How to Handle Duplicate Keywords in Paid Search Campaigns

Duplicate Keywords cause two general problems: wasted money, and wasted effort. Here's how to find them, and fix them.

It’s tempting to let paid search campaigns go onto autopilot. This temptation grows larger the longer you work on a campaign. After awhile—maybe after a few months—it’s natural to feel like there isn’t much more you can do. Sure, there are some seasonal things you can do, or you know that after two months you should revisit ad copy, etc. But that week-to-week drive to dig into the campaign begins to dissipate.

Paid Search and The Law of Diminishing Returns

The law of diminishing returns states that the effort you put into something does not always create equal value later. Meaning that over time, the same effort you put in nets less results. This feeling can set in on paid search campaigns. When you build and launch a new campaign, there is new data to consider and ad matches to analyze. But after awhile, the campaign starts to hum along and any changes seem minor in comparison, and the returns from those changes seem small, too. You’ve sorted out the major negative keywords, for example, so the changes you introduce yield smaller outcomes. It take professional discipline to keep up the rigor.

The Rise of Duplicate Keywords in Paid Search

Let’s be honest with each other here: the easiest (laziest?) task in paid search is to click on the “Add Keywords” icon in Google Ads, and start adding whatever terms Google suggests. It takes five minutes, and then you can tell your client/boss you did something.

But you really didn’t do any keyword analysis, did you?

By doing this you could accidentally, albeit easily, add duplicate keywords to your campaign. Google isn’t paying attention for you: it’s just listing out keywords that match the general subject matter of that AdGroup. The Add Keyword tool is not taking into account if that keyword is already in another AdGroup or not.

The Real Issue with Duplicate Keywords in Paid Search

Duplicate Keywords cause two general problems: wasted money, and wasted effort. If you have duplicate keywords in different AdGroups, you are—to a degree—bidding against yourself. Google has to make a determination on which AdGroup the searched keyword should direct toward. In other words, it’s treating your competing AdGroups like competing brands—trying to decide which one ranks above another.

This creates havoc on your CPC costs. Based on which landing page any AdGroup points to, your duplicate keywords could have different Quality Scores which means different CPCs.

The Ad Copy Problem

Duplicate keywords are a fast way to confuse your target audience by showing them ad copy that does not match their search intent. Since AdGroups have different ad copy—which they all should because that’s the point, after all—you have less control over which ad someone is seeing when they search for that duplicated keyword. Are they seeing the ad from AdGroup one, or AdGroup two? You lose the ability to present concise ad copy and direct them to the best landing page, and creates wasted effort. And, you may not get the chance to engage with that searcher again.

How to Find and Fix Duplicate Keywords

Luckily finding and fixing duplicate words is as super easy.

  1. Login to Google Ads and select a campaign. It’s important to stay at the campaign level view.
  2. Click on Keywords in the sub-navigation.
  3. Sort by Keyword, A-Z.

This will give you an easy view of every keyword in your that campaign, across all ADGroups. By sorting them A-Z, duplicates will stick out.

When you see a duplicate, you can quickly make a decision as to which AdGroup should be the rightful owner of that term.

The Benefits of Removing Duplicate Keywords

Now that you have removed all the duplicates across your campaigns, you should see a number of positive effect in your campaign.

Increased Click-Thru Rate. Now that you are sure the searcher is seeing the best ad for that keywords, click-thru rates should increase.

Lower Avg. CPC. If you use a bid management system, or Google’s own bid manager, the consolidated impressions on a keywords provides clear information for the intelligent bidding systems to do their job more effectively.

Less Audience Confusion. Now that you don’t have multiple AdGroups competing for a term, your target audience is seeing the most relevant ad you can show them. This results in more engagement, a lower bounce rate, and a higher chance at conversions.