Adwords Negative Broad Match Keywords Hypocrisy

January 11, 2009

or Adwords Negative Keywords – “The Weakest Link”

photo by: dcJohn

It is very frustrating when you bidding on broad keywords to always be searching thru your search reports or analytics reports, on the lookout for irrelevant searches caused by your broad keywords, and then adding them to your account as negative keywords.

This is the most important optimization you can perform, right? Once you find those important keywords that are driving irrelevant traffic, bleeding money from your account… once you place those negative keywords, life is better, correct? Sorry to burst your bubble, but that is only half true, due to a weak negative keywords algorithm

In this example you will see how Adwords employs a double standard in regards to broad keywords, restricting the scope that negative broad keywords will filter, although in this chat, they do admit that the system is not perfect, yet refuse to reimburse for these kind of errors.

dan: i noticed that i had a click today on this search query:

dan: 19 birthday party idea

dan: i see this from my log files

dan: problem is, i have a negative broad match in this campaign...

dan: 19th birthday party ideas, negative broad match !!!

dan: any thoughts?

Support : I will take a closer look at this right now.

dan: thanks

Support : So, I am taking a look at your account right now and just wanted to clarify the issue. You said that you ran a search query report and noticed that you had a click on the keyword '19 birthday party idea.' Is that correct?

dan: analytics report

Support : I am asking because I have not yet located the phrase '19 or 19th birthday party ideas in your account.'

dan: it was triggered by: "event ideas", broad match

Support : I see. Okay, thank you for that information.

Support : And the reason that you are concerned is that you do not want to show on this search query term?

dan: 19th birthday party ideas, is a campaign negative broad

Support : Okay. So, I believe that although you have '19th birthday party ideas' as a negative broad keyword, the system did not block your ad from showing on '19 birthday party idea' because it is different than the negative broad match keyword that you entered. Although broad match encompasses similar search queries, it does not always block all of them.

Support : As such, if you want to ensure that you don't show up for '19th birthday party idea' in the future, I would add this phrase as a negative broad match keyword in your account. This will block more search queries related to this phrase.

dan: it is almost identical, yet it is not successful at filtering?

dan: even though i used broad negative

dan: i hope my client didn't pay $7 for that mistake, jeez.

Support : You are correct in that the search queries are similar. However, with broad match negative keywords, the system does not block all related queries -- especially if they are different in more than one respect (19 v. 19th and birthday party ideas v. birthday party idea). As such, the best way to ensure that the ad does not show for undesired queries is to add more negative keywords to the account.

dan: that is an expensive method to optimize, not really fair is it?

dan: broad matching has no trouble matching kws that are very dissimilar on bidding ... why wouldn't the broad negative do a similar efficient job?

Support : The broad match negative does attempt to do a similarly efficient job. However, occasionally these kinds of queries do get by. That is why I recommended adding more negative keywords to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.

Support : And of course, we are constantly working to improve our system.

dan: is it possible to get reimbursed for these instances that "get by"?

Support : It is not possible to be reimbursed for these queries. This is because the best way to ensure that you do not show on a specific query is to add that as an exact match negative keyword.

dan: and there is no limit to the number of negatives in an account?

Support : No, there is no limit to the amount of negative keywords.

Support : There is a 50,000 overall keyword limit, however.

dan: if negative broad match were more effective...

dan: it would be easier to manage an account, don't you think?

dan: and would help increase ROI

Support : I agree that broad match makes things more efficient and more easily facilitates account management.

Support : And that is why we offer the broad match option.

Support : However, it is not guaranteed that broad match will block all similar queries. For that reason, I recommended exact match.

dan: if only negative broad match would be more helpful...

dan: and ... if postive broad match didn't trigger such irrelevant queries, those "relevant variants"

dan: ie. my client bids on: shopping displays, broad

dan: my ad appears on: shopping carts query

dan: that's not really too fair is it?

dan: thats not really too similiar at all?

dan: yet negative broad match won't filter very similiar queries, a double standard?

Support : It is unlikely that your ad would show on shopping carts if shopping displays is a keyword in an account.

Support : And I do apologize that your ad showed for an undesired query.

dan: that is an actual example

Support : I see.

Support : In this same account?

dan: yes

dan: i hope that adwords improves negative broad as well as positive broad

Support : Yes, of course we are working to improve both aspects of the system.

dan: expanded match is blatantly not fair...

dan: at the very least, allow advertiser to opt out of expanded match

Support : I sincerely apologize for the frustration you have encountered with our system. And you can opt out of expanded match by not using broad match keywords in your account. In other words, only select phrase and exact match keywords.

dan: i don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water

dan: why not listen to your clients?

dan: just because adwords is a monopoly...

Support : Dan, I can assure you that we do listen to our clients and are doing our best to make the system as optimal as possible.

dan: i would guess that over 50% of adwords income is generated by broad match

dan: probably even closer to 85%

dan: now if you assume that most advertisers are not savy enough to add thousands of negative kws....

dan: you can see where I'm going?

Support : I am not sure of the exact numbers associated with each match type; however, I can assure you that it works to advertisers advantages in most cases. Of course, we take our clients input into account at all times and edit our system based on that feedback. So, what I can do is submit your feedback to our team that deals with these issues.

dan: i don't think broad match does work to advertisers advantage, that's my point

Support : Yes, I can understand where your frustration is coming from. As such, I am offering the best suggestions that I can make at this point based on how the system currently operates.

