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|Broad Match just got dangerous|
Recent log analysis for one of our clients revealed a very serious issue within their AdWords account that we assumed had been an error within the AdWords system.
We contacted Google, and it turned out the system is working as intended. In the following information, keywords have been changed so as to protect client confidentiality, but if you use broad match in your AdWords account/s, you want to read this.
When poring through the server logs, we noticed a lot of clicks for one single broad term. The problem was that we weren't bidding on it.
The term generated 3,500 impressions and 140 clicks for the broad matched term widget.
These were the keywords that we were bidding on:
Bidding on terms such as widget advice and widget assistance is not the same as bidding on the broad match widget. The company in question don't sell books, magazines, equipment, courses or any number of possible broad match variations.
When we sent this information to Google, they replied:
It is possible for two-word keywords to expand to one-word keywords if that one word is highly relevant. In my case, they said "widget" had a 4% CTR and therefor Google judged this to be highly relevant to its users. They also suggested I use the negative exact match -[widget]
This concerns me.
First of all, when does expanding a two-word keyword reduce it to one single word? Expanding means less?
Secondly, why have they now placed the onus on their advertisers to find negatives for broad matches that they're not even bidding on?
Thirdly, why are Google now deciding when to ignore certain words within your broad matches, and reduce them to single words?
Fourthly, why are Google doing this so silently? If we hadn't spotted this in our logs, we'd never have known.
This scares the bijeebies out of me.
Moral: It's never been so important to thoroughly analyse your web logs.
[edited by: skibum at 10:05 pm (utc) on June 18, 2007]
[edit reason] paraphrased email, widgetized keywords [/edit]
When we run into issues like this, we do several things:
1) we look for ways to expand the "broad term gone wild" then we add those keywords and negatives and remove the broad term or convert it to phrase match. using google's keyword tool is a great way to see what google is "thinking" when someone types in that broad keyword
2) we also use negatives in our other adgroups for our keyword themes to force Google to distribute our ads matched with the appropriate keywords.
widget advice - add negatives for assistance, classes, guidance, questions
widget assistance - add negatives for advice, classes, guidance, questions
widget classes - add negatives for assistance, advice, guidance, questions
widget guidance - add negatives for assistance, classes, advice, questions
widget questions - add negatives for assistance, classes, guidance, advice
We have some accounts where this problem is so bad that we can't use broad terms at all but for most accounts its just a handful of broad terms that cause all the problems.
[edited by: skibum at 10:06 pm (utc) on June 18, 2007]
[edit reason] widgetized keywords [/edit]
I think it is a flaw in their thinking when developing the AdWords algo or a just a way to harvest more money from advertisers or both.
You have these quality scores that impact sites who wouldn't be advertising if they weren't making money and if they are making money they must be relevant to the person searching, scraper sites aside.
Then you have this liberal broad matching looking to grab any ad it can find with a high CTR to maximize click revenue for Google and shows ads for irrelevant searches.
A business owner can determine relevancy much better than a computer algorithm in most cases but when you run search campaigns you essentially grant the engine permission to do whatever they want with your ad.
In this case, as Google suggested, negative broad match would fix the problem.
It gets really fun when your ad starts showing up on TM terms for competitors you've never heard of or intended to target and their lawyers send you nice letters to let you know about it. :)
I also ran into this issue recently. In my case, adwords truncated my broad matched term which was Wiget * (where * stands for an abbreviation of a state). This problem seemed to lead to many out-of-state clicks. I had never run into this before; is this an old problem?
Skibum - I had that happen to me - a nasty letter from a company lawyer angry at my bidding on their name. I had no idea my ad was showing for their name but it certainly was.
Oh it's not an error -- it's a feature! An "option" that you are not able to opt out of.
I have seen this system determine that, for the broad matched term "new york widgets", that "new york" can be ignored and the ad can be displayed for location specific searches involving..
And these are the LESS extreme examples. All clicked and paid for.
Now I understand that the burden of due diligence in keyword research and campaign development falls on the webmaster. But what webmaster would think to add "Weston" or "Bellevue" or "Boise" as negative keywords to a location-specific campaign?
|Bidding on terms such as widget advice and widget assistance is not the same as bidding on the broad match widget. |
Yes, exactly! I have been using AdWords for years and consider myself pretty adept at it. widget advice is not the same as widget. It has never been that way until recently.
