Updates on how we match keywords

Updates on How We Match Keywords

By: Matt Bisson

Understanding a searcher’s intent based on their search query is never a perfect science. Adding stop words, characters, symbols, etc... to a keyword or query can add ambiguity to the definition and the intent. Most of the time, the addition of these stop words, characters or symbols deliver the same intent.  For example, a user searching on the term “buy a car” vs. “buy car” have the same intent and interact with ads similarly.  However, in a few select instances these keywords may deliver different intent.  For example, a user searching on the term “the office” vs. “office” could be looking for different things (The TV show vs. Microsoft Office) and thus could engage with an ad differently based on their particular intent. Today in Bing Ads, we treat these terms as one through a process called normalization – the process by which extraneous characters, such as punctuation marks, special characters and stop words are removed from keywords in Bing Ads campaigns and then dynamically handled when ads are served against user queries in the auction.

While normalizing keywords provides you a better way to scale your keyword lists, we have received feedback that for some highly specific keywords this approach limits precision and control. That’s why starting May 21st we are making improvements in our matching technology.

Normalization Improvements for Better Control

You may recall our blog post last spring announcing relaxed constraints for uploading keywords containing stop words and characters. This relaxed constraint was in preparation for upcoming changes in our normalization process.  Starting in late May, we will begin incorporating this enhanced normalization logic into our auction process.  A description of the changes can be found in the table below along with examples of how raw user queries are normalized today on Bing Ads, and what the query will look like after the normalization change. 

As we transition to this new normalization process, we encourage you to review your keyword list and add any relevant characters or words into your account to ensure you maximize traffic from your ads. Moving forward to show on queries containing stop words you will need to bid on them directly in Bing Ads. A great way to learn what words to add is to opt into broad match and review search query term reports to understand what users are searching for.

Close Variants Changes

In addition to the normalization changes, we will be removing the opt-out functionality for close variants starting May 21st.  Advertisers today are already automatically opted into close variants, so most of you will see little to no impact.

Close variants help drive highly qualified and relevant click volume to your campaigns by maximizing your presence on queries that are the most relevant to your products and services.  Since testing close variants last August, on average we’ve seen ~2-3% growth in click volume while retaining existing ROI for advertisers.  With close variants, advertisers can scale their keywords without spending time building keyword lists of plurals, misspellings and other close variants that have similar intent.

For those who are concerned about matching to some of these variants, you can leverage negative keywords to help control your traffic and costs. The search query term report is great way to see what queries your keywords are matching to, how they perform and what negative keywords you may want to consider adding to your account.  Additionally, Bing Ads prefers to match queries to keywords that are identical so you can still add your own close variants, and adjust the bids based on performance, which becomes even more valuable with the enhanced normalization logic.

Negative Keyword Conflicts

Finally, we’re also making some small changes to how our negative keywords match. Negative keywords are intended to selectively suppress ads when your keywords are matching to queries that may not be relevant to your products or services.  Sometimes, however, negative keywords are added that completely block one or more of the keywords that you’ve intentionally bidded on. For example, if you have the keyword [discount shoes], adding the negative keyword “discount shoes” will cause [discount shoes] to never match.

Moving forward, we will honor your bidded keyword over your negative keyword where there is a complete conflict. In the examples provided below, you can see the scenarios where we will now serve your ad on the query discount shoes where there is a direct conflict.  Note that we will continue to honor your negative keyword on queries like discount shoes in seattle and find me discount shoes, unless those queries also have conflicting bidded keywords.  In addition, we will continue to honor your negative keywords in cases of partial conflict.  For example, the keyword “discount shoes” is in partial conflict with the negative keyword [discount shoes].  We are sensitive to the fact that this configuration of keywords is common and often intentional. 

The different kinds of conflicts are summarized in the following table, and case affected by the new changes are highlighted.


If you have keywords affected by this changes that you would prefer not to match, keep in mind that you can always use the negative keyword conflict report to discover these keywords and then either pause or remove them.

