Modified Broad Match – The Good and the Bad

Earlier this year, our PPC prayers were answered: Google finally rolled out their Broad Match Modifier, also known as Modified Broad Match. For years, we complained that broad match was just too broad. Our PPC keywords were matching to “silly synonyms” along with relevant terms – and our ROI went in the tank as a result.

Now, with Modified Broad Match, we can stop the hemorrhaging. We get all the benefits of broad match, but none of the junk.

Or do we?

The Good:

Getting rid of the junk. I wrote about this in one of my recent Search Engine Watch columns. In summary, one of our clients is a law firm specializing in aviation accident law. Even though we use negative keywords extensively, broad match is just too broad at times. Just prior to the US launch of modified broad match, our law firm’s ad for the broad match term “aviation lawyer” was displayed on this search phrase: “what the laws of flying with glass bongs”. This is an obvious case of broad match gone wild – and one that won’t happen with modified broad match.

Improving cost per conversion. By its very nature, modified broad match reduces the wasted impressions and clicks, and hones in on the right queries – without restricting impression the way phrase and exact match do. We’ve seen large improvements in cost per conversion for several clients who found that phrase match didn’t give them the traffic they wanted, but traditional broad match didn’t get good ROI.

Offering flexibility. On multi-word keyphrases (which you should always be using for PPC, by the way), the broad match modifier can be applied to one word in the keyword phrase, or many. For example, let’s say your keyword is “discount running shoes.” You could put the modifier on just the word “discount,” like this:

+discount running shoes

This will ensure that your ad only displays when the word “discount” is part of the query, but will still allow you to appear on queries like:
• Discount jogging sneakers
• Discount shoes for running
• Running shoes at a discount
• Etc.

But you might also show up on:
• Discount basketball shoes
• Discount athletic socks
• Used running shoes at a discount
• Etc.

Ugh. So maybe you’ll want to tighten things up a bit more:

+discount +running +shoes

Now, you’ll eliminate those crazy examples above, but can still show on:
• Running shoes at a discount
• Shoes running discount
• Discount shoes for running a marathon
• I want to find running shoes at a discount store
• Etc.

These are queries that you won’t get with phrase or exact match, but they’re still relevant and likely to convert.

The Bad:

It’s still too restrictive at times. We’ve seen the modifier shrink impression volume by as much as 80%, with no improvement in conversion rates. While this could be due to other concurrent issues, it’s hard to explain to a client why their volume on a top keyphrase suddenly disappeared.

It results in higher CPCs. We’ve also tried running modified broad match phrases side-by-side with traditional broad match. CPCs on the modified phrase have been 20-25% higher than the traditional broad phrase – again, with no difference in CTR or conversion rate.

Sometimes, it performs worse than traditional broad match. Yes, we have actually seen this happen: the modified broad match phrase ended up generating a good amount of impressions, but CTR and conversion rates were actually WORSE than the traditional broad match term. What gives?

What’s your experience been with the broad match modifier?

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How Not To Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion

As you know, I work from home most of the time. I love it – I’m able to minimize interruptions, focus, and get tons done, and still greet my kids when they get home from school. I’m saving the environment and my gasoline bills, too.

There are down sides, though. Our next-door neighbors have 2 young German Shepherds. These dogs BARK AT EVERYTHING. I mean EVERYTHING. They bark at me even though they see me every damn day. They bark at the mailman. They bark at the other neighbor’s dog that’s in its own yard EVERY DAMN DAY. As you can probably tell, it’s beyond annoying. And they bark at my son when he goes out to shoot hoops, which is not only annoying, it kind of scares me.

I heard someplace (radio? newspaper? I honestly can’t remember) that there are devices that generate high-frequency sound that humans can’t hear, but dogs can – and it makes the dogs stop barking. So, I turned to my good friend Google to try to find this miracle product, thinking we could try it at least when the kids are outside attempting to play basketball without listening to barking dogs the whole time.

I found tons of options in both the paid ads and the organic results, as you can see below. But I also found a gross misuse of dynamic keyword insertion (DKI).


See the third ad at the top of the page? “Stop Dogs Barking Neighbors”? Seriously? Folks, remember: DKI does NOT insert the keyphrase that was typed into the search box – it inserts the keyphrase you’re bidding on. While “stop dogs barking neighbors” is a perfectly fine keyword to bid on, it looks kinda silly in the ad title.

The moral of the story? Use DKI with discretion. Be careful which keywords you include in your ad groups that use DKI. Actually read through each possible title, out loud if necessary. Eliminate the ones that don’t sound right, and move them to an ad group where you’re not using DKI.

Oh, and please teach your dogs not to bark at every moving thing. Please.

Oh, and by the way – I didn’t buy a “stop dogs barking neighbors” device yet. Any recommendations?

