It’s time for a new Match Type.
Our friends Broad and Phrase and Exact just aren’t getting the job done anymore.
It’s not really their fault – the way people search has changed and they just can’t keep up. Or more accurately, we can’t keep up.
Here’s the problem. People are using more and more words in search queries. This has been the trend for a long time, and new data from Hitwise shows the greatest growth in search queries with SEVEN OR MORE words!
Changing number of keywords per search query
The growth and diversification of search queries do not work to search advertisers benefit. As queries get longer it becomes much harder to capture them via exact or even phrase match keywords, leaving only for possible acquisition by broad match.
And we don’t like broad match very much.
- Broad match is imprecise. It attracts both highly relevant and highly irrelevant search queries.
- Broad match wastes money. We pay for all the clicks that come from those irrelevant search queries.
- Broad match lowers quality score. We get lower click through rates when our keywords are matched to irrelevant queries – many of which see that our ad isn’t for them and do not click.
- Broad match lowers ad position. Google has clearly stated that exacts match before phrase which match before broads. Your broad match ad will only rank highly if few people bid on that query in phrase or exact form.
The Include Match Type
I’m sure there are a number of ways to solve this problem.
My suggestion would be the ‘Include’ Match Type. It would enable advertisers to specify a group of words, and then match to any search query which included those words, in any order. This attempts to correct a weakness of the current Phrase Match Type.
If I want to bid on lots of any search queries about dog food, and specifically target ‘dog food discounts’, today I might have to buy the following on phrase match:
- dog food discounts
- discount dog food
And of course I’d but ‘dog food discount’ on phrase and exact match too. (see Match Type Keyword Trap for the rational behind that.).
But a search query report (such as the excellent one provided by ClickEquations) would show me many long queries out there that this phrase match won’t cover, including:
- get dog food at discount
- discounts on dog food for puppies
- dog food los angeles discounts
- discount on purina brand dog food
A ClickEquations Search Query Report showing how queries are matched to keywords
You get the idea. What I really want to do is buy ‘dog food discount’ in the new ‘Include’ match type, so all of the above can be purchased and matched without having to fall to broad match.
And of course I’d add a lot of appropriate negatives to that ad group, tuning it over time by keeping a close eye on the search queries that are matched.
Times are changing Google. We’re spending money every day. Please give us better targeting tools!
What do you think? Any other good ideas for new Match Types you’d like to see?
A recent interview I did with Chris Crum of WebProNews is now live. It’s all about Match Types, give it a look.
For more on how Match Types work and the best way to take advantage of them (including our nearly-famous ‘Match Type Keyword Trap’), download out our Match Type White Paper from the new ClickEquations Learning Center.
When you finally get a paid search tool (like ClickEquations) that allows you to see each search query that people typed matched directly to the keyword you bid on and the match type you set, you’ll soon notice that all of your Exact match keywords aren’t entirely exact.
Doing a little research and experimentation while preparing for SMX, I just came across a great example of one reason why this is true.
Look at the ads to the right. Which one is not like the others?
One of our clients sells products to help Fido keep himself together, and I did some searches on that topic. Then a search for ‘Premium dog collars’. That’s the search which delivered the ads you see.
Google however remembered that not long ago I was concerned with the other end of the animal, and slipped the Poop ad into the mix.
Had I clicked it, my search query of ‘Premium dog collars’ would show up, correctly, for the exact match keyword/phrase ‘dogs eating poop’.
Just so you know.
Heading to SMX in San Jose? Come see the new version of ClickEquations at our booth, or catch me in the Quality Score or Text-Ad Testing workshops.
If you’re going to buy the same keyword multiple times with different match types assigned, how should you organize them?
Buying the same keyword more than once, with different match type settings, is an idea we like, as explained in our Match Type Keyword Trap series.
But this practice begs the question – should the same keyword appear more than once in the same ad group, or should you split them into different ad groups?
Separate But Equal
In terms of the effectiveness of the keywords at their match types it doesn’t matter. Google will match them appropriately no matter where you put them.
But I favor splitting them into separate ad groups for five reasons.
- It’s easier to match search queries to text ads. This is the name of the game, and each keyword will attract different queries based on the different match types. So can you write better ads knowing that some of these queries will be exact, some will use the phrase, and some will be all over the broad-match-place? Probably.
- Reporting is easier to digest (pt 1). If you’re a search query freak like me, and have a great tool like ClickEquations that shows you nearly every search query, it’s easier to scan the queries in an ad group to see if they’re all appropriate and uniform in content and nearly so in performance if they’re segregated by match type.
- Reporting is easier to digest (pt 2). The roll-up data and averages of any ad group are only as worthwhile as the consistency of the performance of the keywords that make it up. Diverse keyword groups produce statisics-of-questionable-value (SOQV as it’s known in the trade). Broad match keywords perform very differently than exact match keywords and I don’t find it useful to see the average CTRs or CPCs or CPAs of them rolled-up together.
