, you have a Little Mermaid Water-Slide. Since you don’t want to attract people looking for videos or other products about the Little Mermaid, you can include [Little Mermaid] as a negative keywords in exact match. And you can do the same for all other characters of your themed-inflatables.

Tip: Remember to add the negative search term both in singular, plural and with common misspellings. Why? Because negative keywords only block search queries with that exact term (as opposed to regular keywords).

Phrase Match Negative Keywords

Use phrase match negative keywords ideally when going through your search terms to filter out specific keyword sequences.


You offer industrial pressure washing services, but you do not sell pressure washers. So you may want to use “pressure washing equipment” or “pressure wash machine” as negative keywords in phrase match to avoid searches for the equipment itself.

Another Example:

You own a nice vacation spa and offer gift certificates for vacation packages. Your vacation packages are luxurious and you don’t have success with keywords relating to “cheap”. If you added the negative keywords “cheap vacation package” or “cheap spa gift certificate”, you would only be blocking out those 2 specific search queries. But of course there are hundreds of phrases a searcher could use to find “cheap gift certificates” such as “spa special cheap”, etc.

So, in this case, it would be smarter to add words like “cheap, blow-out or inexpensive” in broad match to your keyword list.

Phrase Match Grabs the Contextual Meaning

Negative keywords in phrase match are best utilized when the order of a certain keywords change their meaning. The telecommunications industry contains a great example of how to use negative keywords in phrase match:

internet company vs. company internet

The search “Internet company” can both drive the intent of looking for a broadband service company but it can most definitely also mean that the searcher is looking for internet companies like DropBox, Google, Wildfire and Ebay.

By excluding “internet company” in that exact word order, you will still be able to keep your BMM keyword: +company +internet, without risking clicks from irrelevant searches.

Broad Match Negative Keywords

Broad match negative keywords should be used for negative queries you would not want triggering any of your ads. Using only broad match for all of your negative keywords is a big no-no, but there are exceptions.


The word “Free” as a broad negative term can be added at campaign level and will keep freeloaders from clicking on your ads.

If you were to add the word “Free” in exact or phrase match, you would still get searches that include the word “free” and worst yet, people looking for your services for free! Say you offer a complex software for routing & billing. The query “free routing software” will then cause your ads to show, which you’re obviously trying to avoid.

So in a nutshell, there are 3 match types you can and should use, for your negative keywords. Always keep in mind who you want to attract to your site, and analyze what kind of traffic you will be blocking when adding negative terms.

One Last Note on Negative Keywords

Be sure to review your negative keywords list periodically. It’s recommended to review your list at least once a month. Once activated, I would even recommend conducting weekly research based on your search query reports.

Your business and service offerings may change over time, so make sure you are not excluding keywords that were irrelevant in the past, but could bring relevant traffic now.