November 9, 2023 Joshua Ruskin

How Search Terms Work on Google Ads in 2024

In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, Google Ads continues to play a pivotal role in helping businesses reach their target audience and drive valuable traffic to their websites. As we enter 2023, Google Ads has undergone significant changes, with new features and updates being rolled out to enhance campaign performance and ad relevance. 

From its origins as a basic advertising platform, it has evolved into an advanced tool harnessing artificial intelligence and machine learning. These enhancements let advertisers craft precise campaigns, make the most of their ad budget, and connect with potential customers more effectively.

One way this could be achieved is by refining and optimizing search terms. But what are search terms?

In simple terms, search terms are the words or phrases users type on Google when looking for information or products to buy. Google Ads lets advertisers bid on these search terms and show fitting ads to audiences making those searches. Grasping how these search terms work in Google Ads helps advertisers ensure their ads pop up for the right people at the right time.

That said, they play a crucial role in maximizing the potential of ads from the account itself to the campaigns and the ad group level. 

Search Terms and Ad Groups

In Google Ads, search terms are associated with ad groups. Ad groups are categories that contain a set of related keywords and ads. When a user’s search query matches the search terms in an ad group, Google Ads triggers the corresponding ads to appear in the search results. Structuring ad groups effectively and choosing relevant search terms to optimize ad performance is essential.

Search Terms and Campaigns

Search terms also play a crucial role in campaign management on Google Ads. Advertisers can create different campaigns targeting specific audiences or products/services. By selecting appropriate search terms for each campaign, advertisers can ensure that their ads are displayed to users most likely interested in their offerings. This level of granularity helps improve ad relevancy and generate better results.

Search Terms and Account Types

Different types of Google Ads accounts, such as standard accounts and smart campaigns, have varying levels of control over search terms. Standard accounts offer greater flexibility, allowing advertisers to choose and bid on search terms directly. On the other hand, smart campaigns are more automated, where Google’s algorithms determine the search terms and bids based on the campaign’s goals. Understanding the search term dynamics for different account types is crucial for optimizing ad performance.

Recent Updates and Changes

Google Ads has introduced several updates and changes in 2023 to enhance the search term experience for advertisers. Here are some notable ones:

Privacy Sandbox Beta Testing

Google Ads product teams are evaluating the Beta privacy sandbox on Android, which aims to ensure user privacy while delivering personalized ads. Advertisers can expect improved targeting options and increased transparency in user data handling.

Generative AI Features

Google Marketing Live 2023 unveiled new generative AI features for Google Ads, including Performance Max and Product Studio. These features simplify campaign management and enable advertisers to effortlessly create highly customized and engaging ads.

Discontinuation of ‘Search Interest’ Targeting

Effective March 2023, Google Ads has discontinued ‘Search interest’ targeting and ‘Presence or interest’ exclusion. This change aims to align with the evolving cookieless future and provide a more privacy-centric advertising environment.

New Reporting Columns

Google Ads has introduced new reporting columns that provide deeper insights into ad performance, customer behavior, and ROI. Advertisers can leverage these metrics to make data-driven decisions and optimize their campaigns effectively.

Optimizing Search Terms for Better Results

Advertisers should optimize their keyword selection and bidding strategies to make the most out of search terms on Google Ads. Let’s take the example of a digital marketing agency offering SEO services. Here are some dos and don’ts for optimizing search terms in this scenario:


  • Focus on specific keywords related to SEO, such as “SEO services,” “SEO agency,” or “on-page optimization.”
  • Use keyword match types (broad match, phrase match, and exact match) strategically to control the reach and relevancy of your ads.
  • Regularly monitor search term reports to identify new and negative keywords that can enhance ad relevance and filter out irrelevant traffic.
  • Test different bidding strategies, such as manual bidding or automated bidding, to find the approach that yields the best results for your campaign.


  • Rely solely on broad match keywords, as they may trigger your ads for unrelated queries and drain your budget.
  • Overlook negative keywords. Adding negative keywords helps prevent your ads from appearing for irrelevant search queries, saving you money and improving ad relevancy.