A 101 Guide to Google Ads’ Keyword Selection Preferences

Updated on: 17 October 2019

Are you still using old-school keyword tactics in your Google Ads campaigns?

With 15% of queries on Google search being new, it isn’t always possible to know exactly what users are typing into the search engine – but there is a way to lessen the guesswork.

When inputting your list of keywords into your Google Ads account, Google uses a keyword selection process to decide which keyword best matches the queries of users in order to serve them a particular ad or landing page.

In order to avoid Google showing an irrelevant ad to users and having your keywords compete one another – the best way to regain control is to understand how paid search auctions work so that you can lower your CPCs (Cost-Per-Click), while still driving engagement.

Whether or not you are already enrolled in a Digital Marketing Course, anyone can benefit from this simple 101 guide!

The basics

You must first understand this: your ads are only eligible to appear in front of users if one of your keywords matches someone’s search term.

The problem is, only ONE of them can be triggered for an ad for any particular search term.

Here are 3 main keyword matching type, and how Google determines whether to trigger them:

  • Exact match (most restrictive): if your keywords match the exact search term, including close variations.
  • Phrase match (less restrictive): if someone searches your exact keyword phrase, or close variations of that phrase, with additional words before or after.
  • Broad match modifier (least restrictive, but still controlled): includes all relevant variations of your keywords in any order, including misspellings, synonyms and related searches.

Evaluated in real-time, no preference is better than the other – but they all work to affect the success of your PPC campaigns.

Google’s latest update

Google announced earlier in August that its keyword selection preferences will now extend variants of same-meaning to phrase match and broad match modifier types. While it used to only apply to exact match – this means that phrase match and broad match modifier will now also trigger on keywords that has a similar meaning to the keyword used.

A double-edged sword – this could lead to your ads showing more often, while also increasing the chances of it showing up for queries that aren’t relevant.

Important to note is that existing preferences, as well as exact match will always trump new same-meaning matching – meaning to say that the update should not heavily impact your existing preferences.

They will only proceed to overtake the old keywords when the new keywords match more closely to users’ queries. For example, if it is a new phrase match competing with an existing phrase match keyword, the one that has more relation to the query will be considered over the other eligible candidate.

However, the reverse doesn’t work the same way. Should you now include a new exact match to an existing phrase match or broad match modifier – the exact keyword match will almost always be preferred. The only caveat is if the keywords are in different ad groups, or if the phrase match has a lower bid and higher Ad Rank will it override the rule.

What to take note of

Because keywords are highly subjective – never assume that your idea of “same-meaning” will match Google’s.

You also want to make sure that none of your keywords are set to pause; or else, those not-so-relevant ones will take precedent.

By monitoring and tracking results consistently on your Search Terms Report, you will be best able to know what is working and what is not. Otherwise, you can always fall back on a Digital Marketing Agency to do the job for you!

Our recommendation

Not to worry, Google will always lean towards providing results that most closely match to user intent – so going down that path is always going to be the best decision.

You should be clear about what keywords you want to rank for, as well as what you DON’T want.

By doing so, you will be able to safeguard your content from appearing in front of the wrong target audience. Aim for keyword diversity, and consider Smart Bidding in order to optimize your keywords in real-time and maximize your budget!

As we move towards machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in 2020, staying afloat means having to stay informed and adaptable!