Comprehensive Guide To Negative Keywords: Part I

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, July 18, 2016, 4:45 PM

    Negative keywords are a great tool that marketers can use to optimize their account performance by limiting the ads served for irrelevant searches, thereby reducing costs. Here I provide an overview of match types, negative lists and account limits. The second part to this series will explain the implementation strategy. 

    Overview of Match Types

     There are three different negative match types: exact, phrase and broad. Here is a breakdown of each and how they work.

     Negative Exact (Google and Bing)

    • Ads will be prevented from serving ONLY if the search query exactly matches the negative keyword (close variants will not be stopped).
    • Example: “Red Shoes” will block “Red Shoes” but will not stop “Red Shoe,” “Redd Shoes” or “Read Shoe.”

    Negative Phrase (Google and Bing)

    • Ads will be prevented from serving if the search query contains the specific keyword, regardless of whether something precedes or follows (or both) the negative keyword.
    • Close variants will not be stopped.
    • If the negative keyword is two or more words, then the order of the words matters.
    • Example: “Red Shoes” will block “Red Shoes,” “Cheap Red Shoes” and “Red Shoes on Sale” but will not stop “Red Leather Shoes,” “Read Shoes,” “Red Shoe,” or “Shoe Red.”

    Negative Broad (Google Only)

    • Ads will be prevented from serving if the search query contains all of the terms in the keyword, regardless of order.
    • Close variants will not be stopped.
    • Example: “Red Shoes” will block “Red Shoes,” “Red Leather Shoes,” “Shoes Red” but will not stop “Red Shoe” or “Read Shoes.”
    • Bing does not support negative broad match keywords. Any existing negative broad match will be treated just like negative phrase by Bing.

    For instructions on how to add negative keywords in Google and Bing, follow the links.

    Negative Keyword Lists

    Both Google and Bing enable users to create lists of negative keywords that can be shared between campaigns. If marketers have common negative keywords that need to be added to multiple campaigns, they can create a list with them. Whenever a new negative keyword needs to be added to that shared group of campaigns, it can simply be added to the shared list.

    To create, assign and manage negative keyword lists for Google and Bing, follow each link for a detailed outline of the processes involved for each engine.

    Account/Campaign/Ad Group/List Limits


    • 20,000 negative keywords allowed per campaign/ad group
    • 5,000,000 negative keywords allowed per account
    • 5,000 negative keywords allowed per list
    • 20 negative keyword lists allowed per account
    • 50,000 negative associations allowed between campaigns and lists

      • Example: If 10 lists are associated to 5,000 campaigns, then the 50,000 associations limit would be reached (separate from campaign/ad group limits).

    • Maximum of 140,000 negatives for an ad group by virtue of:

      • 20,000 campaign negatives
      • 20,000 ad group negatives
      • 100,000 list negatives (5,000 per list X 20 lists)


    • 10,000 negative keywords allowed per campaign
    • 5,000 negative keywords allowed per list
    • 20 shared negative keyword lists per account
    Part 2 will focus on strategies and reasons for implementing negatives, as well as some additional factors to consider when dealing with negatives.

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