Why Keywords Won’t be as Important for Paid Search Campaigns in 2020

Finding keywords

Are keywords becoming extinct? A thing of the past… Ye olde memory… “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know”

Once upon a time, keywords and their match type were fundamental to the success of paid search campaigns. But long gone are the days of building search campaigns with keyword research only! These days, advertisers have a wide range of targeting tools to play with that don’t include keywords which leaves us wondering… what keywords?

Audience targeting 

Google has been developing their search network audience targeting for several years now. In the past, advertisers had to rely on demographics and affinities provided by Google.

Since then, we’ve been introduced to a wider range of targeting options for search campaigns, including remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) and customer match. More recently, advertisers have been able to find new customers using similar audiences for search campaigns and connect with people who are actively researching and comparing products and services with in-market audiences which has now extended to search campaigns.

Similar Audiences for Search

Similar audiences for search is a powerful targeting tool which helps you to reach new people that are likely to be interested in your product or service because their searching behaviour is similar to those in your remarketing list.

In-market Audiences for Search

In-market audiences help you identify and connect with potential customers who are actively researching or comparing products.

Advanced audience targeting options mean that we no longer depend on keywords to get our ads in front of potential customers

Close Variants

Google started introducing close variants back in 2018 to include words that have the same meaning as the targeted keyword. This was first applied across phrase match and broad match keywords, however, in July, Google continued to expand close variants to further the reach of exact match keywords too.

Let’s say that you’re using the exact match keyword [loft conversion cost]. Your ads may show on other terms       [loft conversion price]. Not too bad. But what about search terms like the examples below taken from an actual account:

Paid Search Campaign Search Term

Bicycle for work scheme’ is not nearly the search term we were hoping to trigger our ads for, so we’ve added the relevant negatives to filter out any unwanted traffic. This can become increasingly frustrating with more long-tail keywords, especially after putting in all that effort doing thorough keyword research. You don’t want to be targeting the keyword “buy multicoloured women’s trousers in Nottingham” and show up for search terms like ‘purchase colourful ladies slacks from Notts’.

The meaning of a match type is becoming very much distorted and keywords are fundamentally dying. This is because the definition of match types continues to expand to the point where advertisers have less control over the actual keywords that will trigger search terms.

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs)

Google first rolled out Dynamic Search Ads back in 2011 and has been expanding this feature ever since. The latest development in Dynamic Search Ads back in September 2018, means you can now run DSAs exclusively on landing pages from your standard ad groups with a simple set up.

Dynamic Search Ads have the ability to reach additional traffic by promoting your business to more customers than you would reach with keyword-based campaigns. They use content pulled from your website to target your ads rather than keywords. This results in highly relevant, dynamically generated headlines produced easily and quickly. This is great for targeting lower funnel, high intent audience’s. Expect high click-through rates and better quality scores!

dynamic search ad

However,  DSAs can produce poorly constructed headlines, specifically for poorly optimised websites. So, if you’re thinking of using these, ensure that your website is well constructed with accurately labeled meta tags and titles.

Lack of control can be a concern here as you don’t have a say in which queries are matched. This can be a nightmare for fellow advertising control freaks who thoroughly govern their adverts.

Furthermore, It can also be argued that DSAs don’t always find the best keywords as they often pull in irrelevant long-tail queries. Safe to say you’ll need to keep on top of your negative keywords!

Nevertheless, dynamic search ads are here to stay and continue to develop as a keyword management tool to expand your search advertising beyond keywords.


Shopping ads have become essential for eCommerce retailers over the years, representing 37% of total search spend share according to MarinOnes Q2 2019 report.

google shopping ads

Google Shopping ads Q2, 2019

Google Shopping has (for some time) been the fastest growing advertising channel for online retailers. Although the search query a user types in is still important, shopping campaigns do not require keywords as they are based on product targeting. 

For retail advertisers, shopping ads continue to overshadow text ads when it comes to paid search, which has significantly reduced the relevance of keywords for a large number of retail advertisers.

As more resources are being developed to optimise Google Shopping, there’s no doubt in my mind that it will continue to be the go-to platform for most online retailers. Although competitors such as Amazon are proving to be an increasingly fierce competitor!

Are keywords becoming extinct?

Okay, so perhaps extinct is a slight exaggeration but certainly, Google is pushing new products and targeting options, making keywords feel like a thing of the past.

  • New audience targeting options means less dependency on using keywords.
  • Close variants mean that the definition of a keyword match type is expanding, resulting in ads being triggered for keywords that advertisers do not expect. 
  • Dynamic Search Ads develop and continue to expand your search advertising beyond keywords.
  • The rise of shopping means that more money is being spent here than on keyword-based search campaigns.

Keywords used to be the core of our campaigns but as the world of advertising develops, they are beginning to take a back seat. Needless to say, that for many advertisers keyword-based search campaigns still remain their bread and butter, but for how much longer?  

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