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Using negative keywords to reduce your SEM ad cost
Source: | Author:QS | Published time: 2022-03-02 | 182 Views | Share:


Advertisers can control the traffic of ads with keyword matching and adding negative keywords to improve the quality of traffic in search ads. For more insights on tailoring your keyword match type, check out our previous article linked here. 

The main purpose of negative keywords is to control the size and quality of traffic, and the effectiveness of search ads. The remainder of this article will share how best to optimize your advertising traffic by setting the keyword to “no word”.

1. Two types of negative keywords

In China, SEM advertising allows advertisers to configure their campaign’s negative keywords. Negative keywords are divided into negative phrase matches and negative exact matches. When a negative phrase matches a word or a phrase, your ad will not display to users who search for the word or phrase in the future. For negative exact matches, if a word or phrase matches the inputted negative exact match, then your ad will not be displayed, but can still be found among related search terms. 


For example, the above keyword "Air conditioner repairing". The user may search for the following two keywords:

  • Search term 1 is "Refrigerator repairing". Because the refrigerator has nothing to do with your business, we can set the phrase to negate this irrelevant word and deny "Refrigerator". Therefore, when the user searches for the word "Refrigerator" again, the search result will not be found and will not show your ad again.

  • Search term 2 is "Air conditioner installation price": The term has nothing to do with the business, but "air conditioner" is included in this search keyword. Therefore, you have two options. The first is to use negative phrase matches to deny “installation”. Then, the search result will no longer display your ad. The second option would be to use negative exact matches to deny "Air conditioner installation price", and the ad will not display to users who search for the exact term. 

The negative keyword can help reduce unnecessary traffic. Negative phrase matches have a relatively large blocking range and usually block a bunch of traffic. Conversely, negative exact matches block a smaller range of traffic, only targeting a single word or phrase. Therefore, it is recommended to generally set a small number of negative phrases matches, with the negative keywords being something irrelevant to your business. As for negative exact matches, we recommend including more keywords, such that irrelevant and ambiguous words can be accurately negatived first. Then, observe and see if additional keyword modification is required. 

2. Tips for using negative keywords

The following are some tips for using negative keywords, applicable to most search advertising media in China (such as 360, Baidu, Toutiao, etc.):

  • Negative keywords setting, when creating a new plan

a) Common keywords can be placed at the level of the advertising plan first. The plan level has a large scope and can be effective for all ad units. Individual keywords can then be placed in the unit level in a targeted manner;


b) Some negative keywords can be preset for the newly added plan to improve the traffic's accuracy;

c) Use negative phrase matches, preferably shorter words, and try to negate a single word as little as possible because the scope covered by a single word is too large. Long words can generally be set in negative exact matches.

  • Update and check your negative keywords regularly

a) After downloading the search term report in the advertising backend, it is recommended to sort out the words that need to be denied and add them to the negative word database. This facilitates archiving and batch operations to add negative keywords, improving work efficiency;


An example of the search term report of Baidu advertising backend

b) Updating the negative keywords 2-3 times a week is suggested. Frequent updates will reduce the display of advertisements and affect the effect;

c) Check the negative keywords once every two weeks or a month to cancel wrong negative keywords in time, and both advertising plans and ad units need to be carefully checked;

d) To improve work efficiency, many advertising media provide advertisers with optimization tools. For example, ‘Baidu Search’ provides advertisers with an ‘optimization center’, so checking negative words is more convenient.


The "Optimization Center" of Baidu's advertising backend

As shown in the figure above, Baidu backend provides advertisers with two practical optimization functions:

(1)Remove repeated negative keywords:

It can help advertisers remove repeated negative keywords with one click and increase the number of negative keyword databases.

(2) Remove conflicting negative keywords:

If false-negative words are regularly manually checked, it is troublesome to operate, time-consuming, laborious, and prone to errors. By making good use of this function provided by Baidu's backend, you can quickly find some negative words that conflict with account keywords.

For example, there is a word in the account that is "SEO SEM training" because it is SEM business. If the phrase "SEO" is used to negate, this related word will be falsely denied, and it likely cannot be detected. But using the optimization function of Baidu's backend, the system will automatically prompt the negative "SEO" conflicts with the account keywords. At this time, you can avoid making this mistake.

For more advice on using negative keywords in your China SEM campaign, contact our marketing consultant at: