<< by on July 13th, 2007
This week we’ve been doing some experiments with Google AdWords’ new report — the search query report. Unlike past reports on your AdWords’ campaigns which used the keywords you provided and detailed how those performed, this report shows you exactly what your ad respondents searched on — the actual queries.
This new report is a great way to find new negative keyword options. However, it also unveiled something a bit more disturbing. Google is showing ads for keywords you did not request.
Here’s a fictional example. Let’s say that my company sells the Xbox, and I only advertise on Xbox-branded terms. What appears to be happening is that my Xbox ad may now show on Wii-branded terms, even if I do not have Wii-branded terms in my keywords.
Google calls this “expanded match” and it occurs on broad match keywords. Google has a minimal explanation in the AdWords help:
With broad match, the Google AdWords system automatically runs your ads on relevant variations of your keywords, even if these terms aren’t in your keyword lists. Keyword variations can include synonyms, singular/plural forms, relevant variants of your keywords, and phrases containing your keywords.
For example, if you’re currently running ads on the broad-matched keyword web hosting, your ads may show for the search queries web hosting company or webhost. The keyword variations that are allowed to trigger your ads will change over time, as the AdWords system continually monitors your keyword quality and performance factors. Your ads will only continue showing on the highest-performing and most relevant keyword variations.
Google makes it seem, in this example, that the keywords it select through “expanded match” are highly relevant and very related to your original keyword. Not so. In testing we’ve done using the search query report and in discussions with other AdWords customers, we’ve found that Google is:
- Using other languages for your keywords, even if you did not specify that language in your campaign selection.
In one client’s case, we found one of our terms in Japanese, even though we are only advertising in the US and in English.
- Using competitor names, even if those competitors are NOT in your keyword lists.
In some cases, this is very costly for advertisers. In one such case, an advertiser was paying more than $2.50/click for a competitor name, with over 20 clicks in a month. That one keyword was costing at least $50/month and did not lead to conversions.
Expanded matching is apparently a default setting in AdWords. Although, we’ve found no way to opt out of it. You MAY be able to opt out by using only phrase and exact match keywords, but this severely limits your scope of possible queries AND sometimes phrase or exact match can cost more per click.
We’re going to test using all of those terms we found in the search query report as negative keywords and see if that helps us “opt out” of expanded match. My personal opinion is that this is just one more way for Google to drive up clicks, drive up revenue, and continue to stay a Wall Street darling — at the expense of its advertisers.