Matching the most relevant keyword to every search

September 23, 2021

What consumers want and how they search for it is constantly changing. In fact, we see billions of searches every day, and 15% of those queries are ones we haven’t seen before1. To help you reach these new, relevant searches while still meeting your performance goals, we recommend using broad match paired with Smart Bidding. On average, advertisers that switch their exact match keywords to broad match can see more conversions2 and a higher conversion value3.

Over the past year, we’ve made it easier to find success with this strategy by improving broad match relevance, recommending new opportunities to switch to broad match, and making keyword matching more predictable. However, we’ve also heard that you want higher quality and more control over which keywords match to a search. That’s why we’re rolling out new improvements based on this feedback, including improved understanding of search intent and more predictability in how keywords match.

Improved understanding of language and intent

It can be challenging to understand the intent behind each search, especially for long, complex search queries. Since 2019, our research team has made significant improvements in how we interpret language, queries, and search intent—and your keywords now use this same technology to connect you with more people that are searching for what you have to offer.  

Since your broad match keyword can match to a variety of queries, this technology is particularly useful for broad match. For example, a highly specific query like “1995 5 speed transmission seal input shaft” is now able to match with the broad match keyword auto parts because we can tell they’re related, even though none of the words in the query and in the keyword actually match. This means that broad match can now help you find more relevant, high-performing traffic using fewer keywords.

More predictability in how keywords match

There are times when multiple keywords are eligible to match with a search. This may have led to searches matching with keywords you thought were less relevant, making it more difficult to provide the right experience for your customers. To make sure the most relevant keyword is selected when this happens, we’ve made the following improvements: 

When a search is identical to one of your keywords 

Earlier this year, we announced that an exact match keyword that is identical to a query is now always preferred as long as it’s eligible to match4. Going forward, both phrase and broad match keywords will follow the same behavior.

For example, let’s say someone searches for “sushi delivery near me”, and you have the broad match keywords sushi delivery and sushi delivery near me. Before this update, both of these keywords would be eligible to serve. Now, the keyword sushi delivery near me is preferred because it is identical to the search term. Note that if you have an eligible exact match keyword that is identical to the query, it will still be preferred over the phrase and broad match keyword.

When a search is not identical to any of your keywords 

Previously, when you had multiple keywords that were eligible to match and none were identical to the search, your Ad Rank would determine which keyword served. Now, we consider relevance signals in addition to Ad Rank when determining which keyword is selected. Relevance is determined by looking at the meaning of the search term, the meaning of all the keywords in the ad group, and the landing pages within the ad group. Here’s how it works: 

Keywords that are eligible

How keywords are selected

More than one broad match keyword

Only relevant broad match keywords from the most relevant ad groups will be considered. Ad Rank is then used to decide which keyword will be selected among this narrow set of broad match keywords with similar relevance.

One broad match keyword and one exact match / phrase match keyword

If you have exact match or phrase match keywords that are deemed more relevant than these broad match keywords, the exact or phrase match keyword will be selected.

If you have exact match or phrase match keywords that are deemed similar or less relevant than these broad match keywords, there is still a chance the exact or phrase match keyword will be selected if it has a higher Ad Rank. 

More than one exact match / phrase match keyword

If you have multiple exact and/or phrase match keywords eligible and no broad match keywords eligible, the keyword with the higher Ad Rank will be selected.

Going back to the previous example, let’s say someone now searches for “quick sushi delivery near me”, and you have the phrase match keyword “fast sushi delivery” and the broad match keyword food delivery. In this instance, the phrase match keyword will be selected because it’s more relevant, even if it has a lower Ad Rank than the broad match keyword.  

These rules ensure that the most relevant keyword will always be prioritized, so you can more easily use broad match and still maintain control. Learn more about how a keyword is selected in the Google Ads Help Center. Going forward, we recommend you group keywords into thematically consistent ad groups so your ads will serve from the ad group you expect them to. For example, let’s say your business offers food delivery, and your most popular search categories are sushi and pizza delivery. In this case, we’d recommend three ad groups so you can tailor your creative and landing page: one for “sushi delivery”, another for “pizza delivery”, and a third for “food delivery”. 

These improvements give you more control over which keyword matches to a search, particularly when using broad match. It can also help reduce account complexity: by prioritizing the most relevant keyword for every search, there’s no need to do extra work to control where traffic goes in your account. Also note that when you use broad match with Smart Bidding, there’s no benefit to using the same keywords in multiple match types. Broad match already covers the same queries and improves performance with real-time bid optimization.  


SelectBlinds logo
Historically, ecommerce retailer SelectBlinds relied on exact match for their non-brand keywords. With a longer buying cycle, the brand found that they needed to generate demand early and nurture it to a conversion. To do this, they adopted broad match with a Target ROAS bid strategy to reach customers at scale and drive performance, leading to a 33% increase in revenue year over year. 


Fashion retailer Mey & Edlich wanted to grow revenue in their Search campaigns in an efficient way. To do this, the brand turned to automation. After finding success with Smart Bidding and responsive search ads, they tested broad match to ensure they showed up for more relevant searches. This combination helped them reach more people with the right message at the right bid, leading to a 204% increase in revenue at a 24% higher ROAS. 

Get started by checking your Recommendations page, where you can easily test this strategy with drafts and experiments. If you’re using Smart Bidding, we’ll show you which of your existing keywords are likely to perform better as broad match.

Posted by Walter Vulej, Product Manager, Google Ads


1. Google Data, July 2019
2. Advertisers that switch their exact match keywords to broad match in Target CPA campaigns can see 35% more conversions (Google Internal Data, July 2021)
3. Advertisers that switch their exact match keywords to broad match in Target ROAS campaigns can see 20% more conversion value (Google Internal Data, July 2021)
4. Identical queries account for spelling corrections. Reasons a keyword may not be eligible include being budget constrained, being marked “low search volume”, disapproved creatives, or other criteria are not satisfied (such as device or location).

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