Phrase Matching: Google Ads vs Microsoft Ads

It really does matter how you say what you say when you say what you want to say

When tracking performance of your ads across multiple search platforms you may be surprised to discover that the same strategy used across multiple platforms won’t work the same. In particular Bing and Google Ads have very different behaviours when it comes to phrase matching. Delving into the data on these differences can help you as a PPC marketer to tailor your campaigns and deliver the results your clients expect.

Let’s have a look at a couple of examples and see how simple tweaks can improve the overall performance of an ad.


Google Ads

Big dog, sharp bite

Google is the largest search platform in the world. More searches are performed using Google services on both desktop and mobile than the combined total of the rest of the world’s search engines combined. With this absolute firehose of search activity, Google has to streamline how they serve up both content and ads.

A potential stumbling block in Google Ads is one of the main caveats to this targeting method: phrase match allows a keyword to trigger your ad to show only when someone searches for your exact keyword phrase, or close variations of your exact keyword phrase, with potentially other words before or after that phrase. Close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, verb forms of a noun (such as roof vs roofing), and abbreviations.

This means that phrase match in Google Ads serves up your ad ONLY if the keywords are searched for in the correct order. A search for “car rentals” will not serve up your ad if you’ve set your phrase match to be “rental cars”, for example. It’s important that you recognize this constraint and work with it to set your phrase match criteria accordingly.

Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

Bing Ads

Scrappy, lovable, and forgiving

Bing is the world’s second largest search engine. Though it’s the default search engine for Windows, Bing deals with search volume an order of magnitude smaller than Google. Though this may look like a serious disadvantage, the reduced volume actually makes your job easier as search ad targeting criteria tends to be less rigorous and allows you to more quickly and comprehensively set up ad groups that target your market effectively.

Microsoft Ads doesn’t care what order your phrase match search terms are in. Our earlier phrase match of “car rentals” will serve up ads on searches for “rental cars”, “vehicle rentals”, “rental vehicles”, and even “short term rental cars”. This broader reach helps to make up for the reduced volume by intelligently grouping search terms with similar results.

Using this knowledge, you can now set up your phrase match targeting in Google and Bing to target similar search term groups. Make sure to test your tweaks by using Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool and Microsoft’s Ad Preview Tool.

Have a question about phrase matching? Think there’s something I missed? Want to point out an extremely pedantic yet technically correct error in this article and show us all how smart you are? Comment below to gain direct access to my earballs and get a response from the Adwords Girl herself!

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