I have also noticed wild expansions in Google's definition of broad match recently. They always come up with the lame response: use negative keywords. I've been using broad match and negative keywords for years, and I know how to use them. A year ago this would have never happened. If Google is going to change the rules on us, please let us know in advance!
We're instituting a policy of no more broad match. I can't take the chance on what sort of wacky search terms Google is going to show our ads for.
|I have seen this system determine that, for the broad matched term "new york widgets", that "new york" can be ignored and the ad can be displayed for location specific searches involving.. |
I wonder if this is an unfortunate side-effect of Google's hands-off algorithmic approach, combined with permitting practices that some of us consider shady?
It's a common practice for merchants who sell a product nationally to advertise on Adwords using location-specific terms - even though they have no physical presence in a location, nor does their product have any location-specific appeal.
Some of us consider this shady, and/or unfair to local merchants.
Since this is so common, and apparently works out well for the advertisers, Google (or their algorithm) has generalized that it works well for everyone and is what everyone wants.
So, when an advertiser gives location-specific terms, Google doesn't assume the obvious - which is that the advertiser wants to target that specific location - they assume that the advertiser wants to engage in the practice of capturing local searches for a non-local product or service. And, so, Google gives the advertiser some "help" (which they may not want) and broadens to include other locations.
Given that the practice is so wide-spread - and - I think we can make the assumption that Google's algorithms probably "learn" from the data - this may not be an intentional policy. I'd submit that Google doesn't even *know* exactly what their algorithms do. I'd bet that their biggest technical task is to mop-up after the algorithm, constantly plugging holes in the dike with exceptions. But first they have to figure out just where the durn thing is going awry.
That's the danger of letting the algorithm be in charge. What we have is the tyranny of the majority. If the majority of advertisers do something "bad" - and it works - (at least for Google's bottom line...), the system will learn from this and use the "bad" practice even for other advertisers! (Ditto for the case of unwanted trademark infringements.)
Now, Google *does* have a specific mechanism for targeting geographical areas that doesn't involve keywords. I suppose their response is that you should be using that. But that system is badly flawed, and advertisers know it - which is why they are using location keywords in the first place.
|I wonder if this is an unfortunate side-effect of Google's hands-off algorithmic approach |
Yes, I've been in contact with Google about this same issue, and their response leans to the algorithm. And adding negative words seems to be the way to get around this problem.
If you have a contact at Google, you may be able to have the optimization team flesh out negative keyword lists. If you don't have the ability to get raw keyword data from your analytics tools, Google now has Search Query Report available which shows raw keyword data at a Ad Group level.
Definitely a stock price booster....
I have experienced this with several Adwords campaigns. Here are some great examples:
My broad match keyword: Housewares Brand Name = traffic for the term: food processor
My broad match keyword: City Web Development = traffic for the term: State Web Development
The part that burns me is that G knows that I am going to pay way more for a term like city web dev, rather than state web dev, because it's obviously more targeted/granular.etc... yet they choose to compromise my efficiency to put more $$ in their pocket.
When I enquired about this an Adwords rep explained that once you pay a certain amount for a broad match term they assume you are just looking for a lot of traffic. They also recommended that I remove my broad match terms from these ad groups if I didn't want this added traffic.
Thanks for that liberal assumption Google, your shareholders really appreciate it.
I've experienced the same thing and the only suggestion I got from my AdWords contact was to make my broad match keywords into phrase match. Gee, thanks.
In my case, my 'business use widgets' broad keywords were showing up for 'consumer widgets' keywords. I wish I could be more specific but suffice it to say my 50 searches per day keywords were showing up for 5,000 searches per day phrases.
Google really need to look more closely at how they are dealing with broad match keywords, because there is no value to the advertiser if their ads are showing for things that are utterly irrelevant.
Google are sawing the branch on which they are sitting with this type of "improvements". It reminds me of bad old days with Overture, when I had noticed an unusual amount of clicks for a phrase I was bidding on "Alsace widgets". It turned out that Overture had expanded it to appear for "Alaska widgets" - an improvement for their wallet maybe... but certainly not long term!
CTR on the google and search networks are ok, not stellar but acceptable. On the content network though, brutal in my experience, about 25x lower ctr because clicksters simply weren't looking for what you're offering. They got curious and looked.
