For years advertisers on Google’s Display Network were limited to Keyword Contextual Targeting, which serves your ads on website content relevant to your keywords. In recent years, Google has greatly expanded their targeting options, providing an unrivaled ability to find your perfect audience.

While keyword targeting is a mainstay for advertisers, this feature itself has also evolved. Last year, Google expanded keyword matching with an extra layer of behavior-based targeting criteria called “extended keyword match.”

The Rise of Extended Keyword Match on Display

There is no specific documentation outlining when this feature came into effect. In fact, there is only a single support document (under “Get insights into why your ads were matched to a specific placement”) with a brief explanation of what Extended Keyword Match means.

In a nutshell, Extended Keyword Match is a session-based matching behavior. Users reading content relevant to your keywords may see your ad later in their session, even if it’s on an irrelevant website.

Why It Could Be Costing You

Especially for larger scale Display advertisers, it may not be uncommon to see very irrelevant placements in your targeting mix. For example, a Health category client may be blasted with impressions and clicks from horoscope and weather sites, often converting poorly and wasting spend in aggregate.

Below is a real-life example from one Display campaign where, once the “targeting mode” segment became available, we saw a clear elevation in impressions and increased share of traffic from extended match mode. Elevations of this scale, when left unchecked, can be a major detriment to ad performance.


However, not all extended match traffic is bad news. A portion of your managed placements may show 10% to 50% of traffic from extended match, and that may even convert as well as the traditional keyword targeting itself.

Where Can I See This?

From the AdWords Placement report, you can use the Segment > Targeting Mode option or you can add the Targeting Mode segment to your downloaded placement reports if you wish to manipulate the data in a spreadsheet.

segment.png segmentdata.png

Isn’t This Invalid or Poor Quality Traffic?

While the advertiser may find ‘extended’ traffic to be poor quality or unqualified, Google has also evolved its definition of relevance within Keyword Contextual to include session-based activity.

Google:“Extended keyword match: the placement was relevant to the keywords you chose and other factors, including pages a person seeing your ad has recently browsed.”.AdWords Help

What Can I Do About Extended Match?

For now, analysis and optimization of placements not meeting your goals are the only remedy. If placement reports show a site’s traffic volume overtly favors extended keyword match (90%+ or more traffic from extended, compared to other modes), you may also likely find those sites are negatively impacting your performance. At time of writing, there are no options for “opting out” of this mode.

For many advertisers, especially those with large-scale Display campaigns, exploring the Targeting Mode segment for placements and taking action on the data could be a major budget saver.

To learn more about advertising on the Google Display Network, download our special report “5 Bidding Secrets for Retailers to Finally Thrive with Display Advertising“.