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Your First Negative Keyword List Should be Branded

The first negative keyword list you make should consist of your brand keywords.  That’s right, all of those wonderfully-inexpensive, great-converting, and highly-profitable brand keywords. 

Why?  Because, you don’t want your non-brand campaigns and ad groups stealing your ad impressions from your brand campaign

If someone searches on your brand, you want them to click on the right ad don’t you.  Of course you do, but Google doesn’t always agree.  Sometimes they will serve an ad from one of your non-branded ad groups for whatever Googley reasons they have.  This sometimes referred to as ad-poaching. 

And you guessed it, you end up paying much higher non-brand CPC’s, showing the wrong ad, and sending your brand-searcher to the wrong landing page which of course could hurt your conversion rate.  It only affects all the important things you’ve been optimizing for your brand-searchers to improve your sales. 

The only way to make sure this doesn’t happen is through the use of brand negative keywords in your non-brand campaigns.  And that’s what makes the negative keyword lists so useful for this problem. 

 How to make your list 

Probably the easiest way to start your list is by running a search term report for your brand campaign. 

Once you have your data in Excel: 

  1. Sort by Impressions descending.
  2. Copy the top search terms (the top 90% will probably be less than 20 search queries depending on the business).
  3. Delete & modify as needed to make the list as small and effective as possible (i.e. you don’t need acme cleaning if you have acme, etc.)

You may have to tweak a match type or two to make sure this plan will work, but it shouldn’t be very difficult.  If you started with 25 search queries you will probably be left with less than ten negative keywords that would block all 25. 

 How to create your negative list in AdWords 

Now that you have your list in Excel made and ready to go, the rest is easy. 


  1. Navigate to your Negative Lists by clicking on the ‘Control panel and library’ menu in AdWords.
  2. Then click ‘Negative keyword lists’.
  3. Name your list (i.e. Brand Keywords) & Paste in your keywords.
  4. Click ‘Save’.
create and adwords negative list

How to Create an AdWords Negative List


Now the list is made! 

Applying your new brand negative list to your non-brand campaigns 

  1. Select a non-brand campaign from the menu in AdWords.
  2. Click on the ‘Keywords’ tab.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
  4. Click on ‘Negative keywords’.
  5. On the right side of the page, click ‘Keyword Lists’.
  6. Click ‘Add’ > ‘Add keyword lists
  7. Choose the brand negative list you want to add to this campaign.
  8. Click ‘Save’.
  9. Repeat for your other non-brand campaigns.
Add Negative List to Your Campaigns

Add Negative List to Your Campaigns


Now you have explicitly told Google not to serve ads from your non-brand campaigns for a branded search.  Of course, I would continue search query mining for the occasionally, sneaky brand-search-query that might not have been covered by your list. 

You can also add search terms directly from the AdWords interface into your brand negative list which is very convenient. 

Add Search Terms to Negative Lists

Add Search Terms to Negative Lists


All you have to do is: 

  1. Drill into your search terms in Adwords from the ‘Keywords’ tab by clicking on ‘See search terms’.
  2. Select the branded search term that slipped past your list, by clicking on the check box.
  3. Then click the ‘Add as negative keyword’ button and the options shown above will open.

There is nothing more satisfying than getting Google to serve the ad you want them to serve, and now it’s a little easier with brand negative keyword lists. 

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4 Responses to “Your First Negative Keyword List Should be Branded”

  1. Pashmina November 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Man, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken over a campaign where most of the good leads and high CTR is coming from brand name keywords. It’s really sad when I discover that some companies offering PPC management services “hide” this fact and then tout the success of the campaigns they’ve managed. It’s skewed and isn’t fair to the client, OR their bottom line. An ethical company would immediately ensure that all brand words are part of the negative list.


  1. Tweets that mention Your First Negative Keyword List Should be Branded | PPC Prospector -- Topsy.com - February 4, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Demers and BoostCTR, Chad Summerhill. Chad Summerhill said: Your First Negative Keyword List Should be Branded http://goo.gl/fb/I2eyc […]

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