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Google AdWords Forum

Negative words not working?
am I mis-understanding how to use them...

 1:13 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm going through the adwords learning curve right now and I was horrified to discover that despite my careful negitive word list, Google was still showing my ads when they are used! I must be doing something wrong.

Right now I have them listed individually at the end of the keyword list. (-badword) Is that incorrect? Do the negitive words have to be on each line for each keyword? That would be so much work, so I hope not (doesn't seem like Google's savvy way)

I keep getting CTR warnings, so I am really appreciate that y'all are around and can help faster than finding out from Google a day later. It can get "expensive" fast. Thanks for any help!



 1:16 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Yes, negs have to go on the same line as the keywords you do not want them to show up with.


Correct "widgets -free"
Incorrect "widgets"

Make sure you are also using your [ ] and " ".

more work? You need to do some programming. That's what the right mouse button is for. (copy copy copy copy copy)


 2:12 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

ah, thank you for the clarification...

negitives can be stacked on same line though right?

widgets -free -photos -sample

is okay?

time to fire up notepad I guess, lol


 2:25 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)
just to help the next person to stumble through this, I finally figured it out

-widgets free
-widgets cheap
-widgets photos
-widgets samples



whew, thanks


 2:39 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

This is a bit confusing.. seems to be different advice in this thread.

Last time i tried to add negative keywords and added them on the the same line e.g. widgets -free , Google came back and told me they had to be on separate lines.

So the correct method is you have to add a few lines for each keyword with a "-" at the beggining right? e.g.

widgets blue
-widgets free
-widgets cheap
-widgets blue free
-widgets blue cheap


so just


on a line by itself does nothing right?

If so, its a lot of work as we have around 30 terms for each campaign and that means each term now has to have another line with a full list of all our 20 negative keywords..

widgets blue red
-widgets free cheap green example sample blah blah blah2 blah 3

So just checking before i commit myself this to work...


 3:44 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

actually after a bit of playing around I finally got it
(cost me $5 to get to this point, argh, Google needs a 48 hour no penalities trial, or at least many more robust examples in their FAQs)

this is correct, bad words BEFORE the good word only one per line:

-free widgets
-sample widgets
-trial widgets

if you had only that in the keyword box, you will get
searchs for anything with widgets EXCEPT with the word
free, sample or trial in the search phrase

DO NOT add just the plain word widgets on a line
because that overrides all of the above and you will
get any and all searches for widgets

adding just
on a blank line doesn't do a darn thing
because that just tells Google to NOT show your
add if someone enters the word free in any kind of search

the WORST MISTAKE you can make apparently is to
flip around the negitive word:
-widgets free <----- DON'T DO THIS

because you will get shown for all searches for
the word free , except for when the phrase has
widgets in it! LOL


 4:58 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hold on there guys, that is NOT how it works. I've been doing adwords for a pretty long time and I have always added the negative keywords at the end of my keyword list (or anywhere)


will return an ad for any string containing "widget" except if it also includes free. Of course I had to double check because you sounded so sure that I doubted myself for a minute. The method I describe above is correct.

You should read the google adwords faq for examples.


 5:00 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Your findings are not what I have found.

I do something like the following in my Awords campaigns and it works:


Basically any phrase with widgets gets shown except any word combination with "red" in it.


 5:16 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)
well I don't claim to know anything for sure as my first adword is only a few days old - however...

I had a very simple keyword list

and then

and when I went into google to test it (after waiting a minute for it to update) and searched for "free word1"
my ad WAS shown

then I went back and changed the
-free word1

and sure enough the ad did NOT show for "free word1"
but it did show for just "word1"

Try it yourself and see, again I could easily be wrong, all I know is that multiple tests now prove to me the ad is showing the way I want it to and my wasted impressions are gone (whew)


 5:23 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

after waiting a minute for it to update

This could be your problem

I usually wait a lot longer than that, the time it takes for the changes to take effect varies a lot - don't ask me why.


 5:57 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Again, all I can say is its working perfectly now the way I finally did it.

If you think about it, Google treats each new line with any keyword listing as an independant listing for that ad.


do NOT affect each other, they are independant

So then by itself
should NOT affect any previous lines, only itself

which is why I think its working for me now with
-free word1
-trial word1

When I had this, it did NOT work

the ad was STILL shown in searches for "word1 free"
(no matter how long I waited for an update)

make up some fake words into a fresh campaign and
experiment yourself, I am too nervous to tinker further
since its all working now


 8:06 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

GoogleGuy, your popping in here appreciated!


 8:16 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hi amznvibe..

just did a test on mine by actually qurying google.

for a campaign with..

keyword1 keyword2

keyword1 keyword2

came up with my ad

keyword1 keyword2 free

brought up all the competing ads same as before EXCEPT mine wasnt there...

Could there be a complexity here like running diff campagins with shared keywords, or the use of "" and []. We stopped using quotes and brackets as once you go for 3 or 4 keywords like us, they dont help much in our case in reducing off topic impressions and clicks.

So it seems for the moment, will leave my campaigns as is

kw1 kw2
kw1 kw3

seeing as they seem to show for all times the keywords in one line are used together in a query, unless any of the 3 neg kws at the bottom are also used in the query.