- Quality Score should be better. By the letter of the law on QS, we want high-as-possible CTRs and tight query-keyword-adgroup-landing page relevance. Both should be slightly better with segregated ad groups – although as with all quality score details, there is no way to prove this!
- Reporting is easier to produce. Google does not provide a macro to automatically tell you the match type of a keyword as part of the destination URL. This is one of the few areas where Yahoo and MSN have something Adwords does not (intentionally on the part of Google we can be sure). Therefore if you want to track, measure, report on the performance differeces of your various match types, it’s a lot easier if they’re in separate ad groups. There are other solutions, but this one is the simplest and most robust.
This is not a big deal. For many people, or even in certain situations within a campaign, repeating the keyword in a single ad group makes sense. But if and when possible, I split them out.
Note: This post was inspired by comments made on a recent PPC Rockstars with David @Szetela Podcast. These shows have become a regular part of my commute, and I recommend them highly! (Even the occasional ones when I’m an guest.)
Seen some crazy broad matches lately?
Everyone has, and PPCProz is building a list of the zaniest, so we can all laugh our way to the poor house.
There will always be broad match in every campaign. But if huge portions of your traffic/revenue are coming through broad match you (or your agency) are not working hard enough.
And if you have a lot of broad match it’s certain that you’re:
- Paying too much per click
- Missing a lot of impressions
- Getting useless clicks
- Wasting money
I’ve written extensively about Match Types in the past, and proposed the ‘Match Type Keyword Trap‘ as a guiding principle of how and when to use them and most importantly transition your search queries into phrase and exact keywords, with appropriate bidding.
Broad match is an important tool – it saves time and energy, and provides a place to start.
But mostly – although not entirely – it is a training wheels set you should get beyond for the lion’s share of your PPC spend and revenue.
After yesterday’s Quality Score analysis template and post, I got to thinking about match type.
So in 15 minutes while sitting in a meeting I built this ClickEquations Analyst template which analyzes a full paid search campaign in terms of how much cost and revenue is occurring at each of the Google Match Types:
It’s interesting and may need some more tweaks and consideration to make it truly useful, but I do think these taken together help get a 360-degree view of campaign performance and structure.
Template available to ClickEquations clients and trial users. Gee ClickEquations Analyst is cool.
For me this focus was eye opening. I’d never considered QS so fully, researched it so thoroughly, or thought about it so deeply. That was a mistake.
Quality Score is the secret sauce in Google Adwords. It plays a huge rule in nearly everything advertisers care about; when and where ads run, how ads rank, and what ads cost-per-click.
Quality Score – along with their Broad Match and Automatic Matching formulas – give Google a huge set of levers and dials to play with at will.
As they do, our ads and ad-budgets jerk around like marionettes.
I’m left with two conclusions:
- The lack of transparency is astounding. Everything Google is doing is reasonable and legitimate from a business perspective. They’re optimizing their product to maximize their revenue, and trying to make their customers feel good so they spend a lot of money and are happy about it. But advertisers can’t and don’t know what’s going on in the black box of Quality Score. We’ve got some clues, there has been more clarity recently than historically, but the playing field we’re on is far from level.
- Paid search managers must prioritize Quality Score management. This means a lot of things as we’ve discussed; small tight keyword groupings, focused text-ad and landing-page copy, paying attention to the published Quality Score numbers themselves, starting new campaigns slowly, not letting losers hang out, even in dark corners of your campaign, and much more. It all adds up to an increase in workload, responsibility, and the need for specialized tools to have any chance to real success
I used to think of Quality Score as an ‘other factor’ in campaign management and success.
Now I think it’s one leg in the three-legged stool of the PPC process.
Campaign organization, Bidding, and Quality Score must all have equal and appropriate attention to make paid search really work.
(Although a more complete picture is the Target-Value-Satisfy-Understand model of ‘High Resolution PPC’ with Quality Score being a piece of the Valuation component.)
Where Are The Quality Score Tools?
As a final point, given this realization, I must say that the tools for helping manage the importance of Quality Score are sorely missing. Right now the Quality Score number itself is available only inside of Adwords – although it is now in the API so we can expect third party vendors to support it soon.
But the broader issues of focus, alignment and relevance between components, and the impact Quality Score has on bidding and position is almost entirely unsupported or assisted by the tools on the market.
The ClickVariance variable in ClickEquations does help identify AdGroups with keywords that are too diverse from a performance perspective, which is at least a start in the right direction.
That makes the reality of taking advantage of whatever understand we’ve gained about Quality Score very difficult. Today it will require a lot of manual effort and hours of work.
But from a ClickEquations viewpoint it’s an opportunity we’ll address.
What one piece of advice would I give to help improve a paid search campaign?
That was a question asked of our panel as SES in San Jose last week.
My answer: Make sure your brand keywords are fully segregated from all others.
Brand keywords – any keyword with your company name or variations in them – have completely different cost and performance characteristics than category or other other generic or product specific keywords.
These differences completely confuse the reporting for any campaigns and Ad-Groups if they’re co-mingled.