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New Stuff From Google Adwords

The innovative team at Google Adwords has been busy of late. This week’s announcement of Modified Broad Match has SEMs pretty excited. For a detailed-as-always rundown, check out Andrew Goodman’s post on Traffick.

Google recently rolled out another feature in the Content Network that’s had surprisingly little fanfare: Interest-Based Advertising. We’ve been testing this successfully for a few weeks now, and so far, we’re seeing great impression volume and conversion rates. I wrote about this in today’s Search Engine Watch Experts column.

What do you think of these?

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PPC Campaigns on Mobile Devices – Good or Bad?

Yesterday afternoon, I listened to a Search Engine Watch Webcast presented by my good friend David Szetela from Clix Marketing entitled “Segmenting Your Way to PPC Success.” It was Part 2 of a 2-part series on advanced PPC segmenting, and it was highly informative, which I’ve come to expect from David.

I have to disagree with him on one point he made, though. He advised all Google PPC advertisers to opt out of showing their ads on mobile devices with full internet browsers. I don’t agree with that blanket statement. My take on this, as it usually is, is “test it.”

Most of our PPC clients get poor results from mobile devices, to be sure. However, it’s not true across the board. One of our clients is an apartment property management firm with properties in 10 states. This client makes extensive use of PPC to drive leads for apartment leases. And they get great results from mobile devices in Adwords.

To be specific, click-through rate for this client from mobile devices is 118% higher than click-through rate from computers. (And no, the client doesn’t use Content Network advertising, so CTR isn’t deflated by content impressions.) On top of that, conversion rate is 7% better on mobile devices than it is on computers, and the cost per conversion is better.

Of course, this seems logical to me, based on the client’s target market. Their apartment communities appeal to a young adult demographic, and young adults are more likely to use mobile internet browsing. Also, it seems logical that someone searching for an apartment may be out driving around an area looking at apartments – and using their mobile browser to conduct searches and contact properties – thus generating a lead.

This client would have lost low-cost conversions had they opted out of placing ads on mobile devices. Like I said, this isn’t true for most of our clients, but I think it’s worth testing.

Have you placed your PPC ads on mobile devices? What kind of results are you getting?

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Busy Week In The PPC World

It’s been a busy 7 days in PPC land, at least for me. One of the things that’s kept me busy is the Adwords Professional exam. My certification was set to expire at the end of this month, so I needed to re-take the exam. I’ve been using Google Adwords since its inception in 2002, so the exam wasn’t difficult, but it did take time. (By the way, I passed with 97%!)

Speaking of the Adwords exam, I wrote about why you should become a Google Adwords Certified Professional at Search Engine Watch last week. If you’re not certified, check it out.

Also keeping me busy this week is reading about the approval of the Microsoft-Yahoo Search Alliance. While nothing’s changed yet, the alliance could prove to be interesting over the next 12 months. I for one am looking forward to saving time and effort managing campaigns in the two very different interfaces.

For more on the merger, take a look at John Lee’s post on the Clix Marketing Blog. He pretty much took the words out of my mouth with that post. It’s great stuff!

And with that, I’m off to the rat race!

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PPC Happenings Around The Web

If you’re not currently participating in online SEM forums and/or reading SEM blogs, I strongly suggest you start doing so! Here are a few hot topics around the web this week.

Google Account Issues: There are a couple of threads on the Adwords Help forum dealing with some pretty serious issues with advertiser accounts. First is a thread about people having trouble canceling their accounts and getting refunds. Theoretically, one can cancel an Adwords account at any time, but apparently it’s not that simple

In another thread, an advertiser acting in an agency capacity got into a dispute with their client, and to make a long story short, Google handed their account over to the client – leaving the agency guy in the lurch with a lot of unpaid client work. It seems as though whoever pays the Adwords bill is considered the account owner, but it’s still unclear. I’m hoping Google clarifies their policy soon.

PPC Budget Strategy: The Search Engine Watch Forum is one of my favorite SEM forums. It’s been around for a long time, and I met a lot of my best friends in the industry there. There’s a thought-provoking thread going on now that started out as a discussion of budget strategy, but is morphing into more granular territory. Discussion continues on how to get the best ROI, match type bidding strategies, and other gems.

Changes To The Adwords Certification Exam: Google is apparently changing the Adwords Professional certification exam, turning it into four exams instead of one. Coverage is at Search Engine Roundtable.

Make a point to read up on these news items, and add your thoughts!

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The Top 3 PPC Innovations of 2009

Well, the New Year is here and believe it or not, it’s 2010. I know, everybody makes “top” lists around this time of year, but there were some great PPC innovations in 2009 that I can’t let go by without mentioning.

