SEO & PPC Monthly Roundup for January 2019
November 15, 2023

Difference Between Keywords & Search Queries In PPC

Written by: 
Mark Subel

When it comes to PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, the key to success is maximizing your efficiency and understanding exactly how keywords and search queries can work together. Before you dive into the world of pay-per-click, it's important to understand the differences between keywords and search queries. Here is a break down of the main distinctions between these two tools and how you can use them in your marketing strategy.

What Are Keywords?

Keywords are the terms or phrases that you want to your ad to show up for in the search engines. When someone searches for a keyword that you've targeted, your ad has the chance to appear. These are the actual keywords you put into Google Ads to tell them the keywords you want to show up for when someone is searching Google. 

Targeting the right keywords is essential for any successful PPC campaign. But it's not enough to just target keywords - you also need to make sure that your ads are relevant to the searcher's query. If your ad isn't relevant, it won't matter how good your keywords are - you're not going to get clicks or conversions.

What are Search Queries?

Search queries are the actual terms that people type into search engines when they are looking for something. A search query is what a user types into a search engine and keywords are the phrases you have selected to have your ads shown for in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Keyword Targeting

Targeting the right keywords is essential for any pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, but it is only part of the puzzle. Once you have targeted a group of keywords, you need to make sure that your ads and landing pages are relevant to those keywords. Otherwise, you will end up paying for clicks that don't lead to conversions.

To ensure that your ads and landing pages are relevant to your keywords, you need to perform keyword research. This research will help you understand how people are searching for your products or services and what kinds of keywords they are using. With this information, you can then create ads and landing pages that are tailored to their needs.

Keyword research can be performed using a variety of tools, including Google Ads Keyword Planner and Google Trends. There are also a number of third-party tools available that can help with this process. Once you have gathered a list of relevant keywords, you can then start creating your ad groups and targeting these keywords.

Difference between Keywords and Search Queries

When it comes to online marketing, the terms “keywords” and “search queries” are often used interchangeably. However, there is a big difference between keywords and search queries that you need to understand in order to create an effective PPC campaign.

Keywords are the foundation of your PPC campaign and should be given careful consideration. Keywords are the terms or phrases that you want your ad to show up for when someone searches on Google or another search engine.

When choosing keywords, you should think about what potential customers might search for when looking for a business like yours. For example, pet store owners may target keywords like “dog toys”, “cat food”, and “reptile supplies”.  

Once you have chosen your keywords, you need to create ads that are relevant to those keywords and include them in your ad text. Your ads will only show up when someone searches for one of your keywords, so it’s important to choose keywords that are closely related to what you offer.

Search queries are the actual terms that people type into the search engine when they are looking for something. Search queries can be very specific, long-tail keyword phrases that include multiple words (e.g., “where to buy dog food online”) or they can be more general single-word terms (e.g., “pets”). They do need to relate to your keywords, but can vary more widely than your keywords.

Examples of Keywords and Search Queries

Here are some examples of keyword match types you can utilize in your PPC campaigns and how they are used:

  • Broad match keywords – these are keywords that are matched to a range of different potential searches. For example, a broad match keyword for a car company might be "cars". This would then be matched to any searches containing the word "cars", such as "buy cars", "used cars", "car reviews", etc.
  • Phrase match keywords – these are slightly more specific than broad match keywords, and are only matched to searches that contain the particular phrase of the keyword. So, using the same example as above, a phrase match keyword for the car company would be "buy cars". This would only be matched to searches containing the phrase "buy cars", such as "where can I buy cars?".
  • Exact match keywords – these are the most specific type of keyword, and are only matched to searches that contain the exact keyword, with no other words before or after it. So, using our car company example again, an exact match keyword would be [buy cars]. This would only be matched to the search query "buy cars", and not any other variation like "where can I buy cars?", "which car should I buy?", etc.*
    • *While this used to be the case, Google’s use of “EXACT” match keywords is no longer exactly they phrase you state. Google’s algorithm can match exact match keywords now to longer tail phrases more similar to the aforementioned phrase match scenario. It’s still important to grasp the concept of exact match, but know that Google doesn’t use it in its true sense anymore.
  • Negative keywords – these are words or phrases that you can specify to prevent your ad from being triggered by certain terms. For example, if you are selling shoes and you add "free" as a negative keyword, your ad will not be shown to people who search for "free shoes." This can be useful if you want to exclude certain terms that are not relevant to your business, or if you want to avoid certain types of searchers (e.g., people looking for free products).

Make the Most of Your PPC Campaigns by Understanding How to Effectively Use These Terms

There is a distinct difference between keywords and search queries in PPC. Keywords are the terms that advertisers use to target their ads while search queries are the words or phrases used by users when searching online. Understanding and utilizing both of these components is key to developing effective targeted campaigns in PPC marketing.