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Stop Wasting Ad Budget – Use Negative Keywords

Save Money Using Negative Keywords

As I’m sure you’re well aware, there is a TON of information on the Internet! 

That means that sometimes people searching for something get results that are, well, not what they’re looking for. 

Sesame Communications provides a useful example. There is a very famous children’s tv program with the name “Sesame” in it and there are also many “sesame seed” search queries made on a regular basis. Neither is at all relevant to Sesame Communications. 

The great news, though, is that unwanted traffic from search ads on Google and Bing can be prevented! You simply have to utilize a negative keywords list (or lists if you do it by campaign or ad group). 

A negative keyword list tells the ad platform that you DON’T want your ads to display when certain keyword search queries are performed. In Sesame’s case, for example, we have robust negative keywords set up around all things related to the aforementioned tv program and sesame seeds in addition to an abundance of other terms. 

Maintaining a negative keyword list helps to keep the money you have budgeted for ad spend focused on terms for which you want to maintain visibility. In short, that means more money allocated to driving new patients to your practice’s website. 

Keep reading to learn where to find negative keywords within your ads platform and also the important quirks you need to understand. 

Finding Negative Keywords

In Google Ads, there is an easy way to see which keywords are driving traffic to your website that are not terms you have already selected. 

Simply log into your practice’s Google Ads instance and click on “Search terms” in the left navigation bar. 

By default, the time frame for data displayed for these search terms is 30 days. To really get a good sample set of data it’s best to change the length of time (found in the upper-right navigation bar) to 6 months or, ideally, even longer. 

Any term that you see that is not relevant for your business can be selected and added to a negative keyword list. 

Within the Microsoft Advertising platform (ads for Bing) in the left navigation bar simply scroll to “Keywords” and under that main heading you will find “Search Terms.” The process for adding negative keywords is the same within Microsoft’s platform. 

A Quirk to Keep in Mind

Keyword match type really matters with negative keywords. This means that if you don’t want to have ads displayed for a certain keyword and all similar terms you must include all possible combinations as negative keywords. 

The default match type for negative keywords is “Broad Match.” Any term containing a keyword you want to exclude and other searches containing that term are likely to be excluded under this match type. However, broader terms may not be excluded. Here’s the example Google uses, which focuses on the term “running shoes.” 

As the chart illustrates, even though most related terms would be covered if someone also doesn’t want their ads to display for related searches like “blue tennis shoes” or “running shoe” (no “s”) negative keywords would need to be added for those terms as well. 

It’s also possible to set up negative keywords by Phrase and Exact Match types, meaning you can control the level of granularity you want to have with your negative keywords. 

Rather than listening to me go on and on about possibilities I invite you to please reference the following chart from AdEspresso, which does a really nice job of showing how negative terms work by different match types. 

If you’re unsure of which match type to use stick with Broad, as that will provide the most coverage possible. 


To recap, if your practice is not currently using negative keywords with your Google or Microsoft ads you should start using them! 

When trying to discover which terms you don’t want ads to display for (eventual “negative keywords”) make sure and pick a long timeframe (6 months or, ideally, a year or more) so you have plenty of click data available. Finally, remember that match type matters with negative terms so include all possible derivations of a given term to make sure your account is really covered. 

As always, if you have any related PPC questions or needs please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Sesame Team!


—Michael Fitterer, Sr. Marketing Manager II, Sesame Communications

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Sesame is an industry leader in integrated, cloud-based marketing and patient-engagement solution designed exclusively for your practice. We know that effective patient communication is vital to the success of your practice and the efficiency of your team. With Sesame, you can take your practice to the next level, allowing you to concentrate on what’s really important – your patients!