About similar keywords in a Google Ads account

Your ads are eligible to appear when one of your keywords matches a user’s search term on Google or on search partner sites.

But within one account, you might have multiple keywords that are similar or overlap in meaning, and could all match a given search term. For example, you might have the keywords plumber course and plumber training course in the same ad group, and both could match the search term training course for plumbers. Only one of those keywords can trigger an ad for the search term.

This article explains what happens when your account has multiple keywords that could match the same search term from an individual ad group or from different ad groups in the same account.

Note: If multiple keywords from the same account are eligible to match the same search term they do not compete with each other in the auction. The set of preferences detailed below determines which keyword is used to enter an ad into an auction. Once the ad enters the auction, it’s then compared with ads from other advertisers, and your cost-per-click is what's minimally required to clear the Ad Rank thresholds and beat the Ad Rank of the competitor immediately below you (if any).

How a keyword is selected

If your account contains several keywords that could match a search term, the preferences below are used to determine which keyword is used to enter an ad into an auction.

1. An exact match keyword that’s identical to the search term

If you have an exact match keyword that is identical to the search term, this keyword is preferred for triggering an ad. This is true even if there are other keywords in your account that are similar to the search term.

Example Let's say the search term is plumber course and your account includes the exact match keywords [plumber course] and [plumber training course] as well as the phrase match keyword “plumber course”. In this example, the exact match keyword [plumber course] is preferred because it’s exact match and identical to the search term plumber course.

2. An exact match keyword that’s identical to the spell corrected search term

If an exact match keyword in your account is identical to the spell corrected search term, this keyword will be preferred. Spell corrected search terms can typically be identified if the Google Search Results page offers “Showing results for“ with the corrected term.

Note: Even if your account includes broad match and phrase match keywords that are identical to the misspelled search term, the exact match keyword is still preferred in this case.
If the search term is plumbrs, and your account includes the exact match keyword [plumbers] and the broad match keyword plumbrs, then the exact match keyword is preferred, even though there is a broad match keyword that matches the query exactly.

3. The keyword that has the highest Ad Rank

When several keywords match a search term, the keyword with the highest Ad Rank is preferred for triggering an ad.


Let’s say you have these keywords in your account.

Keyword Ad Rank
"plumber course" 1.5
[plumber certification course] 1

For the search term certified plumber course, the phrase match keyword “plumber course” will be preferred because it has a higher Ad Rank than the exact match keyword [plumber certification course]. The exact match keyword [plumber certification course] is not preferred because it is not an identical match to the search term or the spell corrected search term.

Exception to preferences

A campaign is limited by budget

Your campaign's daily budget can affect whether the preferences above are applied. If a keyword is in a budget-restricted campaign, which means that the campaign's budget isn't high enough to accrue all possible traffic, the keyword won't always be able to trigger an ad even if it otherwise could. This helps prevent the campaign from greatly exceeding its budget. Learn more about how you can avoid a depleted average daily budget


Let's say your campaigns are called "Clogged Sinks" and "Broken Water Heater." In your "Clogged Sinks" campaign, you have the exact match keyword plumber, and in your "Broken Water Heater" campaign, you have the broad match keyword plumber.

All else being equal, the exact match keyword in your "Clogged Sinks" campaign would trigger an ad when someone searched for the term plumber because it has a higher preference. However, if your "Clogged Sinks" campaign is budget-restricted, then the exact match keyword in this campaign would sometimes be unable to trigger an ad. This means the broad match keyword in your "Broken Water Heater" campaign could trigger an ad instead.

One of your keywords isn’t eligible to trigger an ad

There may be times when the preferences above don’t apply because a keyword isn’t eligible to trigger an ad. These reasons include:

  • A keyword has low search volume status. This is a status given to a keyword that has very little to no search history on Google. Keywords with this status are temporarily inactive and won’t trigger ads. So, if you have a low search volume keyword, you’ll see a different keyword triggering an ad for a matching search term, even if according to the preferences above, your low-search volume keyword should have been the one to trigger the ad.
  • All creatives and/or landing pages for the ad group are disapproved.
  • Not all campaign or ad group targeting are satisfied. For example, if an ad group with an eligible keyword is targeting a specific location, and the user search term that matches that keyword is not in that location, then that keyword would not be able to serve.

Keywords and Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads are equivalent to non-exact keywords for selection preference. This means if an exact match keyword is not preferred based on the above rules, Dynamic Search Ads are selected based on the highest Ad Rank in comparison to other non-exact keywords in the account. The same exceptions to preferences apply. Learn more About Dynamic Search Ads.

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