Editorial note: This guest post is a finalist in our Hero Conf scholarship event. Lauren Page is a Senior Paid Search Manager at Vivid Seats in Chicago, Illinois.


Keyword match types are one of the first things you must master when entering the world of PPC marketing. Once you understand the relationships between match types and the queries to which Google will or will not match your keywords, you are ready to confidently meet the other challenges that you’ll face as a PPC marketer. Recently I came across a negative match nuance that changed my schema of what Google’s Negative Broad Match type really means.

The story begins with an ad group consisting of well-targeted modified broad match keywords. These keywords were based around a men’s college basketball event, however, I knew that an event with the same name was happening at the same time for the women’s basketball teams as well. I only wanted to target the men’s event, but I knew that my keywords could match to queries for the women’s event. Knowing this, I had added “women” and “women’s” as Negative Broad Match keywords to this ad group. I couldn’t help but daydream about all the queries these negative keywords would block.

My daydream turned into a nightmare when I later discovered the CTR for this ad group was below 0.50% even though my ads were showing (for the most part) in the second position – a position where I typically expect to see at the very least a 3-5% CTR. I knew my keywords were well targeted, and I had written (what I considered to be) stellar ad copy. So why was I getting such a low CTR?

A simple search query report (gotta love ’em) solved my CTR mystery for me. I saw that my keywords were showing for “womens” basketball queries. “They can’t be,” I thought to myself. “I added ‘women’ as a Negative Broad Match keyword!”

We know that if we bid on a standard Broad Match keyword with the term “women” in it, the matched queries on Google would certainly include: women’s, womens, woman, and probably even girls, ladies, and so on. However, as I learned the hard way that day, the same algorithm does not apply for Negative Broad Match keywords.

A Negative Broad Match keyword will ONLY block queries including the exact spelling and punctuation of the term you have entered as a negative. This means you must include plurals, misspellings, punctuation variations, acronyms, abbreviations, and any other form of the term you wish to block as Negative Broad Match keywords, otherwise you’ll run into the same problem that I did. On the plus side, if for some reason you do want to show ads for queries including the term “women’s” but not “ladies,” you can rest assured that adding one as a broad match negative will not impact the other.

Side note: Word order for Negative Broad Match keywords, however, will not affect whether or not the unwanted traffic is blocked. For example, if I had the keyword –womens basketball, and searched “basketball womens,” my ads would not show.

Since that fateful day, I’ve also noticed queries in my reports that include my negative keywords but are missing spaces. For example, even if “womens” was a Negative Broad Match keyword, if someone typed “womensbasketball,” my keywords would still match to their query. Just something to keep in mind for those queries you really need to block!

One last fun fact about Google’s negative keywords: if the searcher’s query is over 10 words long and they don’t type the term you wish to block until word 11 or beyond, your ads can and will still show for that query. For example, if a user searches “NCAA college basketball events in 2013 happening near Chicago Illinois for women’s teams,” and I had included –women’s as a negative keyword, my ads could still show up for that query.

I sleep a little bit better knowing the quality scores on my basketball keywords were not impacted in this instance (since the queries causing the low CTR didn’t match my keywords exactly). However, for overall click-through-rate health, it’s important to remember that the word “Broad” does not mean the same thing for negative match keywords as it does for the terms on which we’re bidding.