How to prepare for these upcoming changes

To prepare your campaigns for the upcoming changes, we encourage you to review your keyword lists and search query reports and add new keywords that will no longer be normalized.  To maximize your click volume, consider opting into broad match if you haven’t already. Additionally, you can leverage search query reports to consider any negative keywords you may want to add.

We often hear our customers asking for more efficiency and more volume from us and we believe these changes will help you better manage campaigns and achieve better performance.

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Moving Search Forward

Today, I’m excited to announce a renewed search alliance with Yahoo.  The agreement opens up significant opportunities in our partnership, enabling both partners to improve the search experience, create value for advertisers, and establish ongoing stability for partners.


You can learn more about it here.


I want to thank Marissa Mayer and her team for working closely with us over the past few months to rejuvenate our partnership. Search has, and will continue to be, an incredibly important part of Microsoft, and this new partnership represents a major step forward.   

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Announcing Bing Ads for iOS

We live in a multi-device world, and we want to provide advertisers and their campaign managers the best experience wherever they go, whenever they need it.  Thus it is my great pleasure to announce Bing Ads for iOS.   

With Bing Ads for iOS, users of iPhones and iPads can:  

  • View performance of their accounts, campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords 
  • Edit budgets and bids 
  • Pause and enable campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords 
  • Receive critical alerts such as notice of an expiring credit card 
  • And much more 


Bing Ads for iOS is currently available for devices running iOS 8.1 in the US App Store. We plan to support older versions of iOS and more markets in the near future.  

There's More to Come

This is just the first step of our journey to bring Bing Ads into the mobile first, cloud first world. As you read this the team is hard at work on the Android version of our app, and is looking forward to bringing mobile campaign management to Windows 10 for phones in order to provide you with the tools that are most convenient for you anytime, anywhere.We expect to update our mobile apps regularly in response to your feedback so please let us know what you think by submitting a review in the App Store, suggestions on our Feature Suggestion Forum or through email feedback to bingads-feedback@microsoft.com.

And, keep up to date and download all available future versions from the Bing Ads app page.

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International opportunity: Reach new customers by targeting Canada

Now is the right time to consider a cross-border strategy into Canada if you haven’t already done so. Canada, just north of the United States, should be a natural extension for any advertiser already advertising in the U.S.  In fact, 75% of all Canadians live within 100 miles of the US-Canadian border.  Since the 2008 global recession, Canada has posted the strongest growth among the G7 countries, and the World Economic Forum ranked Canada as the world’s most stable economy for the sixth consecutive year. Many companies view Canada as a natural extension to their customer acquisition efforts, and more insights can be found in our white paper, Cross-Border E-Commerce in Canada.

Besides the US, Canada is the largest trading partner with the United Kingdom.

bing ads canada

According to McKinsey Global Institute1, there are five “global flows” of trade that connect the world economy across borders, they are: Goods, Services, Finance, People, and Data and communication. These flows provide actionable insights to companies looking to increase revenue:

  • Internet traffic increased by 18 times in the last 7 years, which makes up 1/5 of all Internet traffic
  • 35% of all goods cross borders—that’s 1 out of every 3 products
  • 90% of commercial sellers on eBay export to other countries.  25% of these sellers are  small businesses
  • Accenture2 estimates that retailers can grow their bottom line by up to 25% if they sold both online and cross-border


There is an opportunity to harness the changing attitude of consumers and businesses who are increasingly indifferent to where their goods are shipped from. Canada is ranked 8th on the McKinsey Global Institute Connectedness Index, which measures 131 countries across all five flows of trade. Canada’s flow value—its cross-border revenue activity both in and out of the country—is nearly $1.4B USD, which makes it a great economy to target for cross-border efforts.

If you're ready to get started with new campaigns targeted to Canadian audiences, be sure to check out the Location Targeting page here on the Bing Ads site.

Thanks for reading,



1 McKinsey Global Institute, Global flows in a digital age

2 Accenture, European Cross-border E-commerce

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