A few weeks ago, Google unveiled some new changes to AdWords’ system of matching keywords to search queries. According to the official Google blog, these new campaign settings will automatically use your existing keyword lists to match for misspellings, acronyms, and other close variants in existing phrase and exact match terms.
Search Engine Land summed up the occasions where Google’s new system may kick in:
- Misspellings (“waterprof sunblock” instead of “waterproof sunblock”)
- Singular/plural forms (“beach balls” and “beach ball”)
- Stemming (“single serve” and “single serving”)
- Accents (“hotel” and “hôtel”)
- Abbreviations (“Dr.” versus “Doctor”)
- Acronyms (“NYC” versus “New York City”)
So, this is a noble concept. I’ll give Google credit for that. Essentially, Google is taking out the blood, sweat, and tears out of creating keyword clusters around brand or other misspellings, and taking the guesswork out of matching for every possible combination of keywords a user could describe a question or product they are searching for. The focus is user-intent, they say.
According to Google, 7% of all searches contain misspellings and the longer the query, the higher the rate of misspelling. The new match type setting will allow marketers to focus on core keywords rather than mine Search Term Reports for long-tail phrases or misspellings that should be captured and bid on. In this way, your accounts will be less cluttered with phrase and exact match long-tail terms and other variants–all of which tend to carry low CTR. And we all know that a great campaign starts and ends with a great CTR. (Think about how this plays into Quality Score and Ad Rank!).
But, let’s take a step back and critically examine what this change means for SEM/PPC professionals. If history has taught us anything, it’s to beware of Google! Always question what new options are in front of you. How can this benefit my account and my client…but more importantly: how could this new option go wrong?
Here are my thoughts on this new (optional!) setting for phrase and exact match types:
1. Helps Advertisers with Limited Time to Manage Campaigns
If you’re a small business with little time to dedicate to paid search programs, this setting is for you. Sometimes mom and pop shops just can’t put 8 hours a day into optimizing their campaigns and neither can they afford to pay premium agency prices for someone else to handle it. In this case, it’s easy for anyone to set up a campaign and a couple of ad groups focused around their product or service and let AdWords do its magic.
The setting will catch relevant variations on phrases and exact matches such as “clubbing in cambridge,” “handmade wedding dresses boston,” or [gourmet cupcakes]. Think of all the combinations of the above keywords that could be relevant for a search such as the aforementioned. This new setting would capture a search for “wedding dress boston” in the singular, [gourmet cupcakes] in the plural, and so forth. “Clubbing” could possibly be matched by the phrase “club in cambridge.” Plus, any acronyms that Google is smart enough to catch will enjoy some extra traffic by enabling this setting.
AdWords beginners don’t have to bother as much with match type settings, tests, or advanced optimization. Combine this with a good geo-targeted strategy, and your local marketer is good to go.
2. Insight into New Keyword Opportunities
Looking for keyword opportunities that you haven’t yet thought of? This is for you. So let’s say that you have a product that’s new-to-market. And no one really knows what to call this thing you’ve built–but you know it satisfies a consumer demand. How can you use this setting to build out your existing keyword lists? Looking at Search Term Reports is one way, but having AdWords do the work for you may be a less time-consuming strategy. Operative terms like “contraption for oracle server” or “contraption for doing this to this product” are very difficult to build out keyword lists for. The difficulty is not in the operative keywords, but in the phrasing. “A product is used for B” is very different from “A compliments product B”. The direction of usage, of ownership–and this goes back to the basics of the English language–really do affect what keywords you should be bidding on.
3. New Setting Won’t Affect Quality Scores (Sort of…)
According to Google, your quality scores are safe with the new match type setting. But, this does come with a catch. If your account uses the new match type setting, any derivations that the algorithm may serve ads for will follow the quality score of the root keyword that triggered the relevant variation…that triggered the ad.
While we could get into the concept of how this new feature is taking power away from modified broad keywords–
*I guess I should take the time to explain that my views reflect ONLY my views and not the views of Overdrive Interactive or anyone else! Hah!
