26 Jun 2012

How Google Matches Search Queries to Keywords

June 26, 2012PPC Advertising

Within AdWords, only one keyword can be prompted per search query. However, it is possible that in certain situations, more than one keyword may match one given search query. Have you ever wondered what Google does when a search query matches more than one of your keywords? Would you say your keyword strategy is helping or hurting you?
AdWords has a detailed system that ensures your most relevant ads are making an appearance, however first and foremost, it is your job to be sure you are not using duplicate keywords. AdWords Editor provides a feature called the “Find Duplicate Keywords” tool. This will allow you to filter out any identical keywords you may have that are competing with each other. This is a very basic clean-up, but can help keep your account performing successfully.
Even if you’re not working with identical keywords, similar keywords may still be triggered by the same search query. For example, broad-matched keywords such as “running shoes” and “athletic running shoes” could potentially match the search query, “shoes for running”. Google then uses an internal preference system to decide which ad will appear to that user.
The following are a set of guidelines that helps Google determine which ads to serve:
  1.  If a keyword matches the query exactly, it trumps ones that are not identical. The system will automatically select the identical keyword to trigger an ad. Let’s say a user enters the query “mens running shoes.” You have set both the broad-match keyword as “mens running shoes” and phrase match keyword as, “running shoes”, the system will choose your broad-match keyword because it matches the query exactly.
  2. If keywords are the same, the system will use the keyword that has the most restrictions. The system will opt to go with an exact phrase match over a broad-phrase match. So in this instance, if the query is “tennis shoes” and you have that selected for broad and exact phrase matches, preference is given to the keywords with the exact restriction.
  3. Higher ranked ads are given more preference. When one query matches several keywords, the system will default to the keyword that exhibits the highest ad rank. This is calculated by combining the Quality Score and CPC bid.

There are some exceptions to the higher ranked ad rule –

  1. A keyword may be selected if it contains the exact phrasing of another keyword. For example, if a user searches “athletic shoes for running”, this could trigger both “running shoes” and “shoes for running”. “Shoes for running” will gain preference because it contains all of the words within the query.
  2. Sometimes, a cheaper ad will be selected. This is a rarity, but in some instances if an ad is cheaper and has a higher QS and rank; it will trump a keyword that matches the query more closely.
Use the AdWords Editor to filter out multiple keywords, and check back often to make sure you aren’t submitting too many duplicates. Keeping your account clean ensures that you are remaining competitive and aren’t bidding against yourself. Even if your account does get a little messy, Google will do some of the grunt work to make sure that your most effective keywords are getting preference on the Google Search Network.