Google Ads Keyword Matching Guide
I run an online t-shirt shop. I recently noticed that one of my keywords,
binary tree shirt, generated a click. Problem is, the person who clicked on my ad was searching for
edd china binary t shirt which is distinctively different than the binary tree shirt I’m selling. That money may have been better spent if I threw it in a wishing well.
How can I prevent this from happening in the future? Before we answer that, it’s important to understand a few key concepts.
When I started making keywords for my t-shirt campaign, I created a bunch of variations of the same phrase like
dog t shirt
dog t shirts
Later I found out this was completely unnecessary. Google deems these terms to be “close variations” of each other. It’s hard to give a precise definition of close variations, but it essentially refers to a keyword that is extremely similar to another keyword in terms of semantic meaning. If, for any search phrase, you can replace keyword
A with keyword
B without changing its meaning, then
B is a close variation of
A. For example,
dog t shirt is a close variation of
dog t-shirt because practically any search phrase involving
dog t-shirt could be replaced with
dog t shirt and the search’s meaning wouldn’t change. On the other hand,
dog t-shirt is not a close variation of
Close variations are not always symmetric. For example,
dog t-shirt is a close variation of
dog shirt, but
dog shirt is not a close variation of
dog t-shirt. That’s because a t-shirt is a shirt, but a shirt is not necessarily a t-shirt.
Close variations are not always transitive.
lady shoes is a close variation of
ladies shoes and
ladies shoes is a close variation of
women’s shoes, but
lady shoes is not a close variation of
Word order matters only if it changes the semantic meaning of a phrase.
red dog shirt is a close variation of
dog shirt red, but
dog on red shirt is not a close variation of
red shirt on dog.
Keyword Match Types
Google Ads supports four different types of keyword matching.
This is the most generic match type. It matches any searches that are closely related to your keyword. For example, the keyword
blue shirt matches searches for
buy blue tops,
sell blue tops,
blue shirts from Macy’s, … but doesn’t match searches for
green shirts, … because those searches are significantly different than the keyword.
Broad Match Modifier
This is like broad match but you can put a plus sign “+” in front of individual words to require that they (or close variations) appear in the search. For example,
blue shirt will match the search
buy blue button downs but
blue +shirt won’t because
button downs is not a close variation of
With phrase match, you wrap a keyword in quotes to guarantee that it (or close variations of it) appears in the search. For example the keyword
"shirt with dog" matches the search
buy shirt with dog and
buy shirt with a dog, but not
buy shirt with a red dog. By contrast, the modified broad match keyword
+buy +shirt +with +dog would match both searches.
Note: As far as I understand +
keyword and “
keyword” are identical if
keyword doesn’t contain any spaces.
You can wrap a keyword in square brackets to force an exact match. This is like phrase match, but it’ll exclude searches with extra stuff before or after the keyword. For example,
[shirt with dog] will match the search
shirt with a dog but not
buy shirt with a dog.
You can use negative keywords to prevent some searches from matching other keywords. For example, the broad match keyword
blue shirt matches searches for
buy blue shirt and
sell blue shirt. If we only want to match the former, we could add
sell to our negative keyword list. All of the match types available for keywords are also available for negative keywords, so we could include negative keywords like
[sell] or “
sell blue shirt”.
Pro Tip: You can define negative keywords just by placing a dash “-” in front of a normal keyword like
Also note that negative keywords take precedence over normal keywords, so if you have the keyword
[dog shirt] and the negative keyword -
[dog t-shirt], a search for
dog t-shirt will not match your ad for
Enough definitions. More examples.
|lebron new jersey||lebron james vs new jersey tickets||broad match|
|new lebron james jerseys||broad match|
|+lebron +james +lakers +jersey||lakers does not appear in the search|
|+new +lebron +jerseys||each word appears in the search|
|"new lebron jersey"||the phrase "new lebron jersey" does not appear in the search|
|"new jersey"||the phrase "new jersey" appears in the search|
|"lebron jersey"||the phrase "lebron jersey" does not appear in the search|
|[new jersey]||the search does not exactly match the phrase "new jersey" or a close variant|
|[lebron new jersey]||the search exactly matches the phrase "lebron new jersey"|
|[lebron james new jersey]||the search exactly matches a close variant of the phrase "lebron james new jersey"|
Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool
The ad preview and diagnosis tool is incredibly useful for testing whether various searches will match your keywords and trigger your ads. You ought to play with it if you haven’t already.
Note that if you search for X and the tool displays keyword Y with a message like “Your ad isn’t showing”, it means that the keyword successfully matched the search phrase, (but for some unrelated reason, your ad isn’t showing).
Answer To The Problem
If you’re curious how I solved my issue, where searches like
edd china binary t shirt matched my keyword
binary tree shirt, I
-[binary t shirt]to my list of negative keywords and
- changed my broad match keyword
binary tree shirtto the phrase match
"binary tree shirt".
Either of these techniques would be enough to solve my problem, but together they make me a little more bullet proof.
The information in this article comes from three sources..