How to Find Negative Keywords using AdWords Search Terms Report

Negative keywords are vital if you want a winning Google Adwords Performance. My friend and fellow Adwords-buddy Andreas, will walk you through how to use and find these keywords!

Negative keywords are one of the best ways to decrease your AdWords costs fast without also decreasing the amount of conversions. But properly researching for negative keywords can also be time-consuming and exchausting, to say the least.

If you only do one thing when it comes to negative keyword research, then it has to be analyzing your See Search Terms report within Google AdWords.

The See Search Terms report gives you a list of all the search terms that you have received clicks from within the chosen date range.

This is an invaluable source of negative keywords and by adding negative keywords from this report, you will directly influence the conversion rate and cost-per-conversion of your AdWords campaign in a very positive way.

How to Find the See Search Terms-Report

If you’re a novice in AdWords, the See Search Terms report might be new to you. You can find it by navigating to the Keywords tab of any ad group or campaign.

You can either choose to see all the search terms of an ad group/campaign, or you can choose to see only the search terms generated from chosen keywords.

The Normal Approach to Adding Negative Keywords from the See Search Terms Report

The most used approach when it comes to adding negative keywords from the See Search Terms report is by adding each negative keyword at ad group level, individually.

For instance, if you see the search term plumber business license, then you might just add the negative keyword [plumber business license]. That’s however not enough.

You can do this far more effectively with an extra little effort.

See the Forrest for the Trees, Even when you’re Standing in the Middle of It

We’ve all heard the phrase “You can’t see the forest for the trees”. Nothing could be truer than when you’re working with the See Search Terms report.

Furthermore, individual search terms often cloud your creativity and miss all the variations that also need to be added.

Expand On Each Negative Keyword

Expanding on a search term found in the See Search Terms report allows you to use this knowledge to go further in your negative keyword research.

A single search term can often turn into 5-10 negative keywords if you just start thinking about it appropriately.

Keeping with our original example of the search term plumber business license, by only adding the negative keyword [plumber business license], you only exclude that search specifically.

But are you really interested in anything that has to do with the word license? Not really. You should therefore only add the negative keyword license in order to exclude all instances when people would search for a license (this is not to be confused with the search term licensed plumber, as this means something completely different).

Include Variations of the Negative Keyword

Now that we know that there are people out there searching for plumber business licenses, shouldn’t we start excluding other related searches?

A quick brainstorm, or Google search, reveals the following related words:

  • Certificate
  • Board
  • Diploma
  • Franchise
  • (plumber/plumbing) Business for Sale
  • (plumber/plumbing) Company for Sale
  • Continuing Education
  • Courses
  • Course
  • Training

All of a sudden, we have 10 extra negative keywords based off the search term originally found in our AdWords account.

The Treasure is in What We Can’t See

You might be inclined to say that that’s a lot of work just to exclude some search terms that we aren’t sure we’re even showing up for.

While that might be correct, one of the keys to a great account-wide CTR however, is to find these invisible search terms that only generate impressions. These never turn into clicks.

By using the above technique, you expand on a search term “theme” that you already know people are searching for.

Keep a Notepad Open

In order to not go back and forth between your Search Terms Report and the management interface, I suggest that you do one of two things:

1) Download the search term report to an Excel sheet and analyze the search terms directly in Excel.

2) Have an open notepad at all times where you write the search term expansions.

Wide versus Strict Negative Keywords

A good thing to remember when working with the search terms report directly in AdWords, is that when you add the exact search term as a negative keyword, you can actually see it.

When you’re expanding on all the search terms that you can find, then remember to check them off. When you reach the end of the list, you can easily add them all directly into the ad group as negative keywords without modifications.

This will ensure that each search term that you have processed gets awarded the small “excluded” ribbon, which helps keep track of processed search terms.

About The Author

Andrew Lolk is the Chief Marketing Officer at; a Search Engine Marketing agency specialized in Paid Search management for small and mid-sized businesses throughout the US.

With 4 years’ experience in Paid Search, SEO, Affiliate Marketing, and Google Analytics, he now runs the marketing outreach program at White Shark Media, Inc. For daily articles, news and advice on Paid Search, please visit our AdWords blog.

Thanks to Andrew for the great insights about mining negative keywords! Oh! And a quick side-note: Even though you’re likely to get a higher CTR by excluding irrelevant keywords, will your quality score NOT be effected!


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6 Comments How to Find Negative Keywords using AdWords Search Terms Report

  1. Kim sand

    Great article! Just a small warning. People should really be careful when doing this. Especially as a novice it can be hard to identify the true CTR killers and a bit too easy to add good converting keywords. I have seen this too many times.

    1. Andrew // White Shark Media

      Hey Kim,

      That’s completely true. It’s of the outmost importance that you think of the different instances that a negative keyword can influence your business.

      A good example is the negative keyword “license”. You want to exclude searches for plumber licence, but you want to keep showing up for licensed plumber.

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