Combine this with broad terms and it seems like you would be paying more for peoples curiosity than for a possible conversion.
I also agree as the Broad match needs to be watched through the web logs or the web stats. As Nowadays user keeps typing the search query which can provide the best ever result out of it... and for that they try few variations and we get more clicks on it.
For broad match, check your web stats list out negative keywords and add those negative keywords on that particular ad group. As it's not actually that Broad match have gone dangerous, the thing is that User are more aware and now they have started more on variations.
Every few months these conversations pick back up about 'expanded broad match'.
It seems the best course of action is to add a 4th matching option and bring back 'original broad match'.
There are some who actually like the expanded broad match; however, effective advertising is about control. Bringing back the original broad match is a nice compromise for advertisers who don't want to find all of the possible phrase matches and Google who doesn't want account spending $100/month to have 10k keywords in their database.
In addition, while the new search query report is useful, the old keyword tool would show advertisers possible broad matches so advertisers understood what a keyword could match to before advertising on a word. Bringing back this visibility would also be useful so the above issues can be researched before they happen.
[edited by: eWhisper at 9:44 am (utc) on June 20, 2007]
Oh and I thought it was only me. I was bidding on "brand" and my ad showed for "totaly different brand which I do not even sell".
And I would not have even noticed it if I had not received a very angry email from a potential customer who told me he would never ever do business with me because I was tricking people into visiting my website, advertising for products I do not even offer.
I mean whats this talk about landing page quality about? The brandname that the ad showed for is not mentioned once on my entire website.
And all my adwords rep could tell me was that I should ad the term to my negative keywords.
This could cost a lot of money if a competitor sues on trademark infringement. What am I expected to do when I want to use broad match? Add a list of all existing brands to my negative keywords?
I don't like where Adwords is going. They are adding all kinds of useless options so the adwords interface gets more and more complicated everytime I log in and start showing ads for terms that are not even related to what I am bidding for. Without even notfiying me.
They should switch back the system to where it was two years ago.
I also got the trademark infringement letter from a competitor as a result of this 'feature'. It was nice giving him an education and telling him to stick it where the sun don't shine. Doesn't happen often enough to lawyers :).
|It seems the best course of action is to add a 4th matching option and bring back 'original broad match'. |
I agree with eWhisper; a 4th matching option would be nice.
As a reminder for the negative matching, remember you can also do negative phrase match and negative exact match, not just negative broad match.
Anyone got a copy of a online dictionary so I can negative match the entire English language except the keywords I use?!?
This has been an issue that has been going on for a long time now.
After discussing this with a Google rep at the time, it seemed like the system was "fixed". However, more recently, the issue came up again. On discussing this with a Google rep again, this time I was told that the system was performing "normally" and we should use negative match keywords to handle situations like this.
[edited by: eWhisper at 10:33 pm (utc) on June 20, 2007]
[edit reason] Please see TOS linking policy. [/edit]
|Anyone got a copy of a online dictionary so I can negative match the entire English language except the keywords I use?!? |
Actually this is what came into my mind, too. I was thinking about adding a list of registered trademarks in my field of business to the negative keywords. Should be possible to get such a list for a few hundred Euro somewhere. Still cheaper than a lawsuit because of trademark infringement.
Does anybody know how many negative keywords Google Adwords can handle? Not that I add 5000 brandnames and my Adwords account goes down.
Just a thought, but why are you focusing on Broad Match?
Shouldn't you be using EXACT and PHRASE Matches, especially when bidding on your own Brand Terms. While the algorithm for Broad may have changed somewhat, I've never really relied on this Match Type as my main traffic source.
I've always staggered bids so that Broad match is less than Phrase which is less than Exact. This way you are giving Google a reason to serve the appropriate match.
I've always looked at Broad Match as a safety net to catch terms that have fallen through my big net of Exact and Phrase match terms. Using this method, along with an analytics package, you can see what terms the Broad Match is generating and either add them in as Phrase and Exacts, or as Negatives when the term is irrelevant.
Enough Broad bashing... Start using EXACT and PHRASE... and watch your QS improve and your CPC go down...
Unfortunately you still get garbage through on Phrase match so its not that easy.
