Semantic Search

How Semantic Search Technology is Changing the Google Advertising Landscape

Gone are the days where tailoring your keywords for the sake of search engine results required considerable effort. With the term “machine-learning” thrown around so much these days, it’s not surprising that Google’s algorithms keep up the pace to match. With semantic search technology, Google’s search engine will rack up much more relevant results not based on the individual keywords you input, but on the intent of the sentence itself.

So, what does this mean to Google advertisers out there? How is the process of advertising affected and what should be done in order to keep reeling in a desirable amount of traffic? Keep reading this article as we uncover the facts about semantic search technology.

What is Semantic Search Technology?

To put it simply, semantic search technology allows a search engine to include context and user intent into the equation – as opposed to the old way of understanding keywords word-by-word.

This helps the search engine to fathom what users are trying to say in a conversational level and to come up with the accurate predictions on which answer to display.

Thanks to semantic search technology, the answers Google provides are more personalized than ever, bringing together synonyms, error spelling recognition, relevant suggestions, and most importantly, answering the user’s question.

Let’s say you’re looking for information on the birthday of your favorite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio – you’ll probably come up with the key phrase “When was Leo DiCaprio born?”.


Search Technology result


As you can see, the result shows exactly what the searcher is looking for – which is the date when an American actor, Leonardi DiCaprio, was born. Alongside the date, Google also shows other semantic related information such as his full name, his parents, the movies he starred in, his social media profiles, and much more.

Semantic search technology allows Google to display relevant answers and understand what the searcher intends to look for – by identifying the habits of previous searchers of the same keyword and coming up with an accurate prediction.

Hard-wired results Google was known for giving is no longer true and becomes much more dynamic, in return digital knowledge-seeking takes a turn for the better.

How Is Google Advertising Affected?

This new shift in algorithm opens up many chances to think of a new approach when it comes to Google Advertising strategies. Back then, it was understandable that your ad may fail to show up in result pages due to a different input of a key phrase or using a differently ordered sentence.

Now, thanks to semantic search technology, Google is able to show your ads to the searchers who type in the close variants to your keyword. Let’s say the keyword you set on your Google Ad is “buy groceries online”, these variants will be also triggered:

  • Synonyms – “purchase groceries online”
  • Stemming – “buying groceries online”
  • Mixed order – “online groceries buy”
  • Addition of other words – “where to buy groceries online in 2019”
  • Common misspelling – “buy groceries online”
  • Variants of function word – “buy the groceries online”
  • Plural or singular – “buy a grocery online”

Throwing close variants to the mix means that a keyword you make is now able to trigger your Google Ads to show up in a whole wider array of queries – reaching a higher audience than ever before.

So, how to properly turn this into your advantage? Let’s talk about how each type of query works. After that, we’ll discuss how to use them to give you an edge in advertising.

There are mainly two query types that advertisers can use to extend their reach to a bigger audience.

1. Broad Match Query

The broad match query is aimed to seek a wider range of audiences because it’s not too specific on answering a certain problem, but rather to trigger the ads to show each time the keyword and the user intent are matched.

To explain it better, let’s use a similar example we have used earlier. Let’s say you set a broad query like “groceries online” in your PPC campaign.

Here’s what happens when Google uses syntactical search opposed to a semantic search – your ad won’t show if the keyphrase doesn’t contain the word “groceries” and “online”.

Since semantic is looking for what the keyword implies, searchers will see your ad when they put in any keyword variation related to the content you provide such as “get provisions online”, “grocery delivery”, “online grocery solution” – including long-tailed keywords such as “where to buy groceries online in 2019”.

(Note: Although, the fact that it also targets long-tailed keywords may give you trouble – but more on that in a minute.)

Those have a completely different word order and phrasing, right? However, as long as they have matching intent with your query, Google will show your ad.

2. Exact Match Query

Different from the broad match query, the exact match query will not trigger results from the addition of words before or after the main query – which means this won’t target long-tailed keywords. This may not give you the ability to reach a wider audience, but it’ll help you target the specified keyword search – allowing you to get a hold of a more definite audience.

Don’t worry though, thanks to semantic search technology, your ad will also appear when the searcher uses the close variants of your query when they misspell the keyword.

To demonstrate, let’s say you have the query “dinner cooking tips”. So long as any alteration in the keyword such as reorder, synonyms, or paraphrasing doesn’t affect the intent of the search, your ad will show up. Take a look at the example below.

  • “Cooking tips dinner” (reorder)
  • “Tips for dinner cooking” (adding a function word)
  • “Supper cooking tips” (close variation with the same meaning)

Tips on Getting Benefit from Semantic Search Technology

After getting the idea of how semantic search affects the process of matching query and keyword, it’s time to see whether this is something you could turn in your favor.

  • Create a negative keyword list. Earlier, I mentioned how broad match queries will target long-tailed keywords. The problem with this is that your ad may also appear on the keywords that you don’t want to advertise on. For example, “dinner cooking tips” may also trigger the query for “dinner recipe”, which is still considered relevant. But, what if you only have cooking tips and not recipes?

That’s where a negative keyword list comes into play. Using it will prevent your ads from showing when the irrelevant and undesirable keywords are used.

  • Cover your bases. To ensure that the queries you use reach the target audience you have specified in mind, try to mix in variations of keyword types. Broad match may have its disadvantages, but so does the exact match.

The exact match doesn’t have the capability to reach a long-tail keyword. For example, if you set “best glasses” as your keyword, it could lead you to miss out on transactional keywords such as “where to buy glasses online”. So, the best solution is trying to get the best of two worlds.

  • Don’t waste your time adding the variants. Back then, you may have needed to include as many relevant variants to your content as possible. Today, it’ll just be a waste of time since – as explained before – Google will automatically match your keyword with close variants on its own. Instead, you can allocate your time to research the keyword that has a high volume to give you an edge in keyword bidding efficiency.

To sum up

With the new algorithm Google has set up, it proves to be a point worth factoring in when you decide on how to best implement your Google advertising strategy. Semantic search technology not only helps searchers to save time and effort to seek the answers they’re looking for, but it also gives advertisers a chance to turn it into an advantage.


Mary J.


I am a passionate blogger and the chief editor at my own content marketing company PRable. Since college, I was interested in break-through technology and technical writing about innovative products and services that change our everyday lives for the better. I am also interested in web design and photography.