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Monday, December 18, 2006

Be Careful with AdWords Expanded Matching

After writing about PPCmoz yesterday, I realize I've been creating some pretty useful (IMHO, of course) content pertaining to PPC strategies but on *other* people's sites, either by posting blog comments or forum entries. Figured I ought to create that content here, as well, in some cases. For instance, Lee Odden interviewed Stacy Williams (of Prominent Placement) at SES Chicago and posted the video interview. Go see it, read the comment I left and then come back here and I'll add some details.

Did you watch the video?

No??! C'mon, go watch the video. And, read my comment.

What? You forget to read my comment? Sigh. Ok, here it is:
Lee - Nice interviews. Good to hear Stacy mention expanded matching. I’ve been advising setting different bids for exact, phrase and broad, particularly as broad is now actually expanded broad matching. For instance, in the video she gives the example of buying ads for /used sun/ broad match. That could look like this in an ad group keyword list:

[used sun] ** 1.44
“used sun” ** 0.99
used sun ** 0.25

Point is to pay more for what you know you’re buying and less for what you don’t know. Also, if you are buying broad matches, it’s worth using Google’s keyword tool with the “Use synonyms” box checked to get an idea ahead of time as to how the system might expand the broad match. In the case of /used sun/ I’m currently seeing expanded keywords like:

used cars for sale
used sunfire

Clearly, Google’s keyword system is expanding “sun” to “sunfire” and then equating that with “cars” so if I had keywords /used sun/ broad match, I’d definitely add these negatives right from the start:


It is useful to use (expanded) broad match, but it’s worth minimizing risk by setting those bids much lower than exact or phrase, so you’re not paying for clicks for poorly matched keywords. As Stacy mentions in the video, it’s important to scour the server logs periodically to see what actual keywords the broad matches are bringing. Then, new negatives and even new exact and phrase matches can be added to the ad group. This way, the keyword list can evolve over time but you’re not paying high CPCs for extraneous keywords along the way.

Anyway, haven’t seen too many people dig into expanded matching so figured it’d be worth mentioning how important it is to recognize that it is the default way Google handles keywords and advertisers need to deal with it appropriately.
It's important to recognize that broad match is actually expanded broad match. What is expanded matching? Here's Google's definition:
With expanded matching, the Google AdWords system automatically runs your ads on highly relevant keywords, including synonyms, related phrases, and plurals, even if they aren't in your keyword lists. For example, if you're currently running ads on the keyword web hosting, expanded matching may identify the keyword website hosting for you. The expanded matches will change over time as the AdWords system continually monitors system-wide keyword performance and other relevance factors. This helps determine which expanded matches and variations are the most relevant to user searches.
Sounds great, right? It doesn't work so well in practice. Digging through web server log files, I've found some pretty peculiar expanded matches. I don't want to go into details since I think keywords are important business intelligence. I was actually a bit surprised when watching Lee's video interview to hear Stacy talk about specific keywords from a client. I'd use my own firm's PPC data and not a client's. The basic problem is that if you use broad matching, you're really using expanded broad matching so you don't actually know what you're paying for. This can have some rather deleterious effects on an ad campaign.

How do you deal with this "feature" of Google AdWords? You don't necessarily want to stop using broad matching. But, if you are using broad matching, you'll need to regularly check on the actual, expanded keywords and add negative keywords as needed. It's also worth including phrase- and exact-matches as well as or instead of broad matches. As noted in my comment, I've adopted a strategy of bidding higher on exact matches. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of expanded matching without the risk of paying too much for extraneous keywords. Be careful with AdWords expanded matching!

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Blogger TopRank said...

Hey Richard, I really appreciate your insight into the issues Stacy talked about and thanks for posting about it on you blog.

I also checked out your TagMan game, very slick!

Mon Dec 18, 11:09:00 AM EST  
Blogger Richard said...

Hey Lee, I appreciate you stopping by. Your blog is one of my daily reads. Glad you enjoyed a game of TagMan!

Mon Dec 18, 01:25:00 PM EST  

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