Negative keywords… not so negative!

Negative keywords… not so negative!

First off, Id like to point out that I dont proclaim to be a PPC expert in any way shape or form. I started dabbling in PPC on the 1st of January 2009. It was a new year, so I thought Id try out PPC, which Id heard so much about but hadnt had the money (or balls!) to try out.

So I got to it, within the first month Id sold over £90,000 worth of products for Amazon. I concentrated just on promoting amazon products. The reason for this is pretty simple, they offer great commission on electronics and people just  love amazon so it tends to convert very well. The point of this post isnt to tell you about my methods (I plan to post about them shortly though) but to educate newcomers to PPC of the benefits of using negative keywords.

When you set up an ad campaign in adwords, you define which keywords you’d like to target. There are various ways you can define your keywords such as Exact Match, Broad Match, Phrase and so on. For more information on the various types please see the Basic PPC Tutorial.

I use negative keywords to keep an ad campaign under control! I tend to focus on promoting electronics via amazon. My goal is to target searchers that are ready to buy the product. I don’t want searchers who are still in the research stage of the buying cycle. Therefore it is important to rule out such searchers using negative keywords.

What are negative keywords I hear you ask? Basically, if you add negative keywords to your adgroup, your ad will not show for users that have used that word in their search term. Imagine you are selling a television, lets for examples sake call it the “Boyd 301286″. Lets also say hypothetically its quite an expensive television and to get a decent ad position on google youre going to have to pay around 40p a click for the privilege.

OK so the scene is set, you’re promoting a Boyd 301286 television at Amazon that costs you around 40p a click on adwords. Do you want to pay 40p for any of the following search term traffic?

boyd 301286 reviews
boyd 301286 from dixons
faulty boyd 301286
boyd 301286 wall mount
how to setup boyd 301286

The answer you should have screamed out there was “Of course not! What a waste of money!”. Believe me, without the correct negative keywords in place I would spend hundreds of £s a month on what I would class as useless traffic.

When I set up an ad campaign I add a big list of negative keywords that I’ve used on previous campaigns. My work is not finished though. Everyday I check my stats and add to the negative keywords collection!

The best way to keep on top of your negative keywords is to check your analytics (I use Statcounter) as regularly as you can. Particularly the recent keyword activity. You can then view a list of the keywords that searchers have used to get to your site.  Sift through this list and you will see which traffic won’t have benefitted you in anyway, you then add the negative keywords to your ad campaign.

As time goes on and the campaign matures, you will see you have to add less and less negative keywords.

Its a very simple thing to do and it could save you a lot of money. At the very worst it WILL increase your earnings per click, which is what us affiliate marketers should always be looking to do!

Heres a list of negative keywords I am currently using on a campaign that is promoting a 32 inch television that is for sale at Amazon. It should hopefully give you an idea of how it can improve my EPC.

-hi fi
-richer sounds

As I’ve stated earlier in this post. I do not proclaim to be an expert PPCer so Id be delighted to hear of any negative keywords that you all use in your campaigns on a regular basis.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!


Hi Mark,

I used to do loads of ppc in finance – never done much retail. I was having a think just though and heres some more negs that might be good for Tv’s:

second hand
customer service

Are you doing phrase or broad match – I made a big mistake on broad once that cost me loads so I never do it now!



As you well know, i am no ppc expert like yourself. This comment is a mere query.

You make a point of adding ‘tesco’, ‘currys’ and ‘dixons’ to your negative addwords. However, i would have thought that if i was searching for say Boyd 1234, and my friend had told me it was a good price in dixons for example, i would google this – saves me searching the site. THEN your add would pop up at the top, and i would see (assuming amazon has the lowest price) that it is cheaper at amazon. On the balance of probabilities, i would skoot off to amazon and buy from them.

so would it not be a good idea to take these off the negative key words?

I suppose my question is, as i am completely unexperienced, does your analytics specifically tell you that when people googled dixons boyd 1234 or whatever they didnt click on your link? or they did click and you didnt get a sale?

Just looking for some info!



Hey Mark,

Great post, this is something that can be easily over looked when doing PPC. But negative keywords are very powerful!

Wow, selling over £90,000 within the first month. You must have grew your spending pretty damn quickly and had quite a hefty float to begin with to pull of that figure so quickly.

Do you send users directly to amazon, or do you have a landing page / micro site? Also, if you have a Landing Page/site, do you tend to review the product or just have a big call to action to tell people to buy it from amazon to get them there asap?

Would be interesting to hear which methods you use.



Nice post. One question: Do you have any trademark issues in Google ?


I have recently run a PPC campaign. Please feel free to check out the results at

I think I will have to look closley at my negative keywords in future. Great post.


THEN your add would pop up at the top, and i would see (assuming amazon has the lowest price) that it is cheaper at amazon. On the balance of probabilities, i would skoot off to amazon and buy from them

Apologies for the extremely delayed response…

@Dash Yeah i suppose you could look at like that, but when it comes to ppc its all about cutting down your costs and increasing your revenue (sounds obvious!), so I would rather not receive a click from someone searching for “tescos” when im promoting a product at amazon, imho I reckon the user has included tescos in their search term for a reason, most likely because they want to buy in store! However, you might be right and maybe it would be worth having that keyword included, but for me, I wouldnt risk it. I’d rather pay 40p on a click for someone that i KNOW isnt specifically looking for the product from tescos.

@Steven I use a mixture of approaches… i have an amazon associates account setup for PPC direct to amazon and I also have an account for standard websites. If I’m doing direct PPC I tend to get a huge CTR and a very nice conversion rate. Its a little harder with a mini site, but still worthwhile. When I started PPC i set myself a budget of £5k (I was only able to do this because I’d done particularly well at the end of 2008) and this was primarily to allow me to learn PPC. Many people wont try ppc because they are afraid of losing money, so I figured I’d allow myself a pot of cash that if I lost I wouldnt’ be *too* bothered and at least I’d known I’d given it a bash. Well, it turned out it worked out well and I’ve learnt a lot about PPC and now really known my way around Adwords and take on £xxxxx a month campaigns without stressing! If I can recommend one thing… it would be to try Adwords, give it a bash, you wont look back!

@Graham nope no trademark issues. Adwords lets you know if you have a trademark they are not happy with before the ad goes live, so basically if the ad goes live you’re all good. There is always brand bidding issues, but I always put the keywords (the keywords specified by the merchant that I cannot target) as negative keywords in my campaigns so as not to get caught up in all that.



Say Something