Adwords Search Query Reports, US vs. The World: The Followup

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a client of ours and the vast difference in Adwords search query report numbers for the same 2 keywords in the US vs. in Germany. It was the most-commented post on this blog in recent memory – not only did people commiserate, but they asked great questions to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.

I was able to answer several of the questions right away (although, of course, there are no bad questions, and I thank everyone who commented for helping me think everything through). But 3 questions came up to which I didn’t have the answers:

•    Is the client brand a German word?
•    How does traffic break down by device?
•    How does traffic break down by Google vs. search partners?

The first question I had to look up, but quickly realized that the answer was no, it’s not a German word. Of course I had to run some reports to answer the second and third questions, and the results were interesting indeed.

Searches By Device:

I re-ran the SQRs for each country, and segmented impressions by device. I suspected there might be a big difference, but alas, the two countries were nearly identical:

us by device
germany by device

Germany did have a slightly higher percentage of mobile searches than the US: 11% vs. 9%, but the difference isn’t statistically significant. Clearly, devices are not the reason why US search queries were so much higher.

Searches By Network:

I noted in my previous post that session-based queries were high in Germany compared with the US, and that prompted someone to ask about distribution by network. We’ve all seen questionable websites, sites that aren’t really search sites, lumped into the search network. Let’s take a look at the segmented report data:

us by network
germany by network


I have to admit, I was stunned to see the difference. I knew that the search network was probably more robust in the US than in other countries, but this is downright horrifying. Only 2% of the impressions in Germany on the brand terms came from search partners, but fully 30% in the US were from partners. And just to refresh your memory, the majority of matches in the US were broad match, as compared with Germany where the match types were more evenly distributed.

I smell a rat. I’m still not convinced that we’re getting fair treatment here in the US.

And for heaven’s sake, if you haven’t already done so, please go sign the petition to allow separate bids for search partners. This is something I’ve wanted for a long time, and clearly it’s long overdue.

Or perhaps Google is deliberately holding out on giving us separate bids for this very reason? What do you think?

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Adwords Search Query Reports: US Versus The World

The subject of broad match gone wild is a popular one in PPC, and has been since the dawn of search query reports. Search marketers frequently lament the irrelevant and sometimes downright puzzling queries which triggered their ads. In fact, better search query matching was one of my 2007 PPC wishes that still hasn’t come true.

A few weeks ago, I was doing routine search query report reviews for one of our international clients. We use broad match on their branded terms to cast as wide a net as possible, and we use extensive negative keywords to control the wildness.  Anyway, I pulled a SQR for our Germany campaigns, and then pulled one for the US. Again, the task was all typical – but the report results were anything but.

We’ve created ad groups by match type for control and new search query mining, using the SQRs for not only negatives, but new positive keywords to add to our account.  For both Germany and the US, I looked at just 2 keywords this time: the broad match and phrase match of the client’s brand. I noticed that reviewing Germany’s report took a lot less time than reviewing the US report. This came as a surprise, since our branded campaigns are set to “all languages” and I had to pore over German-language keywords in the SQR as a non-German speaker (Google Translate is my best friend for this). So I decided to compare the two reports.

What I discovered stunned me.

Allow me to illustrate with a few visuals.

search queries

Look at the total number of search queries: the US has nearly 3 times as many as Germany. Remember, this is on the same 2 keywords! That’s the stat that got me started on this in the first place.  I find it hard to believe that people in the US are 3 times more creative than people in Germany when it comes to searching for the client’s brand (or searching for anything, for that matter).

This goes a long way towards explaining why our US CPCs are so much higher than other countries for this client. I know that the PPC market in general is more saturated here than elsewhere. If nothing else, there are more US-based advertisers. And our population is 3 times bigger than Germany’s (82 million for Germany vs. 311 million for the US), so I might accept the notion that if every person in each country conducts one unique search related to these 2 keywords, we’d see 3 times as many SQs in the US as in Germany. I think it’s a stretch, but it’s at least plausible.

But let’s look at search query distribution across match types. Remember, we’ve segmented our ad groups by match type, so there are no exact matches. What’s left in the SQR is broad, phrase, and session based broad.

A couple of visuals will make this easier. Let’s look at Germany first.

germany sqr

Half of the queries were broad matched, and the rest were pretty evenly distributed between phrase match and session-based broad match. I’m not thrilled about the high percentage of session-based broad matches, but that’s another post.  Still, the fact that over 1 in 5 matches were phrase match isn’t too bad.

Now let’s look at the US.

us sqr

Are you as speechless as I am? Fully 84% of the matches in the US were broad match (and remember folks, there were 860 of them, compared with 193 in Germany). There were virtually no session-based broad matches, so at least we have that going for us.  But only 15% phrase matches, vs. 22% in Germany? Why, Google, why?

And here’s the kicker – you know this is coming – the US SQR is loaded with totally irrelevant queries.

Methinks something is rotten in the state of Denmark. (It’s close to Germany, right?)

Have you seen similar behavior in your international campaigns? Are we Americans really that much more creative in our searches? Or is Google showing their patriotism by fleecing us? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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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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AdWords Expanded Match Continues to Confound

Google’s Expanded Broad Match option for Adwords has been the source of much discussion since it launched a couple of years ago. Much of the feedback from advertisers has been less than positive, as evidenced by this Search Engine Watch thread which started almost 2 years ago, yet remains active today.

However, the coupling of Expanded Broad Match with Google’s new Search Query Report has put the spotlight on some of its flaws and shortcomings. Further confounding the issue is Google’s recent clarification of its Landing Page Guidelines, which has some experts wondering whether Google has gone too far in pursuit of a positive user experience.

On the flip side of that coin comes a lively thread on Webmaster World. A good summary of the thread is at Search Engine Roundtable, but basically advertisers expressed their displeasure with the lack of relevancy in Expanded Broad Match. Adwords Advisor chimed in asking for clarification, with a promise to take the feedback to the powers that be at Google, and the discussion’s taken off from there.

I’ve given some of my thoughts in that thread, and the gist of them is that on the plus side, expanded broad match is one of the best ways to discover tail terms that drive great ROI. Instead of spending hours poring over keyword tools and server logs, why not let Google do the legwork for you via expanded broad match? Well, the downside is that, as evidenced in the WMW thread, expanded match goes too far. Ads are being shown on totally irrelevant searches, as well as foreign language and character queries. I don’t think anyone can claim that irrelevant ads provide a positive user experience. A positive experience for Google’s pocketbook, maybe, but not for the searcher.

What we need is for Google to bring back the classic broad match, and have expanded broad match as a separate match option. This has been brought up time and again on forums and blogs, as well as search conferences such as SMX Advanced. I think it’s time Google gave this idea more than just lip service. Let’s hope AWA’s meeting moves us closer to that goal.

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