Your Google Ads Aren’t Working Like You Think They Are — Here’s What Google Has Changed

keyword match types

As is the case with almost everything Google, there’s always an update, change, or new rollout around the corner (broad match modified, anyone?). Sometimes, these updates are broadcast for all to see. Other times, Google likes to keep things really close—so close, in fact, that you might miss that things have changed unless you’re paying very close attention. 

What Has Google Done this Time?

So, what’s Google been up to recently? Google has been actively pushing for advertisers to use broad match keywords—exclusively. On a related note, this push has lined up with a change that largely flew under the radar regarding keyword match type definitions. What does this mean? It means that keywords are more about meaning to meaning, or topic to topic, and much less about the actual words used now.

Sounds confusing? Stick with us.

Let’s say you wanted to use a broad match keyword for “bug spray”—topic to topic, meaning to meaning—your search could be eligible to serve on search terms like “insecticide,” “insect repellant,” “citronella candles,” and “how to keep bugs away in the summer.” Google calls this comprehensive. And it’s what Google is actively pushing for.

What are we talking about when it comes to keywords in Google Ads (or, more accurately, what does Google mean by keywords)? Let’s brush up on our terminology so we can get an even more accurate picture. 

What Are Keywords in Google Ads?

For Google Ads, keywords are words or phrases that ‘match’ ads with the terms people are actively searching for.

The keyword match types (more on that soon) determine how closely the keywords need to match up with a user’s search query so the ad can be considered for an auction. Broad match types would serve an ad on a large volume of user searches, while exact match types would be used to target highly specific searches.

What Are Keyword Match Types in Google Ads?

As mentioned previously, Google has a few main keyword match types that advertisers can use to enter an auction. These are exact match, phrase match, and broad match.

Exact match serves ads on searches that mirror the meaning or intent of the keyword. This keyword match type provides hands-on delivery that allows you to control who views your ad; however, its search reach is limited. A keyword like ‘baseball glove’ would have exact match searches that included things like ‘glove baseball,’ ‘glove for baseball’ ‘baseball mitt’ but NOT things like ‘baseball gear.’ Exact match syntax involves square brackets, like so: [baseball glove].

Phrase match serves ads on searches that are in the ballpark (pun intended) of your keyword. The meaning can either be implied or include a more specific form of the meaning. Phrase match allows you to have more searches than with exact match. However, it still fields fewer searches than with broad match, displaying ads only on the searches that include your product or service. 

A keyword like ‘baseball glove’ would have phrase match searches that included things like ‘gloves for baseball,’ ‘baseball gloves on sale,’ ‘black baseball glove,’ and ‘professional baseball glove’ but NOT things like ‘baseball bats and caps.’  Phrase match syntax involves quotation marks, like so: “baseball glove.”

Broad match serves ads on searches that are linked to your keyword, which can include searches that aren’t a one-to-one meaning of your keywords. Broad match is now the default match type for keywords, as it’s billed as most comprehensive by Google Ads. With it, you don’t have to identify another match type (e.g. exact match, phrase match, negative match). It’s been touted as a way to increase site visitors, minimize and streamline keyword lists, and maximize spending on keywords that perform well.

Broad match will consider the following when serving ads:

  • Your landing page’s content
  • A user’s recent search activity
  • Other ad group keywords in an effort to identify intent

Google Ads highly recommends using something called Smart Bidding with broad match. With every search query being different, Smart Bidding employs certain contextual signals to better ensure that you’re competing in the right auction and bids as well as for the right users.

Broad match’s syntax is super simple: It’s just putting in the keyword. Google Ads really wants to make it easy to use broad match types!

You can also use negative keywords to stop your ads from popping up on searches with a particular term. This can be helpful if you want to exclude goods or services that may be related to your business but you don’t sell or offer.

A Note About Performance Max

Performance Max is a campaign tool that utilizes machine learning models to optimize bids and placements with your business goals. With Performance Max, you can include specific audience signals, such as relevant customer data and high-quality content and creative (images, videos, text). You can also indicate which conversion values, value rules, and brand safety settings apply for your campaign objectives.

Performance Max complements Search campaigns by respecting your keyword targeting. If a user’s search query matches an eligible Search keyword in your account, the Search campaign takes priority. However, if the query doesn’t match any eligible Search keyword, Performance Max selects the campaign or ad with the highest Ad Rank, considering creative relevance and performance. Sometimes, existing keywords may appear in Performance Max, rather than Search campaign, if they are deemed ineligible due to reasons like incomplete targeting, disapproved creatives or landing pages, low search volume, or budget limitations.

Contact Uptick Marketing for Help with Your Google Ads Campaigns

If you aren’t staying up to date with Google’s changes, you could be behind the curve, losing out on bids, and bleeding business. Online, things change quickly (especially where Google and Meta are concerned). The ongoing push to broad match doesn’t just affect advertisers; it impacts businesses, organizations, and nonprofits too. Playing by Google’s rules—or bending those rules ever so slightly to fit your budget and goals—are what’s needed to succeed online (for Google Ads and SEO). 

Concerned by this change or Google’s underreported dealings in general? Uptick Marketing has dedicated ad specialists who live and breathe Google Ads or PPC (pay-per-click). Contact us for help with advertising campaigns that work to grow your business and win online!