#1 – The New Adwords Interface. Around mid-year, Google released a beta version of a very different Adwords user interface. Early on, it was much maligned for issues such as horizontal scrolling and instability. Google, in its usual fashion, took the criticism in stride and gradually made improvements (I guess that’s the point of a beta, right?). At the end of July, the interface came out of beta and everyone was ported over whether they liked it or not.

I was one of the early detractors of the new interface, but I have to say that now that I’m used to it, it’s one of the greatest PPC innovations not only of 2009, but of the past 5 years. I love the graphs that show trends in impressions, clicks, conversion rate, and/or a number of other metrics – enabling users to spot issues instantly. And many functions that once required running and poring over multiple reports now can be performed right in the interface. Placement performance reports are nearly a thing of the past – I can see how individual content sites are performing right in the interface. Search query reports also can be run in-line. You can even segment by day of week, network, or device – right in the interface. I sound like a broken record, but it’s really cool and a huge time saver.

#2 -Bing. While Microsoft’s rollout of their new “decision engine” isn’t strictly a PPC move, it’s definitely had a ripple effect on PPC. While market share for Bing is still paltry compared to Google, it’s growing – and PPC advertisers are seeing increased traffic as a result. While some of our Fluency Media advertisers haven’t seen a lift, others have – especially those in the travel vertical. Bing is really a pretty good search engine, and I expect big things from them in 2010.

#3 – Yahoo’s so-called auto-optimization debacle. Way back in January 2009, Yahoo changed their Terms and Conditions, allowing them to “auto-optimize” PPC accounts. The PPC engines have offered optimization recommendations for years. Our Google reps regularly provide optimization suggestions for our clients’ accounts. The difference with Yahoo is that they (1) created new campaigns without input from the account manager, and (2) implemented the campaigns live without permission, or even knowledge, of the account manager.

This caused a huge stir in the SEM industry, with recognized experts denouncing the practice. While Yahoo tried to defend themselves, no one was buying it.

Personally, I was able to get our rep to opt us out of auto-optimization, but it was a terrible experience all around.

Well, those are my top 3 of 2009 – what were yours? Share them in the comments!

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Google Revises Adwords Trademark Policy

Well hallelujah and the saints be praised – Google has finally come to their senses and modified their Adwords trademark policy to allow the use of trademarked terms in ad copy. It’s about flippin’ time!

I’ve written about this a couple times, most recently just over a month ago. This trademark thing has bordered on the ridiculous many times, as anecdotes about people not being able to use the words “target” or “daddy” or “next” or other common terms abounded on forums, blogs, and Twitter. Now all that silliness has been laid to rest. From the Inside Adwords blog post:

Imagine opening your Sunday paper and seeing ads from a large supermarket chain that didn’t list actual products for sale; instead, they simply listed the categories of products available – offers like “Buy discount cola” and “Snacks on sale.” The ads wouldn’t be useful since you wouldn’t know what products are actually being offered. For many categories of advertisers, this is the problem they have faced on Google for some time.

Hey, that sounds familiar. In my post Trademark Trials and Tribulations, I wrote (emphasis added):

What I don’t understand is why this is such a big deal in the search space. I mean, can you imagine JCPenney running a newspaper ad for Levi’s or Carter’s or Samsonite or any of the hundreds of other brands they carry in their stores – without using those names in the ad?? How silly would that look? And how many people would be compelled to shop for “great brand name jeans” or “cute brand baby clothes” or “super durable luggage” after seeing such an ad? Where would all the grocery store circulars be without using brand names and logos? What about TV ads for just about anything? What about magazine ads??

I won’t go after Google for paraphrasing me. I’m just glad they’ve finally seen the light and modified their policy – it’s long overdue.

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Google Conversion Optimizer Observations

Back at SES Chicago in December, I heard a lot of good things about Google’s Conversion Optimizer, which (in a nutshell) allows you to set a desired cost per action instead of cost per click on your PPC campaigns. You only pay for conversions (not clicks), and theoretically, Google’s algorithm adjusts your ad serving in order to show the ad at times when it’s most likely to convert. Sounds great, right? Why aren’t we all using it, then?

Well, I tried it a few months ago on a client campaign that wasn’t converting as well as I thought it could. To me, this is the ideal campaign for Optimizer. However, it totally bombed. Campaign trafffic dropped to next to nothing, and we got 0 conversions – that’s right, 0 – in over a week of testing. I canceled the test and decided Optimizer was flawed.

But I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since. That particular client had a limited PPC budget which was well below the available search volume on their keywords. And the recommended cost per conversion that Optimizer suggested was about double what their daily budget was! I had to set the cost/conversion at their daily budget limit, which severely limited Google’s ability to generate conversions & traffic. I suspected this was the fly in the ointment.

So, last week I decided to try again with a different client. This client has been doing PPC for years, and they get very high conversions (both volume-wise and conversion %-wise) because their goal is lead generation (email signup). But there was one campaign that I thought could do better. So I decided to try Optimizer again.