Separating Keywords and Queries
The first step is easy – every keyword you buy, regardless of its Match Type, should be in an Ad-Group if not a Campaign with only other keywords that contain the Brand name too.
Preferably, the brand terms are bucketed, with the ‘Pure’ Brand keywords in one group (those that represent just the name and variations itself), the navigational versions in another (www.brand.com, brand homepage, etc.) and the Brand-Plus keywords (Brand Sweatpants, Brand Coupons, etc.) in yet another, and so on.
In these brand focused Ad-Groups, you have to use Broad and Advanced match very sparingly and carefully, and eventually almost entirely eliminate them. If you leave them, you’ll get too many non-brand queries matching and diluting the intent of these highly focused Ad-Groups.
The other side of this Broad/Advanced Match coin is that you’ll also want to add your brand as a negative in all the remaining non-branded Campaigns and Ad-Groups. Otherwise the engines will match brand-inclusive queries against your non-brand targeted keywords.
This can be and feel dangerous, if you’re not completely sure that your Brand campaigns are complete, bid properly, running the full range of Match-Types (with of course the Match Type Keyword Traps fully configured and loaded.)
It’s probably a good idea to skip this step of adding the brand as negatives in the non-branded campaigns for a few days to ensure that there aren’t certain query formulations that your new Brand targeted Campaigns are missing.
Watch the query reports carefully, and add variations to the brand campaigns, and ultimately more negatives to both the brand the non-brand campaigns.
Immediately upon starting this process, especially if your campaigns had brand terms and lots of broad match scattered throughout, you’ll see radical shifts in your search reports.
- You may be amazed how much revenue is coming from and and how little cost is going into your pure brand campaigns. That’s the good news.
- You may be shocked at how much money and how little revenue is coming from your now-strictly-non-brand ad-groups. That’s the bad news. Or the opportunity, depending on how you look at it.
In any case, you’ll have a new level of clarity about the performance and activity in your PPC campaigns.
I’ll share more thoughts on the execution of full brand segregation, and the implications of the changes it makes to your reported results, in future posts. This is another one that may take 3-4 posts to just scratch the surface of.
In the meantime, questions and comments are encouraged. Are your brand terms separated into ad-groups? Does that help you better understand the way your PPC budgets are spent? What problems have you seen trying to control brand via Match Types? Any other ideas?
NOTE: This is part of a post series. It’s available as a single post for easier reading: The Match Type Series.
In several earlier posts in this series I’ve discussed the how’s and why’s of buying the same or similar terms at the same time with different Match Type settings.
I outlined in one post the details of creating a Match Type Keyword Trap to filter certain search queries into specific match types. Buying multiple terms and multiple levels – when done correctly – has the ability to give you control over which queries are caught at which price.
One reason this works is because the engines (generally) execute the match types sequentially.
In other words, if you are bidding on the same keyword, or two keywords that would both match for one particular query, an Exact Match should take precedence over a Phrase Match which should take precedence over a Broad Match.
So even though a particular query is technical a match for both one Broad Match keyword and another Phrase Match keyword, the Phrase Match should always ‘win’ and catch that query.
I should hasten to point out, this will not always be true. If you carefully watch query reports for your keywords you will see queries that were exact matches against a keyword you had set to Exact Match, yet the query lands in a Broad Match group. But in our experience these are rare in the sub 1% range of all queries.
Emphasis the Match Type Setting with Higher Bids
You can and should add punch to this precedence by ALWAYS placing rather substantially higher bids on your Exact Match vs Phrase Match, and Phrase Match vs Broad Match when they’re stacked in targeting the same terms.
And make the differences between the bids significant – it generally won’t help to bid $0.05 more for Exact Match than Broad Match. When bidding it’s easy to look at your Max CPCs (since that’s the option used to set the bid) but since your actual and average CPC is usually just a fraction of the Max you really can’t base your decision on those. Look instead at average CPC’s being reported and then set the Max’s at large enough intervals to create real steps between the different keyword/match type combinations.
By placing a substantially higher bid on the match type differentiated keywords, you’re providing another algorithmic reason for the engine to match exact match queries to your Exact Match keywords. Of course, it should also be true that you want generally higher position and higher impression share for the keywords you’re bidding on Exact Match.
A Simple Match
At the start of this series I mentioned that Match Type was a powerful and often under-utilized option. I hope these five posts so far have covered some of the ways you can get more out of these options. Time for a break from Match Type, however. Watch for a new series starting soon.
I’d like to be able to specify two or more words, and match to any query that contained those words, in any order and with any words before, after, or in between.
So if I’m selling pet supplies in Boulder Colorado, I could purchase the Keyword: Boulder Dog on the AND Match Type, and I’d match to ‘Cheap dog food in Boulder’ and ‘Boulder Dog Park’ and ‘Natural Dog Supplies in Boulder’.
The problem is that I don’t trust Broad Match. In this case ‘Boulder’ is the key term, but I obviously can’t Broad Match Boulder, I need to also specify that it’s only Boulder Dog related searchers I want.
The AND Match Type would enable that.