Using Negative Keywords in Google Shopping Campaigns

What Are Negative Keywords in Google Shopping?

Imagine you sell high-end athletic apparel. You might want your ads to show when someone searches for «designer running shoes» or «women’s athletic wear.» But you wouldn’t want your ads to appear for searches like «free workout clothes» or «used athletic wear» because these terms are unlikely to convert into sales for your products.

By adding «free workout clothes» and «used athletic wear» as negative keywords, you ensure your ads are reaching a more targeted audience actively looking to buy the kind of products you offer.

Why Are Negative Keywords Important?

While regular keywords are selected to help your ads appear in relevant searches, negative keywords are used to exclude your ads from showing up in response to certain search terms. Here’s how they function:

  • Filtering Unwanted Traffic: Negative keywords help you refine your ad targeting by filtering out search queries that are not relevant to the products you’re selling. This minimizes wasted ad spend on clicks that are unlikely to convert into sales.
  • Enhancing Ad Relevance: Negative keywords stop your ads from showing up in searches that have nothing to do with them. This makes your ads way more relevant to the people who see them. And when your ads are relevant, more people will click on them and take action.
  • Optimizing Budget Usage: By reducing the number of irrelevant clicks, negative keywords help ensure that your advertising budget is spent on users who are more likely to be interested in your products. This is especially important in competitive markets where ad clicks can be expensive.
  • Tailoring Campaigns to Buyer Intent: Negative keywords allow you to exclude terms that are commonly associated with low buying intent. For example, terms like «free» or «tutorial» might be used by users who are not looking to purchase. Using negative keywords to block such searches can help you focus more on high-intent shoppers.
  • Improve Click-Through Rate (CTR): Negative keywords help you show ads to people actively looking for your products, leading to more clicks and conversions.

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Finding Negative Keywords for Google Shopping Campaigns

Unlike traditional search ads, Google Shopping doesn’t use keywords for targeting. However, you can still optimize your campaigns by identifying negative keywords—searches you don’t want your ads to show for. This helps avoid wasted ad spend and improves ad relevance.

Here are a few ways to find negative keywords:

Adding Negative Keywords to Google Shopping Campaigns

Unfortunately, there’s no single «best» list of negative keywords for Google Shopping campaigns. The best choices depend on your specific products and goals. Here’s how to effectively add negative keywords:

Adding Spelling Errors to Negative Keywords

In general, it’s not recommended to add spelling errors to negative keywords in Google Shopping campaigns. Here’s why:

  • Limited Effectiveness: Google uses a close variant matching system for negative keywords. This means it might already exclude searches with typos or misspellings close to your perfectly spelled negative keyword.
  • Potential for Missed Negatives: There’s a chance you might miss out on excluding truly irrelevant searches with significant misspelling variations.
  • Wasted Time & Management: Adding and managing a large list of misspelled negative keywords can be time-consuming and requires ongoing maintenance.

However, there are some rare exceptions where you might consider adding specific misspellings:

  • Industry-Specific Misspellings: If there’s a common misspelling frequently used within your industry for a particular product name or term, you might consider adding that specific misspelling as a negative keyword.
  • Brand-Specific Misspellings: If your brand name is frequently misspelled in a particular way, you could add that misspelling as a negative keyword to prevent irrelevant searches for misspelled variations of your brand.

Here’s what to prioritize over misspelled negative keywords:

  • Focus on Relevant Keywords: Optimize your product data feed with accurate and relevant keywords that describe your products.
  • Use Broad Match Negatives: Utilize broad match negative keywords (without quotation marks) to exclude searches containing irrelevant terms.
  • Monitor Search Terms: Regularly review your Search Term Report and add new irrelevant searches (including some misspellings you notice) as negative keywords.

How Long Does It Take for Google Shopping Negative Keywords to Reflect?

Google Shopping updates negative keywords almost instantly. Once you add a negative keyword to your campaign, it should start working to prevent your ads from showing for those searches right away. There’s no delay or processing time involved.

However, it’s important to consider a few things:

  • Campaign Changes Need Time to Reflect: While the negative keyword itself takes effect immediately, it might take a short while (usually a few hours) for Google’s system to fully integrate the change and update your ad serving accordingly. This means you might still see some impressions for the newly added negative keyword during this brief window.
  • Search Term Report Update: The Search Term Report that shows you which searches triggered your ads might take a day or two to reflect the impact of the negative keywords. So don’t be surprised if you see some of the newly excluded searches still showing up in the report for a short period.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Negative Keyword Takes Effect: Almost instantly.
  • Campaign Update: May take a few hours.
  • Search Term Report Update: May take 1-2 days.