It’s only been a week, so the jury is still out, but early results are promising. Here are some early observations:

  • The campaign is getting higher impressions, clicks, and CTR with Optimizer.
  • Average ad position is slightly higher (but only very slightly).
  • Conversion rate is 10% worse with Optimizer, and cost per conversion is 22% higher.

I know, you’re thinking “Cost per conversion is 22% higher? Stop the test!” That’s what I thought, too. But there’s a caveat. The client drastically reduced their budget for this campaign earlier this week (a planned reduction). The lower budget has been in effect for 2 full days. (Yes, I know my test is now skewed. Keep reading…) Observations over those 2 days:

  • At the lower budget level, CTR and conversion rate are nearly double what they were at the higher budget level.
  • Cost per conversion is about half what it was at the higher budget.

Of course it’s too early to draw any real conclusions, but what I suspect is going on is that now that the budget is lower, Optimizer is forcing ad serving on only the best-quality searches. Impression volume is about 1/6 of what it was before, but I don’t care about that. I care about conversions.

Conclusions?

  • Optimizer seems to work best for campaigns with lots of conversions (i.e. way above the 30 per month minimum required to use Optimizer) and a decent conversion rate (i.e. 10% or better).
  • If your budget is enough to max out impressions & clicks, you may not get as favorable a cost/conversion with Optimizer as you do with a more limited budget. However…
  • If your budget is too restrictive (i.e. impression share less than 50%) and your conversion rate is low, Optimizer is unlikely to work well for you.

I’ll be running the test for another week or so to see if these observations hold true. I’d love to hear other observations about Optimizer – post them in the comments!

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Uploading PPC Campaigns Quickly

If you’re like most PPC marketers, you start a new campaign by setting it up in Google, most likely using Adwords Editor. Editor is probably the single most useful Adwords tool Google has released yet, and it’s one of the first things I teach new PPC hires at our agency. But I digress.

Even though Google has by far the largest market share in the search world, you’re missing 20%-30% of searchers by putting all your eggs in that basket. To take your PPC campaigns to the next level, you need to expand to Yahoo and MSN. But how? MSN has adCenter Desktop, but it’s still in beta and not everyone has access to it. (Plus, it’s not the most user-friendly tool out there, but again, I digress.) Yahoo doesn’t even have a desktop editor. What to do?

Lucky for you (and for them), both Yahoo and MSN have made bulk uploads much easier than they used to be. The days of creating a massive spreadsheet, copying, pasting, and hoping, are over.

Yahoo makes a decent effort to make up for their lack of a desktop editor with their “Convert Third Party Campaigns” function. You’ll find this in the “Import” menu of the YSM interface. Here’s how to use it:
1. Export your Adwords campaign from Adwords Editor using the Export function. Save the file as is.
2. If your Adwords campaign has any negative keywords, open the CSV file and delete those rows – you’ll need to manually add those negatives to Yahoo later.
3. If your campaign status is anything other than Active, Paused, or Deleted (such as Pending), change it to either Active or Paused. Yahoo doesn’t understand Pending and your conversion will fail.
4. Go to the “Convert Third Party Campaigns” page in YSM and follow the steps to convert your file.
5. Once the file is converted, download the conversion file, make any edits (such as updating tracking URLs) and save the file as a Unicode Text with a .csv extension.
6. Then go to the Import Campaigns tab and follow the steps.
7. Pray you didn’t get any errors.

If you do get errors, it’s not easy to figure out what to do. If the only error is “this keyword was not added because it is a duplicate of another keyword,” you’re fine – Yahoo’s match driver means fewer keyword variations are allowed in Yahoo than in Google. If you got other errors, you can either try to fix your upload file and re-upload, or just go into the interface and fix them manually.

It’s even easier to bulk upload to MSN. You can do it via the online interface – simply follow the instructions outlined in the adCenter Blog. The sticking point of this is when you use keyword-level destination URLs – these are not carried over into your import, because MSN decided to use that horrid “param1″ function. You’ll have to add those manually later, or use this workaround: In your export file from Adwords, change the ad copy destination URLs from whatever they are to “{param1}” (without the quotes). This will bring in all your keyword-level destination URLs – but not your ads. So you’ll still have to do some manual work, but usually campaigns have far fewer ads than keywords!

Uploading via adCenter Desktop is even easier. You can import your file from Adwords without even converting it. Just make sure to edit your ad copy destination URLs as described above if you’re using keyword-level URLs. Entering ad copy in Desktop is much easier than in the online interface.

If anyone knows a better way to import campaigns with keyword-level URLs in MSN, please post it in the comments! Also post your questions, tips, and tricks – when we share our knowledge, we all improve.

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