One of the core concepts in Google Adwords is that of keywords. A keyword in Adwords is one or more words or a phrase that you can associate with an ad that you perceive or have determined to be of relevance to the ad itself. These keywords are then used by an algorithm to match your ads with the search query. If it matches then an appropriate slot in a search page or a web page will display your ad, which increase the importance of keywords.
The Adwords or an Ad network is a little more complicated than that, but for the purpose of understanding the importance of keywords the above explanation should suffice.
What is a Keyword or a Keyphrase?
The term keyword is used to refer to any term of varying length. It can either be a single word or a phrase that is made up of multiple words. Adwords itself doesn’t differentiate between them. You can use any number of words in the phrase that you associate with your ad. This is sometime referred to as Long Tail Keywords, but technically it has a slightly different meaning.
For this post we will differentiate between these two cases and refer to the instances of a single word as a keyword and a multiple word phrase as keyphrase. Also as an example, let us assume that we are writing ads to market a specialty store which sells just dog food. We will refer to this marketing campaign as an example through out this post.
Keyword: A single word that is used to match your ad to a web page or a search query. There are various possible keywords for the example noted above such as dog, canine, puppy and food.
Keyphrase: A phrase rather than a single word which associates with your ads. The keyphrase may contain any number of words, but always more than one. Some examples would be “dog food“, “canine food” or “pet food“.
There are mainly two different contexts in which your ads are displayed to the consumer. The first is on a search results page (SERP) either on Google or on one of the affiliated network sites which run Google search. The other is on websites and web pages which subscribe to Google Adsense (also known as the Display Network) to monetize their content.
In the case of the search result pages, Google algorithms match your ads and the keywords associated with the ads with the search query that the user have typed in. This is more of a straight forward matching as the consumer is an active participant by virtue of having to type in the query. This makes the choice of your keywords or key-phrases extremely important.
In the case of Google Adsense in webpages, the matching is done mostly against the content of the webpage. The Google indexing engine tries to figure out what the webpage content is about and then matches the content with the keywords to show ads relevant to the webpage. Sometimes other matching techniques such as user preferences are used.
Types of Keyword Matching
In addition to specifying the keyword you can also specify how you like the keyword to be matched. There are three ways that the keyword matching is done by Adwords.
Broad: The broad option will match the word in any context including the synonyms and other variations of the word. This type of matching usually produces the most impressions for the ad but also results in a less targeted audience. So, the keyword dog can potentially match with search queries such as canine or puppy. Broad match type matches with any query that contains the words.
Phrase: This is relevant only when you use a keyphrase rather than a keyword. In the case of a keyword, it works very much like a broad search. When you specify a keyphrase it is more restrictive in its matching as opposed to a broad search and matches only where the same phrase (or a close variation) is a part of the search query. So, if your key-phrase is dog food then it will match for cheap dog food or organic dog food.
Exact: This is the most restrictive of all matches and allows you to target the most appropriate audience. This again is most useful when a key-phrase is used or when the keyword is not very popular. The importance of keywords is most imperative here as you will need to target the exact search query to get most impressions. The user will have to type in the exact keyword or key-phrase in order for this to match. For example, organic dog food will match exactly the query organic dog food.
Keywords vs Keyphrases
The importance of keywords is often more visible when your ads is generating way too many clicks for a low return on investment. Basically, you are spending way to much money on ads than you are generating revenue from them.
Given the type of matches that you can choose from for each of your keywords and key-phrases, it is worthwhile to see some of the pros and cons for each of them. The choice of using a keyword vs keyphrase most often depends on the search volume that is generated by the keyword. If the keyword generates more impressions than your budget allows for then go with more specific keyphrases.
Using keywords will get you the most impressions and the most visibility, but it is generally not very focused in targeting the potential customers. Using the keyword dog will garner you the most impressions and even the most hits, but it is not the most targeted campaign for the ad as dog is a very popular keyword that will match with a whole lot of search queries. This is especially important if you are on a limited budget.
As a rule, i usually recommend using only keyphrases rather than keywords. Unless your keyword is very specific and is only used in the context of your marketing campaign, there is no need to use a generic keyword. That will keep your impressions down but will increase your click thru rate (CTR) and the return on investment (ROI).
Even when you use keyphrases, I recommend that you use phrase match as much as possible. There are usually cases when certain words (usually adjectives, such as cheap or organic) that doesn’t make sense for your campaign. In order to eliminate these words from being matched you can use negative keywords.
For example, if you are selling only expensive dog food, then you might not want to match for “cheap dog food“. In this case, cheap is the negative keyword.
Negative keywords are used to explicitly to specify NOT to match against a keyword or keyphrase. If you are marketing exclusively to high end customers and expensive dog food buyers with an ad then somebody who is searching for cheap dog food is not your customer that you want to show this particular ad to. Adding cheap as a negative keyword would be good idea for this particular ad in this case.
Key phrases or Long tail Keywords are thus the most important input tool that you can use to choose your target audience. The importance of keywords and the match type will dictate how optimized your Adwords campaign is. Choosing these phrases wisely will allow you to market your ads more effectively. Often times having several very specific key phrases is more effective than having a very generic keyword. These will let you manage your budget better and understand your customer and target audience better.