Support : And like I said, I will certainly submit that feedback.

dan: this chat has shown me how broad negatives are not working properly, i will share this on my blog, thanks.

dan: i hope adwords fixes this problem asap

Support : Dan, I did not mean that broad negatives are not working properly.

Support : Rather, that the best way to ensure that you do not show on a specific query is to use exact match negative keywords.

dan: unfortunately, positive broad match triggers endless long tail kws... so your suggestion is totally impratical

dan: so yes, the system is indeed broken...

dan: unfairly squeezing more irrelevant clicks from advertisers

dan: do you understand now?

Support : Yes I understand what you are saying, and I sincerely apologize for the frustration that you are encountering. However, we do not believe that our system is broken because it is intended to provide advertisers with highly targeted online advertising. It does work well, overall, and we are constantly working to improve this.

dan: i disagree with you

Support : At this point, do you have any other questions about your AdWords account that I can answer to help you with your clients accounts?

dan: when will advertisers be able to "opt out" of expanded broad match?

dan: i think this is the real crux of the problem

Support : You can opt out of expanded broad match by choosing phrase and exact match keywords.

dan: that would not be efficient

dan: why not enable the true intent of broad match?

dan: and give advertisers the option to expand further with "relevant variants" opt in/out?

dan: your suggestion, again, is not a practical solution

dan: its a cop out, an excuse not to deal with a broken system

Support : I am not sure what you mean by a practical solution. That is the best way to resolve the issue that you are currently encountering given the way our system operates. However, I can take your feedback into account.

dan: in order to duplicate the effect of broad match...

dan: the advertiser would be forced to permuatate thousands upon thousands of similiar variations of the kw

dan: this is not practical, and a royal waste of time

dan: if adwords would allow adverisers to opt out of expanded broad match...

dan: this would easily and simply solve the problem

Support : Dan, I do apologize for the frustration that you are encountering and I see where you are coming from. So, I will pass this feedback along to our team.

dan: advertisers have been plagued with this for quite some time. the solution is long overdue

dan: thanks for your understanding, and I apolgize for your frustration

Support : Okay, Dan. Like I said earlier, we are constantly working to improve our system based on advertiser feedback. So, we will take this into account in the future.

dan: each day creates an unfair "cash grab", at the advertisers' expense

Support : However, I am here to help advertisers with questions about their account. I believe that I understand you suggestion about expanded broad match and the ability to 'opt out' of this. As such, do you have any other questions at this time?

dan: no, thats all, thanks.

Support : Okay, Dan. Have a good day. Thank you for chatting in with your feedback and insight.

Update: Feb 9th, 2009

I had another support chat and received a follow-up email…

Hello Dan,

Thank you for chatting in. I am sorry for the delay in my response. I see that you were concerned about negative keywords performance in your account. I have discussed this with my team. The keyword 18th birthday party ideas would not filter out searches like
"18 bday party idea" Basically, the expansion with negative keywords is not as much as in the case of normal keywords. I have also passed your feedback to our team. They will take the necessary actions. Thank you for your patience.

If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Center at, where you'll find answers to many
frequently asked questions. We look forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.


The Google AdWords Team

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Anonymous said...

Very pertinent post, Dan. Our approach has been to (usually) not bid on 1- and 2-word broad match keywords, and try to compensate with phrase match. For example, if the keyword is "red sneakers," we bid on the phrase match versions of the keywords "red sneakers" and "sneakers red." Not perfect, but it reduces click bleeding.

Anonymous said...

I was told recently by my Google account manager that negative keywords are't expanded.

Therefore any plurals that you miss out will not work and you need to include them.

Or not use Broad match keywords as too risky by expansion.

PPCPROZ said...


That is probably the best, "best practice" advice. I'll have to post that on the wall... Only utilize 3 or more word broad keywords, never 1 or 2 word broad kws.

It is much more work then to find and permutate all those extra phrase match kws.

Anonymous said...

Dan, great post. But it left me asking the assumed the negative match worked with multiple word phrases? I saw many accounts get similar treatment by Google as a subcontractor and could do nothing about it so when I managed them I only used 1 word negatives as broad matches. It seemed like that is what the system needed to eliminate the bad traffic. Too Bad Yahoo won't get their act together before Google snags the Overture patent from them somehow.

Anonymous said...


I am fairly new to PPC, I find that broad often is too broad and removes too many of my possible results. So Google are saying that we use exact for negatives?
Thank you for this post!
It sure has "broadened" my view!

Melanie said...

So I have a bunch of negative keywords and filter my analytics account to see exactly what people are searching for when they access my site. If all of my negative keywords are single word broad match does your post infer that if a search contains a word on my negative keyword list it will not display at all ever or that on the rare occasion it will? Thanks.

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ejaznims said...

In this digital age, Google AdWords have the magic to open cash fountains for businesses, much like Ali Baba’s magic line, “open sesame.” Google AdWords however, do not reveal a cave of gold treasures; instead it gives businesses so much more: consistent cash flow through ingenious online marketing, with the entire world as the audience and target market.

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Adam Carpentieri said...

Actually this is exactly how I would want negative keywords to work. If you are going to narrow the pool, it must be precise like a scalpel. When you are expanding your pool, it can be less precise.

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