Keyword targeting

For contextual keyword targeting (sometimes called "KCT"), Display & Video 360 uses Google search technology to determine if the keyword is relevant to the text (or video metadata) on a specific page. This allows you to granularly target content that is most relevant to your brand, product, or service.

You can also use keywords to exclude pages that relate to specific terms. When you use keyword targeting to exclude pages, Display & Video 360 will also exclude any pages for which the context can't be determined. 

Overall, keyword targeting can help you expand or narrow reach based on relevancy, but it isn't intended to be used as brand safety targeting.

Keyword and category targeting is based on a page’s content. Pages are frequently crawled and reclassified to reflect any content changes using technology that tracks dynamicity and traffic, ensuring targeting matches content with high confidence. Highest performance is expected on high-impression inventory with a clear set of themes or topics that are consistent over time. 

Target or exclude keywords

To target or exclude keywords, open a line item or insertion order, then navigate to Targeting and then Keywords.

To quickly target (or exclude) multiple keywords at once, click the Bulk add button and then paste in a comma-separated or new line-separated list of keywords.

You can also save keywords you regularly exclude to a negative keyword list, which you can then easily exclude in your line items' targeting. See Negative keyword lists below for more information.

Considerations when targeting keywords

  1. Phrase matching: Single keywords can be comprised of more than one word. For example, "ski hat" would be considered a single keyword.

  2. Automatic pluralization, canonicalization, and synonym matching: 

    • Display & Video 360 will automatically target plural versions of your keywords. Thus, if you target "ski hat", Display & Video 360 will also target "ski hats".

    • Display & Video 360 will automatically canonicalize multiple word keywords. For example, if you target "ski hat", Display & Video 360 will also target "hat ski". (When this happens to your targeting, it'll show up as "CONTEXTUAL_KEYWORD_CANONICALIZATION" in your line item or insertion order's history.)

      More about keyword canonicalization

      Using exact keywords can erroneously miss matches between advertisers and publishers when keywords are different but semantically equivalent. Adding canonicalization of keywords reduces missed matches and improves coverage. For example, "travel london", "travel in london" and "london travel" all canonicalize to "london travel". With canonicalized keyword matching, only one of the three keywords needs to be targeted to achieve the same audience and reach as adding all three. Without canonicalization, all three keywords need to be targeted.

    • With Google Ad Manager inventory, Display & Video 360 will use Google's machine learning to automatically target synonyms that are contextually related to the keywords you've targeted. So, for example, if you've positively targeted "ice cream" and you don't want to automatically target "sorbet", make sure you've entered "sorbet" in your negative keyword targeting.

  3. Misspellings: Display & Video 360 won't automatically expand your keywords into misspellings. Therefore, we suggest you manually add any common misspellings to increase your line items' reach.

  4. Impact to reach: Adding keywords will likely result in more sites where your ads can serve. Similarly, removing keywords will likely reduce the number of sites where your ads can serve.

  5. Line item latency: If you add additional keywords to an active line item, it may take 1–2 days before Display & Video 360 will be able to change your line item's bidding accordingly.

  6. Keyword latency: If you target keywords for new subject matter (for instance, keywords related to recent news), it may take Display & Video 360 one or more days before the keyword is targetable. 

  7. Disallowed symbols: If you are using special symbols for keyword matching in order to broaden or narrow searches, note that the following symbols are not valid: , . ! @ % ^ () = {} ; ~ ` <> ? \ | “ [] {} +

    • TrueView line items can still use the following special symbols for matching: " [] +

Get suggestions for keywords to target

Click the Request Suggestions button on the Contextual Keywords page to get a list of keywords based on the advertiser's landing page. If you've already set some keyword targeting, the suggested keywords will also include keywords related to words you've already entered.

Considerations when excluding keywords

  1. Contextual relevancy: Negative keywords only prevent ads from serving when the negative keywords are determined to be central to the topic of the webpage or app. For example, if your negative keyword list includes the word “sex”, your ad could still run on a webpage containing the word “sex” if the focus of the webpage is high school education.

  2. Keyword limits: 

    • Display and video line items can exclude a combined total of 25,000 keywords, using up to 5,000 individual keywords and up to 4 negative keyword lists (at up to 5,000 keywords per list).

    • YouTube ad groups can exclude up to 5,000 individual keywords.

  3. Manually enter alternate forms: Excluded keywords aren't automatically pluralized and canonicalized. Please explicitly enter any pluralizations or other forms of any keywords you want to exclude.

  4. Misspellings: Display & Video 360 won't automatically expand your excluded keywords into synonyms or misspellings. 

  5. Impact to reach: Excluding keywords will reduce the number of sites where your ads can serve. This may or may not impact reach, based on how broad or narrow your other targeting controls are.

  6. Latency: If you exclude new keywords in an active line item, it may take 1–2 days before Display & Video 360 will be able to change your line item's bidding accordingly.

  7. Disallowed symbols: The following symbols are either ignored or invalid when used with negative keywords: , . ! @ % ^ () = {} ; ~ ` <> ? \ | “ [] {} +

Negative keyword lists

If you frequently exclude the same keywords, you can save time by saving them as a negative keyword list which you can then exclude. Negative keyword lists are useful as a way to group keywords you want to exclude, much in the same way channels are useful as collections of websites or apps which can be targeted as a group. 

Create a negative keyword list

You can create a negative keyword list in your advertiser's Channels & Keywords.

  1. Start in your advertiser, then navigate to Resources and then Channels & Keywords in the left menu.
  2. Click the Negative keywords tab, then click New list.
  3. Enter a name for your list.
  4. Enter keywords, one per line or separated by commas.

    Each negative keyword list can contain up to 5,000 keywords.

  5. Click Save once you're done building your list.

 Now you can select your negative keyword list by clicking to Targeting and then Keywords and then Exclude in your line items.​


  • Line items can target up to 4 negative keyword lists.
  • Advertisers can create up to 20 negative keyword lists.
  • Negative keyword lists are supported at the line item level for YouTube & partners but not at the ad group level. 
  • The following symbols are either ignored or invalid when used with negative keyword lists: , . ! @ % ^ () = {} ; ~ ` <> ? \ | “ [] {} +
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