The Thing That’ll Ruin Your Adwords Campaign

By Madison Taylor
April 12, 2016

For over 10 years now, we have spent countless hours digging into Adwords Campaigns that prospects bring to us desperately trying to find a way to make their campaigns more effective. While every account is different and has unique things about it, there seems to be one thing that is consistent across the bulk of new accounts. We’ll get to that in a minute. When you’re just beginning to dabble in Google Adwords, you’re bound to make a few mistakes. Adwords is not easy and it certainly isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of marketing. The worst part is that many don’t even know they’ve made a mistake, so they are easily wasting hundreds or even thousands of dollars of their ad budget.

The reality is that there is no “Successful Adwords Campaign Handbook” that walks you through every step to ensure that your campaign will be effective. If you simply follow Google’s step-by-step instructions to set up an Adwords campaign, then you’ll make costly mistakes. This is because the instructions assume a certain amount of familiarity with how Adwords works. What is the biggest of these costly mistakes?

Not Understanding the Match Type of Your Keywords

The biggest mistake we repeatedly see is using only broad match keywords. Google encourages broad match by making it the default keyword match type when you’re setting up a new campaign. So most new advertisers use this match type inadvertently without knowing how it works. But before we get into defining what match type even means, let’s talk about setting a good foundation when you launch a new campaign. When you first launch an Adwords campaign, it’s helpful to have more control over what you are attempting to achieve. Traffic to your website is one thing, but if you are trying to see results from your efforts and budgets, then maintaining a high level of control will help you establish a strong foundation that will allow you to scale your account later.

So what does having more control mean? There is a mistaken belief that that when you are running an Adwords campaign, you appear for “keywords”. The truth is, you appear for a search query. While this may sound like semantics, there is an important difference between a search query and a keyword. Running a campaign without knowledge of this difference can mean the success or failure of an account. When you brainstorm what keywords to include in your Adwords campaigns, you’re doing exactly that: picking keywords. When someone has a question or a problem they need a solution to, they turn to Google and enter a search query. So searchers on Google enter search queries, not keywords.

Now that we understand that advertisers bid on keywords and searchers are typing in search queries, we need to understand why this is important. When you select a keyword to advertise on, it doesn’t guarantee that you will appear for that query. In fact, we have seen many accounts where the advertiser is appearing as much as 90% of the time for terms they have not bid on. In other words, they think they are showing up when someone types in “X”, but they are actually appearing when someone types in “Y”. But how can this be? Every word or phrase we choose to bid on in Adwords should have a designated “match type”. Adwords relies on match types to determine what queries your keywords will show up for. Depending on your match type selection, you can either appear for close variants or synonyms of the word you are actually bidding on. This can open up your account to show up for many more queries than you actually selected. There are four match types in Google Adwords:

  • Broad Match
  • Modified Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Proper understanding of these match types helps you know the difference between the keywords you are bidding on and the actual search queries you are appearing for. Let’s take a look at each of the match types to understand the difference between them.

Broad Match

As we have said, Broad Match is the default match type in Adwords. With Broad Match, your ads will display for queries not only for the keyword you are targeting, but also for synonyms, word stems of those synonyms and any other phrase Google deems to be relevant. Let’s take a look at an example: You are targeting the Broad Match Keyword: golf shorts. Broad Match appears in Adwords with nothing around it. This will make more sense as we move on to the different match types.

You can appear for golf short reviews, best golf shorts, golf bathing suits, short golf vacations, golf cartoons, shorter days on the golf course, how short the Par 3s are at Augusta, etc. Some of these examples seem pretty irrelevant if you only sell golf shorts. This is why it’s important to understand match types and ultimately to have more control when you first launch an Adwords campaign. We have to learn how to balance new keyword discovery and control as you scale your campaign.

Modified Broad Match

With Modified Broad Match you can exercise keywords discovery and more control. Modified Broad allows you have a little tighter control of your keywords by only appearing for closely related variants of targeted keywords, not synonyms or stems. Back to our example: You are targeting the Modified Broad Match keyword – +golf +shorts.

Modified Broad Match appears in Adwords with + symbols before each of your targeted words. You can appear for: golf shorts, golfing shorts, golf shorties, golf short. Notice we have eliminated irrelevant word stems like how short the Par 3s are at Augusta.

Phrase Match

With Phrase Match, your ads will display for any search query that includes your phrase. The way you enter your phrase cannot be broken up. Back to our example: You are targeting the Phrase Match keyword: “golf shorts”

Phrase Match appears in Adwords with “ “ (quotation marks) around your phrase. You can appear for: men’s golf shorts, best golf shorts, golf shorts reviews, mens golf shorts that are waterproof, golf shorts giveaway, etc. Notice you have even further control on this match type, as our phrase can’t be broken apart to show up for ‘golf mens shorts’ or anything else that would break apart our phrase “golf shorts”.

Exact Match

Just as it sounds, Exact Match is the way someone new would assume Google works. Your keyword would exactly match up with the search queries that people search for. This is the match type with the least amount of variants.You are targeting the Exact Match keyword: [golf shorts].Exact Match appears in Adwords with [ ] (brackets) around your targeted keyword. You can appear for: golf shorts, but could also appear for singular golf short or misspellings like gofl shorts. Exact Match keywords will only trigger their exactly matching search query – no surprises, no shocks with irrelevant spending.

So what’s the point of match types? Why would Google create such a confusing platform? Are match types the enemy? No. The real enemy is not putting in the effort to understand these match types and get your account under control. Clearly, when you use only Broad Match, you could end up wasting a lot of your budget on keywords you didn’t even know you were targeting.Match types help you to capitalize on all the different ways people may search to solve the problem that you provide the solution for. For example, someone may search ‘pool cleaning Denver’, or ‘pool cleaning service in Denver’, or ‘80237 pool cleaning services” , or ‘pool cleaners’. We cannot predict every possible way a user will search. As hard as you may try, you can’t capture all of your target audience’s queries without the help of match types. The goal is to balance control over your account with keyword discovery to have a profitable and effective account.

Pro Tip: Managing Your Match Types with the Addition of Negative Keywords

We have discussed the different match types associate with queries you want to show up for. As we discussed, your keywords often don’t match up for exactly what people are searching for. You can bid on Broad Match ‘gluten-free pizza’ and appear for ‘gluten free pasta’. This could be a big problem if you don’t sell gluten-free pasta. So what can you do to prevent appearing for things you don’t do or don’t want to appear for? The answer is negative keywords.

You can add these negative keywords by match type, just like your positive keywords, allowing you in essence, to block your ads from appearing for things you don’t want to appear for. Using our pool cleaning service example, you could block your ads from appearing for things like ‘Do it yourself pool cleaning’ or ‘free pool cleaning’. Preventing irrelevant searches from coming to your site is one of the easiest ways to save you money and make your campaigns more efficient. By dedicating your budget towards terms that are relevant to your products or services, negative keywords have the unique ability to reduce wasted spend and increase the profitability of your account.