One of the most important skills of a Google AdWords advertiser that separates the expert from the novice, is an acute understanding of keyword matching options. The right use of matching options can make a considerable difference in the complexity, efficiency and performance of any AdWords account.
Since I’ve been managing AdWords accounts professionally, I’ve had occasion to work with many advertisers with accounts that have been active for several years, built mostly on broad-matched keywords. This type of account exhibits some rather interesting characteristics that present some unique challenges. When I see an account that exhibits these characteristics, I can be fairly confident that:
- The advertiser is displaying their ad for a very wide range of search queries, but not on a consistant basis for any given search query. A classic situation for broad-matched keywords.
- Their impression share is relatively low. In other words, their ads are not being shown as often as they could be due to daily budget restrictions or ad ranking.
- They are probably spending more than they want or need to spend on click charges.
- They are probably seeing “Limited by budget” or very close to seeing it as they are forced to continually raise their daily budget.
The broad-matched keyword is the most powerful, and yet potentially the most dangerous of all the match types. It was designed primarily for the novice advertiser who doesn’t have the time or inclination to learn the finer points of PPC advertising. A few years ago, Google quietly re-introduced the broad-match and gave it even more reach. In some circles, they called it, “extended broad-match”. The extended part had to do with an extension that allowed ads to be shown for synonyms of the keyword.
The ability to trigger ads for synonyms is what gives the broad-match its powerful and potentially dangerous characteristics. If you want to get a sense of how broad the reach is, here are a few suggestions:
- Run a search term report on broad-matched keywords in your account. You’ll probably be shocked.
- Use the AdWords keyword tool and make sure to uncheck the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box.
- Run a keyword-to-search query report in your Google Analytics account.
Most of the time, you are going to find some pretty unexpected search queries and you’ll wish you could get the money back you spent on those poor quality visitors. In many cases, this is where your daily budget has gone.
However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the market niche is so unique that the broad-match works pretty well. And sometimes the advertiser understands the subtle nuances of the broad-match and keeps it in check with a healthy complement of negative keywords. But these are usually exceptions to the rule.
There are additional unintended consequence of the unchecked broad-match:
- You are essentially competing with yourself, because you have multiple keywords entering the same auction.
- You lose control over which of your ads displays for any given keyword or search query.
- You have limited ability to prioritize visitors because the broad-matched keyword can trigger an impression for such a wide range of search queries.
Another characteristic that is common to this situation is to have campaigns that are “Limited by budget”. To see just how much they are limited, run an Impression Share report. This will show how much exposure is lost due to 1) budgeting shortfall and 2) less than optimal keyword ranking, which is essentially your quality score.
“Limited by budget” is a confirmation there is more traffic available than you are able to afford, and when you consider that some of the budget is being consumed by poor quality visitors, clearly there is an issue, because it also means your ad is not being displayed for some of your best prospects.
What you want is a way to minimize your exposure to poor quality users and maximize your exposure to good quality prospects. Furthermore, you want to have enough control so that any given search query displays the best possible ad copy.
In spite of the drawbacks of using broad-matched keywords, there is one positive aspect you need to be aware of as you consider your options. I call it Remnant keyword impressions.
Some search queries can only be triggered by broad-matched keywords. This means that if you are determined to display your ad for as many search queries as possible that might be used by a qualified prospect, you will need to use some broad-matched keywords. To appreciate this, some background is required.
In the old days, before Google went public, you could have almost unlimited keywords in your account, and as long as any given keyword received a minimum CTR of .005 (5 clicks out of 1,000 impressions) Google would display your ad when it matched that keyword. That’s now ancient history.
Today, if you have a keyword that Google determines to have Low search volume, that keyword probably will not display your ad even if someone types that exact search phrase. This has several benefits for Google and one big negative for advertisers. It forces advertisers to compete for a fewer number of keywords, which drives up CPCs, and it gives Google the freedom to display ads that maximize their profit. This is just one example of how AdWords is evolving. The challenge is that it’s making it more competitive and more costly for advertisers and more profitable for Google.
So what are the options? This is an over-simplification, but to the point:
- Freeze the ad spend and live with the status quo. Essentially do nothing.
- Increase your daily budget to insure you are maximizing your exposure. Essentially throw more money at the problem.
- Have a robust list of negative keywords and be relentless about staying on top of it. But that won’t solve all the problems because it may not be enough to reduce ad spend to an acceptable level and still have all the desired exposure. This also won’t do anything to provide the necessary control that’s required to 1) effectively match keywords to ad copy, 2) match keywords to search queries and 3) prioritize keyword ranking based on their relative value to your business.
- Create an account structure that gives you more control over who sees your ad, what keywords trigger which ad and manage how much you spend to display your ad for any given search query.
If you elect to go the route of redesigning your account, here are some things you need to be aware of.
- Developing, implementing and fine-tuning a new account design is tedious, time-consuming work. The critical element of the process is keyword research. The secret to proper keyword research is having the right tools and knowing how to use them. How long it takes is a function of many factors, but tends to track with the number of products and services being promoted.
- I don’t like having to create new campaigns and running them while the old campaign is still enabled because the old campaign can, and often does, compete and win against the new campaign. But sometimes it can’t be avoided. During the time when both campaigns are running we have relatively poor performance. I prefer a step-by-step approach, where we carve out specific niches and test to insure we are getting the desired results.
- There will be short-term setbacks (higher costs) until the new keywords and ads build up their own history, based on critical elements, such as click-through-rate and quality score. This could take 2-3 weeks, during which time you could be paying higher Avg. CPCs. As the quality scores increase and rankings improve, we can begin to reduce the Max CPC. See my article titled The elephant in Google.
- The way the existing account is structured will not match up exactly to the new design. There may be times when it’s necessary to turn off larger sections of the existing account in order to bring on new keywords and ad groups. This may result in a temporary loss of exposure to certain search queries. Also, until all elements of the existing campaign are turned off, it can continue to compete with the new campaign, which has inhalant inefficiencies.