When You Need The Right Negatives Use Phrase Match


Last month, I gave my point of view on phrase match and when to use in segmented campaigns when the value of the word order matters. This method is especially true for brand and even many non-brand terms.

As another example, the term “affordable marketing” as a modified broad match keyword (+affordable +marketing) is going to have a search terms report that looks a lot different than “affordable marketing.” The modified broad match type may trigger queries such as:

  • Affordable Market for housing
  • Marketing Affordable products
  • Marketing products that are Affordable
  • Marketing Affordable […]

Now, if we are targeting people who are looking for “affordable marketing” for their business, phrase match “affordable marketing” is going to pose a better pool of search audience and intent:

  • Affordable Marketing products”
  • Affordable Marketing for my business”
  • Affordable Marketing CRM”
  • Affordable Marketing companies”

A much closer fit overall, even if we are wanting to capture a broader audience looking for an affordable solution.

I want to review this concept today because I believe it has a similar effect on how we look at negatives and place negatives within our segmented keyword structures. It also helps build the case for phrase match negatives even more so.

Now, I have had this discussion many times before, but more times than not, I have helped shape previous department processes to think about switching broad negatives to phrase and utilizing a more refined list of negative terms. Exact match negatives should also be used, in context. We will go over that as well.

Here are the three aspects we will cover.

  1. Why to stop using broad match negatives
  2. When to use ad group vs campaign negatives
  3. How to use phrase vs exact match negatives

Why To Stop Using Broad Match Negatives

I continue to have this discussion as to why I always use phrase match negatives. The reason being, we should employ the same tactics for broad match negatives, that we do for positive broad match.

A broad negative works just like a broad ‘positive’ keyword does – if the words are in any variation of each other, but if it works the same as broad, that also means that Google can match synonyms and variations of those words to negate as well. In theory, this is “fine,” but what if a variant is removed that we wanted to show for because Google thought low-cost and affordable were the same. In the context of our “affordable marketing” keywords, they are not and therefore, could disrupt our ads inadvertently.

We should employ the same tactics for broad match negatives that we do for positive broad match. Click To Tweet

With that, there is no concrete proof regarding this concept, but I would rather be safe than sorry and know exactly which words are being excluded by using a phrase match vs a broad match negative. This concept even goes for single word variations.

Phrase Match Ad Group Negatives

This is probably the most complicated part of this post. The reason being is that it all depends on the campaign set up. So, I want to focus specifically on match-type segmented structures and discuss when a properly set up account is using very specific themes in ad groups and how to structure the negatives appropriately to have the most influence on results.

First off, this section is about what I would call a positive, negative keyword, meaning it is not a word we found in our search terms reports that someone else searched for that we want to make a negative. These are words that are currently being used by one of our ad groups and can also show up through search in another group, causing overlap where two keywords in the same account are bidding on the same auction. This inherently raises CPCs and costs because we are competing against ourselves.

To give a visual example, let’s use the “affordable marketing” keywords again. Plus, let’s say we have another variation in a separate group because we want to better tailor the ad copy to each keyword.

Ad Group/Keyword 1: Affordable Marketing
Ad Group/Keyword 2: Affordable Marketing Solutions
Ad Group/Keyword 3: Affordable Marketing for Small Businesses

First off, we have these themes separated because the broader term can be our largest net, drawing new search variants we can use and find what people are searching for. Whereas the second variation is more a need of a user looking for a way to create affordable marketing.

The rule of thumb is to include ad group level negatives in the Affordable Marketing and Affordable Marketing Solutions ad groups. The reason being:

Keyword 1: Affordable Marketing could show for Affordable Marketing Solutions and “…For Small Businesses.” We need to phrase match negative “small businesses” and “solutions” as ad group level negatives in the Affordable Marketing ad group.

This strategy now allows for each keyword to show only in its intended ad group with proper ad copy specific to each keyword. This ultimately improves relevancy factors for quality score and lowers CPCs.

Exact Match Campaign Negatives

The second part of this strategy is using exact negatives for all our exact keywords and adding them to the phrase ad groups or campaigns. It would look something like this inside of the broader phrase group of ” Affordable Marketing,” where we do not have keyword variants, but instead, have those in separate ad groups to funnel ad messaging.

  • [Affordable Marketing For Sales]
  • [Affordable Marketing For Small Businesses]
  • [Affordable Marketing Solutions]

From this example, it makes sure that our phrase match ad groups do not compete with the exact match keyword groupings. The phrase match types are making sure that anything after the qualifying word is also not added. Whereas, the exact match is completely negating our already positive exact match keywords in another ad group.


We’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of negative strategy. If you are looking for more on negatives, read a few of our other posts on the subject, including how to embrace the dark side of negative keywords.

My hope is that this glimpse into the phrase negative strategy continues to unlock the dialog around why phrase match is not dead and how using it in both positive and negative keywords create more concrete keyword structures that are very much needed in all our campaigns.

Source: PPC Hero