How are you tracking Adwords hits? Are you sure, bu using a tracking extension or something like that, that you are only counting adowrds hits, and not normal google hits as well?


 9:14 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

I do have 3 campaigns running (that was a very good point) but since the ad is identical, I help myself keep them apart by leaving off the ending period in the ad for a visual clue as to which one is displaying.

Given what you are saying, and the fact I am inclined to believe you have much more experience at this than me, perhaps I am the "victim" of the delay as google updates the ad display. It just spooked me badly because the search word was far too popular and even while I scrambled to add the negitive keywords, 500+ more impressions came in.

The delay will throw adword newbies (like me) for sure. In another example: I deleted a keyword after it only had 30 impressions, then when it refreshed, there were 100 more impressions on that word so it was held against the CTR. I guess its just the downside of Google being so huge - great exposure but you gotta pay close attention when getting started because bad things can happen very, very fast.

Do you think that there is an added delay in statistic feedback when the ad is allowed to syndicate vs. being only in the main Google search engine? I am thinking its a good suggestion for adword newbies to NOT allow the ad to sydicate until they get some real-world stats (especially since you only need a 0.5% CTR on non-syndication) Google might consider making the ad DEFAULT to non-syndication and then advise the advertiser 48 hours later to consider it.

I really appreciate the discussion, webmasterworld rocks!


 10:19 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

What Marc-P says. That's exactly how it works for me.


 11:05 am on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Doesn't using: "-free widget" stop your advert if the words free and widget both appear?

I have used:

since Spring 2001 (original AdWords) and the above must work because I increased the clickthrough from 0.1/0.2% to over 4% by adding negatives after examining log files.


 1:25 pm on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Just went and checked it and it does need to be on a seperate line. I guess perhaps I am just out of touch. I haven't used a neg word in a long time but when we did, I thought it was on the same line. Maybe it changed, or maybe I am too out of it today :)

sorry for the mis-information.


 5:37 pm on Dec 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

The way Marc_P suggests is the correct way.

It even tells you that the keyword is a negative word.

So you have your list of keywords and then you have the negatives. But obviously in exact match [ ] it doesn't matter because the search term will only be shown when someone types in the keyword exactly.

It is far easier to use a tracking tool to see the search strings that are being used and then eliminate the ones that are not converting rather than just thinking that some of the generic ones (like free) will be the ones to use as negative keywords.


 3:04 am on Dec 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

The final word on this came from Google today, and the ones that said -free can be by itself are CORRECT.

However the lag time on statistics was definitely a problem and Google actually admitted/apologized to me and gave me a partial refund! That was impressive, I didn't even ask for it. Can't beat that for great attitude.

Robert Scott

 11:32 am on Dec 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

You can also notice the time lag on statistics when you pause a campaign. Sometimes the campaign appears to continue to run for another couple of hours. However it is probably only a delay in updating the stats.


 11:54 pm on Dec 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

keyword ** x.x ** [mydomain.com...]
(in the textbox at the bottom of the modify page)

Where do I put the minus if its gotta be in 2 lines like this thread says?

I really did try to find the answer... please help.


 1:18 am on Dec 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

ulstrup, basically the summary is this:
any word you do NOT want your ad to appear for
(no matter where in the search phrase)
just add it as this in the list

Just realize that once you save this, you can't just
go test your ad right away, it will STILL show for the
next 10-90 minutes for those words, which will throw
you off and you'll think you did something wrong when
you have not. Good luck with your campaign!



 10:10 am on Dec 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks aV

I'm still not sure how to do it though...

Is this correct:

keyword ** max.cost ** target URL
keyword phrase ** max.cost ** target URL



 10:16 am on Dec 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

I haven't tinkered with multiple target urls within one ad yet, but your only mistake I can see is that you don't need to repeat the negitive words twice, they are covered for the entire ad. But Google would catch this anyway when you saved the word list and only show the same words once.

Some more advice after doing this for 2 weeks now, break up your words into logical groups and create seperate campaigns for each group so you can evaluate how each set is doing (before it gets shut down for low ctr)

You may even want to disable syndication for one campaign or another if you are not sure at first how its going to do so you don't get overrun by "wasted" impresions too quickly. Non-syndication only has to have 0.5% click through (because its only shown on "real" google and not the partners like AOLsearch, earthlink search, etc)

Good luck! -aV-


 2:25 pm on Dec 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

You negative keywords apply to that whole section, eg:


1) Advert group #1
blue widgets
red widgets
yellow widgets

2) Advert group #2
pink widgets
orange widgets
purple widgets
-low price


OK: You advert #1 will display if someone types in "blue widgets" but not "free blue widgets". It will also appear if a search for "low price red widgets" is entered.

On the other hand, "free pink widgets" will show your advert #2. But, "low price pink widgets" will not show any advert.

The negative wordlist applies to the WHOLE group. If you need different negative words, you need to set up different advert groups or different campains (where you get a nice new empty box for entering the keywords).


 2:41 pm on Dec 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

Well finally I think I've got it :)

Thanks and happy New Year!

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