Digital Publishing Platforms
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Google keywords matching in 2021: What publishers need to know

Worth-reading, if one of your Google advertising objective is to increase traffic to the site

On the 23rd of September Google rolled out improvements on keyword matching.

From now on, keywords that are identical to the reader’s search query, as well as both phrases matching the keyword and broad keyword matches, will be prioritized. To better understand this strategy, let’s take a closer look at how Google selects keywords.

Improved matching technology

The exact match was prioritized to avoid irrelevant searching results, regarding multiple eligible to match keywords. Before giving an example, let’s see what types of matching exist:

  • The exact match – confirms the precision
  • Broad match – ensures reach
  • Phrase match – aims to balance both, providing that wording doesn’t change the meaning of the match
Keyword match types/ Google.com

For example, let’s say someone searches for “media events 2021”, keywords such as “media events” and “media events 2021” would count as broad match keywords. Before this update, both of these keywords would be relevant. Now, the keywords “media events 2021” are prioritized, because it is identical to the query. Google emphasizes, that identical to the query exact match keyword is preferred over the phrase and broad match keyword.

What if the keywords don’t match the query?

Despite the simplification of the matching procedure, Google will deeper analyze keywords that do not match search queries. Formerly only Ad Rank determined which keyword will be served. That value is calculated using the bid amount,  ad quality for the moment of auction (including expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience), the Ad Rank thresholds, the competitiveness of an auction, the context of the user’s search ( user’s location, device, time of the search, etc.), and the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats  

Now the system also considers relevance level. It is determined by the meaning of the search term, the meaning of all the keywords in the ad group, and the landing pages within the ad group.

Keywords selection, based on the matching type /Google.com

Going back to our example, let’s take a query “media events in Europe 2021”, and the publisher uses the phrase match keyword “European media conferences” and the broad match keyword media events. In this instance, the phrase match keyword will be selected because it’s more relevant, despite a lower Ad Rank.  

Google’s recommendations on keywords

#1 Group keywords into thematically consistent ad groups

This allows Google to display more diverse, compelling ads. For example, let’s say you’re a sports publisher, and “World Cup” and “Champions League” are the most popular search categories on your site. Google recommends in such cases creating three ad groups so you can customize your creative and landing pages: the first one for “World Cup”, another for “Champions League”, and a third for “Football”. 

#2 Decide on campaign budget, depending on its performance
Traffic is likely to fluctuate, due to the recent updates

#3 Regularly check your Recommendations page
The system alerts will help you maintain keyword coverage and avoid duplicates. 

#4 Use broad match with Smart Bidding
Set up different keywords in multiple match types. The technology will search the identical queries and improves performance thanks to real-time bid optimization.  According to Google Internal Data from July 2021, advertisers switching their exact match keywords to broad match in Target Cost-Per-Action campaigns reached 35% more conversions.

#5 Continue to use negative keywords
Exclude matches you don’t want with negative keywords. The implementations won’t impact that group of keywords.

Sofiia Padalko

This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with permission. The Fix is a solutions-oriented publication focusing on the European media scene. Subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.