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Google Search Marketing in 2022: Keyword Matching

Ranga Kaliyur
July 14, 2022
February 27, 2024
Table of Contents

Search marketing with Google Ads is kinda cool. It helps users who are looking for specific information, products, or services connect with businesses looking to sell specific information, products or services — all through a wonderfully powerful, complex search engine. But how does search marketing work? More specifically, how does keyword matching work in the latest iteration of Google Ads? Let’s find out…

How does keyword matching work on Google Ads?

There are 7 steps involved in Google Search Ads to connect the right audience with the right message using keyword matching. Here’s how it works:

1. First, a user types a search query into Google. Google then processes this text against spell-checks, synonyms, and related terms to form what’s called the “retrieval query”. This retrieval query wrangles all relevant search ad keywords that could be served into a set. 

2. From this set of keywords from the retrieval query, Google verifies eligibility based on keyword match type, campaign, ad group, etc. This is performed using advanced machine learning and natural language tech to understand and optimize matching for intent and relevance. Other factors considered by Google are budget, geo, negative keywords, creatives, landing page, time of day, etc. 

3. When choosing from multiple eligible keywords from the same account (For example, if company X bids on both “B2B marketing analytics tools” and “B2B marketing analytics software”), Google will prioritize those keywords that are closer to being an exact match to the search term. So if a user searches “marketing analytics software”, they will receive the former search ad. Once filtered down, Google has its set of ad groups with eligible, relevant keywords.

4. With this set of ad groups containing eligible keywords, Google’s responsive search ads creative system will automatically rally the “best performing creative — including headline and description” for the user based relevance.

5. Next, we arrive at the stage wherein bids are calculated using Ad Rank. Ad Rank is a scoring system that assigns value to ads to determine if or not your ad will be presented to the audience. Of course, your bid amount is an important factor in determining Ad Rank as well. 

6. Here, Google Ads chooses the optimal combination of ad relevance and ad rank. Once again, Google’s algorithm is looking for landing page quality and keywords in an ad group. The latter implies it’s highly important  to group keywords by theme, to ensure favorability. 

7. The final step is straightforward. Once Google Ads processes all the aforementioned information, each advertiser enters into auction and those advertisements with the highest Ad Rank (including and especially bid amounts) are displayed for your audience to see. 

Keyword match types on Google Ads

As the name suggests, keyword matching matches words and phrases from the search ads you bid on to terms that people actually use when searching. Hence, it’s crucial to bid on the relevant keywords to ensure your ads align with what your audience is looking for. Google Ads offers three match types. The accuracy with which the keyword needs to match a user’s search query will be determined based on match type you choose:

1. [Exact match]

As you may have guessed, [Exact match] types require an exact match between the keyword and the search query. For example, if the keyword is “B2B marketing analytics”, only search queries that mean the same, like: “B2B marketing analytics software” or “B2B marketing analytics tools” will trigger the search ad. 

2. “Phrase match”

Phrase matching is marginally less rigid than [Exact match] types. It essentially considers all searches wherein the primary keyword is part of a larger string of search text (i.e. a phrase). For example: “Best software for B2B marketing analytics

3. Broad match

Broad match provides the most loose matching out of the three match types. It considers the exact keyword, phrases around the keyword and all related terms around the keyword. For example, Google may trigger an ad for the search term “B2B marketing attribution” because it's somewhat related to “marketing analytics” as well. 

Note: In short, Exact match keywords are a subset of Phrase match keywords. And Phrase match keywords are a subset of Broad match keywords. 

Broad Keyword Matching on Google Ads

Google Ads have increasingly been pushing Broad match types as their AI-algorithms continue to improve their understanding of language, intent, relevance, etc. In recent year, keyword matching on Google Ads has evolved from a pure syntax-matching system (wherein a user’s search query text simply matches an advertisers search ad keyword) to a semantics based system (wherein broadly related themes and topics are recognized as relevant enough inquiries to warrant the display of an indirectly relevant search ad). Here are some signals that broad match takes into consideration (in addition to exact keyword and phrases):

1. Other keywords in the ad group: Arguably the most important signal is relevance of other keywords within a specific ad group. For example, if the search term is “salmon sweaters” and your ad group consists of the keywords “orange sweaters”, “red sweaters” and “blue sweaters”, Google Ads will understand that in this case, salmon refers to the colour and not the fish. 

2. Previous searches: Google Ads also takes into account a user's previous search when deciding what ad to present. For example, let’s say a user previously searches for “manchester city vs liverpool football score”. Google uses this historical data in the future so that simply searching “man city vs liverpool” will retrieve the football score without mention of either word.

3. User location: This one is straightforward. Google analyses user location to personalize search results. Eg: B2B SaaS marketing agencies based in New York vs B2B SaaS marketing agencies near me. This may or may not be as relevant to your marketing efforts depending on the type of product you’re selling. Still quite handy to be aware of.

4. Landing page: Last but most definitely not least is an ads landing page. Does the landing page contain relevant keywords? Does it contain quality content — including images and creatives, to ensure a valuable experience for the visitor? These are questions to keep in mind when constructing and improving upon your landing pages. 

And there you have it! An overview into how keyword matching works on Google Ads

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