Google resists giving advertisers the ability to opt out of "expanded broad match" for the same reason that Yahoo resisted giving advertisers the ability to opt out of "domain match".
And while we're tossing this about, where are the AdWords reps on WebmasterWorld to weigh in on this?
This is interesting google wants us to serve quality pages on relevant searches and at the same time they are forcing us to buy spots on not relevant searches. Google need to pick one duck here relevance and quality or short term $$$. Google rep tells me make relevant ads – well I do. And google needs to serve my ads on relevant searches. We as an advertisers know better than the algo what keyword is relevant and which one is not.
my 2 cents...
Sorry, this is a bit off topic...but in response to the above poster. How/where did you determine that by bidding on just phrase and exact match that your QS would go up, and as a result your bids go down? Do you have proof of this through testing? I'm not bashing you, just curious about your theory...
|And while we're tossing this about, where are the AdWords reps on WebmasterWorld to weigh in on this? |
Working at my day job, mostly. ;)
I've had very little time to spend on the forums for several days now, unfortunately. Some weeks I can carve out lots of time - other weeks not so much. (And this is a good time to mention again that I'll be away from AdWords for the month of July, and neither reading or posting.)
I will absolutely pass feedback from this thread along to the right teams - I'll send them the link, plus quote several of you in the Advertiser Feedback Report. In the meantime, the best approaches towards improving your experience with broad match (at least IMO) have already been suggested in this thread:
* use negative keywords to your advantage
* take advantage of the search query report (and your own logs) to mine for negatives
* seriously consider using phrase match instead of broad (as phrase match keywords are not 'expanded')
* seriously consider using exact match keywords instead of broad (since, as with phrase match, they are not 'expanded')
All that said, please know that your feedback will be seen by the right folks.
I noticed back in February that partner sites were showing for a single word from my necessary broad matches. It was a very common word that I would never dream of using alone.
At the time, I made a post and an email to AdWords support that blamed a highly dubious partner site that accounted for most of the single word showings and suggested they must be 'gaming' the system somehow. This ate up all my profits for the month on that campaign. My bad, wasn't watching the campaign since it had consistently returned an excellent profit.
I then dumped the partner network for that campaign and saw profits go back to better than normal.
|use negative keywords to your advantage |
I do, but there how will that help when I'm showing for a single word from my broad match - a required word? I can't abandon broad match completely because I can't predict the precise phrasing searchers will use for this type of service. I have some idea, but there are grammatical considerations, all sorts of unique ways people express themselves when referring to this service. I see it in my logs, people 'speak' in all different ways to search engines. Hence, the need for some broad matches.
For about 3 years, these same broad matches worked fine. I'd monitor my logs and apply negatives based on entries I clearly didn't want.
If I was showing on multiple words from my broad match that I didn't want, I could apply negatives, but not when I show on this single word which shows on 157 million indexed pages when searched on alone!
It's less of a problem for me on Google itself, because there are much bigger fish who get to show on this word, presumably with deeper pockets.
Still, it can't be a "feature" which leaves only the possibility it's an unintened bug.
|I do, but there how will that help when I'm showing for a single word from my broad match - a required word? I can't abandon broad match completely because I can't predict the precise phrasing searchers will use for this type of service. I have some idea, but there are grammatical considerations, all sorts of unique ways people express themselves when referring to this service. I see it in my logs, people 'speak' in all different ways to search engines. Hence, the need for some broad matches. |
If you want to prevent showing on a specify query, then use "negative exact match" keywords. For example, suppose your keyword is:
....and you find your ad is showing on the one word query words, but you don't want that to happen. Just wrap the query you don't want to show on with square brackets and add to your adgroup as a negative as follows:
Then your ad will show for query two words & other expansions, but never for the specific query words.
Exact match negatives are a very powerful feature to use in conjunction with the search query reports since you can precisely exclude only the queries you don't want. With broad match negatives you risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Thank you GroovyDave,
Your last statement was spot on too. I was very reluctant to get too daring since Google algos can be quite unpredictable (especially of late).
You can see we had a lively debate about -phrase and -exact matches over a year ago.
This may provide some help to others with similar dilemmas.
Wasn't confident enough to implement them then, but if it worked out for you, I will give it a shot now.
[edited by: Israel at 9:06 pm (utc) on June 23, 2007]
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