Why Negative Keywords May Not Work

There are several reasons why your negative keywords might not be working as expected in your Google Shopping campaign. Here are some things to consider.

Check match types:

  • Are you using the right match type? Broad match might be too loose, allowing irrelevant searches to slip through. Try phrase match or exact match for more control. For example, «free watch» (broad) might not exclude «buy watch» while «buy free watch» (phrase) could be more effective.

Check if there are issues in your product feeds:

Time lag may be one of the reasons:

  • There can be a delay between adding negative keywords and them taking full effect. Be patient, it might take a few days for Google to fully implement your changes. Monitor your campaign performance after making adjustments.

Other factors may include:

  • Are you checking the right timeframe in your search term report? Negative keywords might not show up immediately in your reports.
  • Have you reached the limit for negative keywords? There’s a limit of 5,000 negative keywords you can add per campaign or ad group.

Here are some additional tips for troubleshooting negative keywords in Google Shopping:

  • Review your search term report: See which terms are triggering your ads and identify irrelevant searches you want to exclude.
  • Start with broad negative keywords at the campaign level: This can help catch a wider range of irrelevant searches initially.
  • Refine with ad group level negatives: Once you identify specific irrelevant searches by product category, add those terms as negative keywords at the ad group level.
  • Use a mix of match types: Experiment with broad, phrase, and exact match negatives to find the most effective combination.

Take these actions to identify why your negative keywords might not be working as expected and refine your strategy for better results.

Campaign Levels and Priorities: Taking Control

Let’s imagine you’re running a Google Shopping campaign for a store that sells various types of watches, including sports watches, dress watches, and smartwatches. Here’s a breakdown of how negative keywords at the campaign level and ad group level would work:

Campaign Level Negative Keywords

Think of these as general rules that apply to all your watch products across the board.

If you add «cheap» or «free» as a negative keyword at the campaign level, it would prevent your ads from showing for any search containing those terms, regardless of the watch type.

This is useful for excluding searches from people looking for budget-friendly options that you might not carry.

Ad Group Level Negative Keywords

Here, you can get more specific based on the different categories of watches you sell.

Let’s say you have an ad group dedicated to «Dress Watches». You might want to add negative keywords like «sporty» or «casual» to this group. This ensures your dress watch ads don’t appear when someone searches for sporty watches, even though they are still watches.

You could create another ad group for «Sport Watches» and use negative keywords like «leather» or «crystal» to avoid showing those ads to someone looking for a dress watch with those materials.

Choosing the Right Level

Use campaign-level negatives for broad terms that apply to all your products. Examples: «used», «broken», «wholesale».

Use ad group-level negatives for terms more specific to certain product categories. Examples: «running» (for dress watches), «calculator» (for smartwatches).

Setting Campaign Priorities

Google Shopping allows you to set campaign priorities (Low, Medium, High). This lets you control which product shows in an auction when multiple campaigns feature the same item. Here’s how to combine negative keywords with campaign priority for a strategic approach:

  • Campaign Duplication: Start by duplicating your Google Shopping campaign three times, resulting in a Low-, Medium-, and High-priority campaign.
  • Max CPC Tweaks: Assign the highest maximum cost-per-click (Max CPC) to the Low-priority campaign and progressively lower it for Medium and High-priority campaigns. This ensures your most relevant searches (often targeted by high priority) get the highest bid.

Create separate negative keyword lists for each campaign priority level. Here’s a breakdown of what to include in each list:

  • Low Priority Campaign: This is your broadest net, capturing all relevant searches (including some with lower conversion rates). Use a minimal negative keyword list here, focusing on broad terms with very low purchase intent (e.g., «free,» «DIY,» «instructions»).
  • Medium Priority Campaign: Target searches with moderate conversion rates. Add negative keywords that performed poorly in the Low-priority campaign (e.g., searches with high impressions but low clicks).
  • High Priority Campaign: This is your most targeted campaign, focusing on searches with the highest conversion potential. Include the most restrictive negative keyword list.

Remember to regularly monitor your Search Term Report to identify new negative keywords for each campaign. Experiment and analyze results to find the optimal negative keyword strategy for your products and audience.

Take Action with Negative Keywords

Avoid wasting your Google Shopping budget on unnecessary searches. Learning to use negative keywords effectively can make a huge difference in how successful your campaigns are and how much return on ad spend you get. Keep in mind that negative keywords help you target the right audience. Carefully exclude irrelevant searches and focus on terms that lead to more conversions.

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