1. Wreaking Havoc on Dynamic Keyword Insertion Ads
Firstly, you should always be cautious when setting up keyword lists that will accompany Dynamic Keyword Insertion ads. If you don’t know what these are, look them up! It’s advisable that you do not use broad keyword lists for these types of ads because any individual keyword in a broad-matched term can trigger an ad. This sometimes produces headlines that are nonsensical or are just flat-out wrong.
Using the new keyword match type settings will essentially broaden your exact and phrase keywords and therefore broaden your Dynamic Keyword Insertion ads’ probability of displaying completely incorrect (or even illegal) ad headlines. Something to think about!
2. Blurs/Overshadows the Modified Broad Keyword Match Type
This was my first reaction when I first heard about this new campaign setting. What about my broadified keywords? If you don’t know what the modified broad match type is, check it out here.
Essentially, +this +keyword (yes, with a + in front of each word [called a fully modified broad match]) tells Google “my ad can trigger for a query that contains every single one of these words, plus similar spellings and other relevant variations.” Although this is NOT what the new match type settings are turning your exact and phrase keywords into, it DOES take a little bit of power away from fully modified broad keywords.
Of course, this isn’t confirmed–yet. But, this is how I suspect the situation will play out. If AdWords favors the un-modified broad keyword, you may find your impression levels spike. Depending on your campaign settings, you may find that Google will favor root keywords that tend to trigger a lot of irrelevant impressions rather than your extremely targeted modified broad keyword that generally doesn’t cause Search Term Report headaches.
3. CTR Will Suffer
I won’t preach too much about this one. More possible combinations in keywords that can trigger your ad = impression increase. And not all of that traffic will be qualified traffic! Do not expect that your clicks increase unless your ad is poorly written and/or confusing to the user. This deadly combo will cause your CTR to decline.
4. Google Wants to Increase Q2 and Q3 and Subsequent Qs Revenue
The conspiracy theorist in me is having a field day with this. Irrelevant clicks = wasted money for marketers but PROFIT for Google. And since their profits in Q1 were only up 12%, they need to increase the number of irrelevant clicks if they want to have a similar Q2 and Q3! </conspiracy>
Google has also let marketers to believe that they are missing out on monetizing the misspellings, synonyms, and variation-type keywords. Bidding on every single combination of keywords is like trying to pick up a handful of sand and expecting to not lose a single grain. It’s just impossible and inefficient.
5. Double-Triple-Quadruple Check Your Search Terms Report!
More possible combinations in keywords = more irrelevant queries that trigger your ad. The evidence of what causes someone to click an ad will be apparent in your Search Term Report. I expect the *expected* increase in impressions will increase the amount of data in your STR. This causes several complications.
First, you’ll have to spend quite some time surfing through your STR to make sure those queries are at least somewhat relevant. Secondly, you’ll use that analysis to make a pretty comprehensive negative keyword list. This is very important!
6. Wasted Spend on Irrelevant Clicks
There is also a strong possibility that your keyword list, if not properly optimized, will trigger ads for irrelevant queries. An increase in irrelevant impressions will also increase the probability of irrelevant clicks, which will result in wasted money.
7. CPCs will Increase AdWords-wide
An increase in the number of possible keyword combinations that could win the AdWords lottery artifically inflates the compeitition for keywords. Think of the keyword space as the bullseye at the center of a dartboard. Lets say two competitors have, each, 50% of their keywords overlapping. So this would look sort of like a Venn Diagram. (follow me for a second…)
Adding the keyword match settings will increase your reach or amplitude by one ring on the dartboard. Think about the range of opportunites (and increased overlapping opportunites) which now present themselves. Look at how much more area is “overlapping” on your dartboard. I should also point out that this “extra ring expansion” was not due to a budget increase, keyword list increase, or anything else but a simple campaign setting. That in itself defies basic economic laws.
I think this will give the illusion that there are more competitors in a space than there actually are. I think that increased impressions and number of qualified queries for an ad will absolutely increase the competition for a lottery and lead to increased CPCs. Again, this hasn’t been tested on any real PPC accounts yet; we may find that this accusation is false.
I’ve rambled enough. What are your thoughts?