Deduping Keywords: How to Identify & Remove Duplicate Keywords from Your PPC Account

April 9, 2018

Around this time last year, I had a pretty ambitious list of New Year’s resolutions cued up for 2013. I’m ashamed to report that I did not successfully complete a single item during the course of the year. In retrospect, my problem was that I set the bar far too high—I mean really, who loses 20 pounds and masters the Spanish language in only 365 days?—and as a result, I gave up pretty quickly. When it comes to managing PPC accounts, I face a similar problem. I tend to bite off more than I can chew and then get too discouraged to complete it.

This year, I’ve learned my lesson. I’m setting more manageable goals and am determined to complete them. The first item on my checklist is to identify and remove duplicate keywords, so I can start the New Year with a nice, clean account.

Why You Need to Clean Up Your Duplicate Keywords

It’s nearly impossible to maintain a PPC account that is free of duplicate keywords, particularly if you have multiple managers working in one account, or are frequently adjusting match types and account settings. Some advertisers even set duplicates intentionally, thinking that their ad will appear twice for the same auction. Do not be fooled by this common misconception. AdWords will only show one ad per advertiser for each search.

Believe me, duplicates are dangerous. Not only can they have a detrimental impact on your Quality Scores, but they can also cannibalize your budget. If you are bidding on the same keyword twice, both will be entered into the same auctions and you will compete with yourself, driving up your own CPCs. Taking some time to dedupe an account every few months is a critical (albeit rarely executed) activity.

There seems to be a lot of confusion among advertisers regarding what constitutes a harmful duplicate keyword. Let’s set the record straight—duplicate keywords can hurt your account if they are identical keywords with the same match types, targeting the exact same audience. There is one caveat to this definition, which comes into play with broad match keywords. Be cognizant that broad match keywords are duplicates if they contain the same words, even in different orders. For example, chocolate cupcake frosting on broad match and frosting chocolate cupcakes on broad match are considered duplicates.

When Is It OK to Have Duplicate Keywords in PPC?

There are some situations in which it is perfectly acceptable to have duplicate keywords. For example:

  • You can use duplicate keywords in campaigns set to serve ads to different geographical locations. This is a common practice, as many advertisers segment their account by region. In this case, it is fine to bid on the same keyword in each campaign, as they will never compete in the same auction.
  • You can use the same keywords in search campaigns and display network campaigns. Since these keywords will be utilized in different circumstances, they will not hurt your account performance.

How to Find and Remove Duplicate Keywords in Your AdWords Account

Identifying all duplicate keywords in an account may sound like a daunting task, but with a little AdWords Editor magic, you can tick it off your to-do list pretty quickly. Here’s all you need to do:

Step 1

First things first, if you don't already have it, download AdWords Editor. This is Google’s free, offline tool and a must-have for all serious PPC-ers (even if Larry thinks it’s eventually going the way of the dodo).

Step 2

Once you’ve downloaded your account, head to the Tools dropdown and select “Find duplicate keywords.”

Duplicate Keywords

Step 3

As we discussed earlier, different types of duplicates have different impacts on an account. Select exactly what types of duplicates you want to catch based on word order, match types and location. You can also filter out those in deleted or paused campaigns, which will clutter your list.

Deduping PPC Keywords

There you have it, my fellow PPC-ers—all of your duplicate keywords in just a few clicks!

Now, all you need to do is review the list and make some executive decisions. I recommend nixing or editing any duplicate keywords that are in the same campaign and have the same match type.

WordStream clients: Please note that, for the time being, you cannot run this deduping process through WordStream. However, WordStream Advisor will identify any duplicate keywords created within your work session and automatically delete them before your changes are posted live to AdWords.


Erin Sagin

Erin Sagin is the Global SMB Solutions Go To Market Lead at Google.