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AdWords Keyword Optimization

Keywords are the roots of the AdWords system. Ads are what the user will see, but an effective, targeted keyword list is the foundation of a successful campaign. Ranking and cost-per-click are determined by the click-through rate (CTR) and maximum CPC (max CPC) for an individual keyword. It is important to remember this because the system can be slightly confusing at times by allowing you to set a maximum CPC at the ad group level. This sometimes can cause to think the CTR of the ad matters, when really it’s all about the keywords.

Important specifics about AdWords keywords:
  • Plural sensitive – the plural of a word is a completely different word. For example, the keywords ‘cat’ and ‘cats’ are different keywords.
  • Case insensitive – capitalization does not differentiate words. For example, the keywords ‘cat’ and ‘Cat’ are the same keyword.
  • Common misspellings – For keywords that are broad or phrase match AdWords system includes common misspellings. For example, the query ‘boosk’ would show ads that have ‘books’ as a keyword.


Keyword relevancy:


            Before you can determine whether a keyword is relevant, you need to really focus on what you are selling. Feel free to study your competitors’ web sites as well.

            Evaluate the current performance of the account. Be able to identify keywords with a low CTR, high number of impressions, etc. Watch for some of these flags:

  • Relevance to ad text and product
  • General nature of the keyword
  • Only extremely specific keywords
  • Relevance to other keywords within the same Ad Group
  • Limited keyword list


There are different categories of relevance and you should be able to identify any keyword in one of these categories. For example, consider a website that sells travel books.

  • Irrelevant (tom clancy, harry potter, novels)
  • Too general (book, books, travel)
  • General (jamaica books, vacation)
  • Relevant (travel books, vacation books)
  • Extremely specific (jamaica travel books, europe travel books)


Depending on the type of traffic you are interested in, you should insert keywords within the general – extremely specific range. You may be interested in increasing exposure and clicks, so you want to have as many relevant keywords as possible.


*If in doubt whether a keyword is ‘too general’ or not, let the AdWords system do the work. If the keyword gets disabled (“inactive for search” because of current max CPC lower than minimum bid required by AdWords system), use a different matching option or add negatives if possible. If it still becomes disabled, then you can’t use it.



keyword matching options:


            Having the ability to make an individual keyword more or less specific is a powerful thing. Broad match results in the most impressions and often the lowest CTR. Exact match results in the fewest impressions and often the highest CTR. Phrase match is in the middle and most useful in the rare case that order makes a significant difference in the meaning of a keyword.

Broad match should be used as default matching option and more than 90% of the time. This type has the highest potential for driving clicks/sales.

Phrase match should be used if a multi-term keyword has been disabled in order to re-enable it (keep in mind that you should include the other ordering variations as well, this will let you know which order performs better) as well as in those rare cases it makes sense to use it.

Exact match should be used for single term or phrase match keywords that have been disabled, as well as for general keywords that you know will generate many impressions. In the case of a general keyword it is often a good idea to include both matching options of broad and exact to see how each performs.

Negative keywords should always be used. If we can stop irrelevant results, we should. Always double check your negative keyword list to make sure they are relevant and will not prevent another keyword in your list from displaying your ads.

It is important to note that embedded matching does work for negatives. For example, if you have the broad keyword ‘toy’ and you want to run on ‘toy story dolls’ but not ‘toy story’ (because you sells the dolls and not the movie) then you might use -[toy story]. This will eliminate showing the ad for ‘toy story’ but not ‘toy story dolls’.




A keyword can only be successful if used with appropriate ad text. The keyword qualifies the searcher as someone interested in your products/services, but clicks are generated by the relevancy of the call to action in the ad.

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