How Symbols and Punctuation Affect Keywords Within Google AdWords

How Symbols and Punctuation Affect Keywords Within Google AdWords


Can AdWords Keywords Contain Punctuation Marks?

For the most part, the answer is no, but how AdWords defines keywords is a bit more complex than that. There are a lot of questions surrounding punctuation for keywords in AdWords, and there’s merit in asking them.

This post focuses on punctuation in keywords, not ads or naming groups and campaigns.

Characters That Cause Errors

Most symbol characters are not accepted by the AdWords platform in keywords. You’ll receive an error message if you try to add keywords containing the following symbols to your campaigns:

! = ? @ % ^ *; ~ `, (){} <> |

Characters AdWords Ignores

Periods (.) and dashes (-) do not register in the AdWords keyword field in any meaningful way. AdWords will show them back to you and preserve where they exist, but will functionally ignore them. No error will be produced if you add these two symbol characters, but the punctuation has no effect on advertising. The platform will act as if you typed a space instead of a period or hyphen. As an example, AdWords will treat the following keywords as identical:

  • Rocket-Clicks is the same as Rocket Clicks
  • Wisconsin Ave. is the same as  Wisconsin Ave
  • rocketclicks.com is the same as rocketclicks com

Valid Symbol Characters in Keywords

The AdWords system recognizes two kinds of symbols in keywords: ampersands and accent marks. When a keyword contains one of these characters, the keyword is considered a distinct keyword different from a keyword that does not use the symbol. The following terms would be treated as different keywords by the AdWords platform:

  • C & M railway is not the same as C and M railway
  • Fuel cafe is not the same as Fuel café

Two Special Punctuation Cases: Defining Match Types

Brackets and quotation marks have unique applications in AdWords.  They define match types.  Brackets are used around a keyword to note that the match type is exact match, and quotation marks are used to note that the match type of a keyword in AdWords is phrase match.

  • [Rocket Clicks] means the keyword Rocket Clicks exact match
  • “Rocket Clicks” means the keyword Rocket Clicks phrase match
  • Rocket Clicks means the keyword Rocket Clicks broad match

Do Spaces Or Capitalization Matter When Entering Keywords?

In the AdWords platform, capitalization does not matter when entering keywords.  Again, we are discussing keywords in AdWords.  Capitalization in the ads that appear will yield varying results and should be split-tested.  However, capitalization of keywords will not affect performance, although capitalization choices will be maintained. As an example, AdWords will treat the following keywords as identical:

  • RocketClicks is the same as rocketclicks
  • RocketClicks is the same as Rocketclicks

Spaces do matter.  Multi-word keywords are common, and the spaces used to note where one word begins and one word ends are important signposts for the AdWords system.  Also note that domains are often typed directly into search engines and do not use spaces. As examples, AdWords will treat the following keywords as distinct:

  • RocketClicks is different than Rocket Clicks
  • C&M railway is different than C & M railway
  • howstuffworks is different than how stuff works

Remember a hyphen is treated as a space, so while a hyphen itself may not matter, the space it takes up does matter.

  • split test is the same as split-test
  • split test is the same as splittest
  • split-test is the same as splittest

Hopefully these punctuation guidelines can help you sort duplication from opportunity in your keyword lists. If you’re interested in learning more about what Rocket Clicks can do for your pay-per-click advertising, please check out our PPC services. Rob Sieracki Director of Paid Search

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Thanks so much,

    I could never find out if capitalization was a factor until I found this article.

    Great post

  2. What about /? is 10/100 distinct from 10 100?

  3. I was wondering about hyphens and periods, that would explain why I was seeing the ‘one of your other keywords’ warning. However, if I have the following [e machine] and [e-machine] as keywords then both actually receive impressions (and clicks), if I did away with [e-machine] would all the impressions for that keyword instead be attributed to [e machine] and thus, I wouldn’t loose out?

  4. iam searching about an algorithm which name is A* and when i search it the results arenotvery good. ithink that the search engine get it in the form of punctuation mark so what should I do?

  5. Great article. I wanted to confirm that the dash was, indeed, ignored by Google Search and this article confirmed it. I appreciate the time and effort spent to share this information with the rest of us. Thank you!

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