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Find and remove duplicate keywords from your Google Ads campaigns and stop competing with yourself

Duplicate keywords in Google Ads are, in most cases, a type of unnecessary and unwanted internal competition that every account manager should avoid. It is officially called “Internal Keyword Competition”, aka IKC. After all, aside from the normal competition from all other advertisers, nobody would ever want to compete with themselves!

Some advertisers naively think duplicate keywords are harmless, but make no mistake: they can have a big impact on the performance of your campaigns.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to find and remove them to keep your account clean.

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What are duplicate keywords in Google Ads?

By definition, duplicate keywords are those that appear in more than one ad group in different campaigns or within the same campaign, and have the same match type. While Google Ads does not consider the presence of the same keyword in different ad groups to be an error, you will be affected because:

  • The relation between the duplicate keywords and their respective ads is changed. That is because more than one ad (probably with different ad texts) within your own account will be associated with the same (duplicate) keyword. Therefore, they will have to compete with each other (because only one ad will appear in the search results at a time).
  • Your Cost Per Click (CPC) can increase because Google will have to (internally) decide which one of your ads should be shown for the same (duplicate) keyword.
  • There will be no consistency: you’ll never know which ad will show when the duplicate keyword is triggered (i.e. when a person does a search on Google and your ad is shown). This leads to a lack of correct and relevant data for advertiser analysis.
  • The keywords in your account will be more difficult to manage and you can make a lot of confusion.

All of the factors above can have a big impact on the performance of your ads in the short term. Finding these duplicate keywords in your account and removing or pausing the worse one in each pair is critical.

How to fix duplicate keywords

There are two ways to find duplicate keywords in your Google Ads account:

Method 1: Using Google Ads Editor (easier and faster)

Google Ads Editor (the free downloadable desktop app that we install on the computer) has a specific option to list all duplicate keywords. See the step by step:

  1. Open Google Ads Editor, choose the account where you have duplicate keywords, and open it.
  2. In the menu, go to “Tools” and then to “Find Duplicate Keywords…”.
    Find duplicate keywords
  3. Select the criteria for finding duplicate keywords. Under “Location of duplicates” I recommend selecting “In the same account“, but that depends on your setup. Then, click “Find Duplicate Keywords”.
    Criteria for finding duplicate keywords
  4. The next screen will show the list of duplicate keywords (in the “Keyword” column, separated by lines) in the selected campaigns and/or ad groups, and also according to the other criteria you chose in the previous step.
    Duplicate keywords list in Google Ads Editor
  5. You can (and should) use filters to find duplicate keywords that match even more specific criteria. For example, you can choose to see only keywords in active campaigns, if it’s the case. Use filters wisely to get to the duplicate keywords that really matter.
    Filter options in Google Ads Editor
  6. Pause or remove unwanted duplicate keywords in each pair. Keep in mind that there may be cases of tripled, quadrupled, etc.  keywords. In most cases, you should leave only one active keyword per multi-occurrence group.

Method 2: Google Ads interface (web version, using your browser)

This way of finding duplicate keywords is much more time-consuming because you will have to go through the entire list manually. See the step-by-step below.

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account using your browser, go to “All campaigns” (1) to make sure you see all your campaigns at the account level, click “Keywords” (2), then set the “Keyword status” filter to “Enabled, Paused” (3).
    It is really important that the filter is set to “Enabled, paused” so that paused keywords (also from paused campaigns) are included in the list. That’s because these keywords and campaigns (the ones that have been paused) can be enabled again in the future, and if duplicate keywords are accidentally re-enabled you will get internal competition again.
  2. Sort keywords by name or match type by clicking the corresponding column header. As for the “Match type” column, you may have to click it 3 times because there are 3 match types (broad, phrase, and exact).
    Keyword and Match Type columns in Google Ads

    Keep in mind

    In order to be considered real duplicate words, the match type has to be the same. Once you sort the keywords alphabetically by clicking the “Keyword” column, you should set a match type filter to display only one match type at once, so you can find duplicates and then change the filter to another match type.

    For example, create a filter to see only exact match keywords. Find the duplicates and pause the ones you think are incorrect in each pair. Then, change the filter to show only phrase match keywords and do the same.Match type filter

  3. Pause or remove unwanted duplicate keywords in each pair you find. Keep in mind that there may be cases of tripled, quadrupled, etc. keywords. Ideally, you should leave only one active keyword per multi-occurrence group, at all times.

More things you can do to avoid duplicate keywords

If even after using one of the two methods above (or both) you realize that the remaining duplicate keywords are unavoidable, try changing the location settings of the campaigns they are in. You can also create a new campaign for each one of the duplicate keywords to run in different places.

For example, you may have the same keyword “men’s cotton t-shirts” in two ad groups within the same campaign whose location targeting is both the states of California and Nevada. By creating a copy of this campaign and leaving the original for California and the new (copy) for Nevada, you will avoid internal competition. That is because users in each of the states will only see the ad related to “men’s cotton t-shirts” from the campaign that’s directed to their region.

Another solution would be simply using different match types for the same duplicate keyword. For example, [men’s cotton t-shirts] (exact match, using brackets) and “men’s cotton t-shirts” (phrase match, using quotation marks) do not compete directly with each other.

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