Your guide to Google Ads keyword terminology
Improve your PPC targeting strategy by understanding the differences in keyword terminology and match type functionality.
PPC is getting more complex, and so does paid search terminology.
Consider the change from “audiences” to “segments” which has a much more broad definition.
We also have “Segment” as a segmenting feature to analyze data sets further by devices, conversion actions, networks, and the like.
Then, Google brought back the terminology for “audiences” to describe targeting groups for Performance Max campaigns. Insert spiral-eyed emoji here.
The most frustrating to me is taking “ad extensions,” a perfectly acceptable and understandable concept, and changing this to “ad assets.” To make matters worse, Performance Max was rolled out, and its version of ad groups also became “ad assets.”
The ones that confuse everyone, however, are the terms that have existed forever: search keywords, search terms, and search queries.
Let’s put this confusion to rest since we have to live with all of the others.
Paid search terminology defined
Confused about how search keywords, search terms and search queries differ? Here’s what each one means for paid search.
A search keyword is a targeting tool used to inform the ad platforms, such as Google and Microsoft, to show your ads.
An example of a search keyword would be “fluoride water filters.”
Search terms are reported to you in the ad platform (if they meet privacy standards) when your ad was shown for a search on Google.
Examples of search terms for the keyword above are:
- “best fluoride water filter”
- “water filters that remove fluoride”
- “fluoride water filter shower head.”
Search terms from search partners will also be reported. These may be formatted differently or appear longer than normal search terms.
Search queries are the typed, spoken, or tapped phrases a user gives to Google to return search results.
Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.
Improving your search keyword to search query relevancy
Understanding the difference between these phrases is crucial.
The better you match keywords to search queries, the better your quality scores, click-through rates, and conversion performance will be.
Relevancy has always been the name of the game in PPC advertising, and it starts with matching keywords and search queries.
Search terms are beneficial for learning what search queries are eligible for triggering your ad and how those search queries perform.
Aside from finding new words for negative keyword exclusions, use these learnings for creating new keywords, new ads, and landing pages to better closely match what your customers are looking for.
How can we discuss search keywords and queries and not talk about match types?
Since I started running Google Ads in 2004, I have seen match types come and go and morph into what we have today, which significantly differ from their predecessors.
Let’s eliminate confusion and clarify how match types work today with your search keywords for targeting search queries.
Google claims that exact match keywords still give you the most control over who your ad is served to. This also makes it the most restrictive.
However, instead of exactly matching a user's search query, exact match will expand to searches that have the same meaning or intent as your keyword.
Google uses natural language understanding technologies such as BERT to understand the intent of a search query.
Exact match keywords are designated with square brackets, such as [fluoride water filter]. They will match to search queries that match the words in your exact match keyword along with:
- Misspellings ("flouride water filter")
- Singular or plural forms ("fluoride water filters")
- Stemming such as floor and flooring ("filtering fluoride from water")
- Abbreviations ("NaF water filters")
Exact match keywords will also show for close variants. Close variants are search queries similar to the search keywords but not identical. There is no option to opt out of close variant matching.
Some example close variants for exact match keywords are:
- Reordered phrasing ("water filter for fluoride")
- Adding or removing function words ("filter fluoride from water")
- Implied words ("fluoride filter" – water is implied)
- Synonyms and paraphrases ("pitchers that remove monofluorophosphate")
- Same search intent ("fluoride removal")
Years ago, you needed to build out exhaustive keyword lists for exact match. Today, that has become unnecessary.
When you use a phrase match type, you specify the meaning of the search queries you would like to target based on the order of the words used.
For example, Google understands that if your phrase match keyword is "fluoride water filter," your intended meaning is not "remove water from fluoride" (if that was even a real thing), so it won’t show your ad for that.
Google gives the example of a moving service with the search keyword "moving services NYC to Boston." Google understands the intended meaning does not match "moving services Boston to New York City."
Phrase match keywords are designated with quotation marks and will show for close variants similar to exact match close variants.
Examples search queries eligible to match the search keyword "fluoride water filter" include:
- Fluoridated water purification stations near me
- Commercial fluoride filtration products
- Fluoride removal for home
- Shower filters that remove chemicals
Broad match keywords do match their definition of being broad. They can show your ads for search queries that do not contain the direct meaning of your search keyword.
Broad match uses signals other match types do not understand, such as previous searches, user location, landing page content, and other keywords.
In a nutshell, broad match keywords will match the same search queries as exact match and phrase match, but they can also match phrases that don't contain the keyword terms.
Examples of search terms for the broad match keyword "fluoride water filter" include:
- Chorine water filtration
- Activated alumina water filter
- Reverse osmosis
- Bone char filter cleaning
Broad match keywords are expected to help smart bidding perform better due to the increased flexibility to optimize against your goals and the ability to find additional conversion opportunities.
Keeping up with keyword match type changes
If you are still using multiple match types or segmenting match types in separate campaigns, I would encourage you to read Google's Search Automation technical guide, Unlock the Power of Search. It contains information and case studies on the benefits of supporting Google’s ability for signals and smart bidding. It also presents a solid case on why there is no performance benefit from using multiple match types for the same keyword if you use smart bidding.
Your best strategy is to monitor your search terms closely. This will help you to evaluate their performance and take action. Add negative keywords for irrelevant queries and adjust match types as needed.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
New on Search Engine Land