PPC – SMX Overtime: Here’s how to take control of your account ad groups and search terms
During my “Managing Search Terms In A New Match-Type World” session at SMX East, attendees asked questions about match types, negative keywords, using pivot tables and more. Below I answer a few of the questions asked during my session.
Before the exact changes, we had synonyms as separate keywords. With the recent changes, should we just pause one or keep both and risk duplication?
There are a few considerations to think about with this question. The very first one is simple, but quite important, “Do searchers consider these words to be the same?”
For instance, in my presentation, we looked at car hire and car rental search terms. Google considers these words to be the same and will show them interchangeably. However, searchers interact very differently with these terms. If searchers are interacting differently with the keywords, you want to keep them both and often put them in their own ad groups and then use exact match negative keywords to make sure the proper one is being displayed to the user.
The second question is, “Do you want to treat these words differently?”
We see Google often treating terms like packages and deals the same way. If you sell car tires and rims, you might bundle tires together so someone can checkout more easily or bundle tires and rims together in common packages to make shopping easier. In these cases, you might not have a sale on these bundles, you just did it for user convenience. In these cases, both you and the user probably consider the search terms car tire and rim deals and car tire and rim bundles as different terms that need different ads and different landing pages. If Google is treating them the same for you, then you want to keep them both and again separate them.
The third question is, “Do you want to bid differently on the terms?”
We often see different conversion rates when users are searching attorney vs lawyer. Technically, a lawyer is anyone who has graduated from a law school even if they cannot represent someone in a court of law. An attorney is one who is licensed to practice law. In some cases, these terms are used interchangeably. In other cases, they are specifically chosen by someone who knows the difference. If you have different ROAS, conversion rates, CPAs, etc on these terms and want to use different bids for them, then you want to keep them both.
The last question is simply, “Do you want to see the impression share or other specific data for each variation?” If so, then you need them both.
There is no problem with having multiple words that Google treats the same in your account. The reason to remove them is you don’t care about seeing the metrics for both and users interact the exact same way with both terms. There’s no penalty for having them. Usually, removing them is just cleaning up your account so you have less data inside of your account.
The biggest downside of removing them is the term you kept could stop matching to these other search queries and you are no longer showing ads for these terms. If you are going to remove keywords that you want to show for, then you need to also keep track of them and make sure you don’t suddenly stop showing for them.
Why do you think Google has changed the match type? Clearly, it doesn’t work as it used to before.
It’s difficult to say why Google makes various changes. You could argue it’s so marketers need to do less work to show for related queries. It could be so less sophisticated advertisers can show for more queries since they don’t know how to do keyword research. The conspiracy theorists will say this change was made so more advertisers are entered into each auction and therefore increases auction pressure and Google makes more money with the higher CPCs.
We could mention machine learning as I’m sure Google would say their machine learning has advanced enough that it can match to various user intents across different search terms, and therefore, an advertiser gets additional relevant clicks for less work.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of all these answers combined.
How would you set-up a brand new account in this new match type world considering there is no prior data to evaluate?
The most frustrating part of all these changes is that you don’t know what Google will match you to until you run the account and get data. Google’s keyword tool doesn’t show you that you are adding duplicate keywords. Therefore, you need to add everything you want to show for, look at your query data, and then make adjustments.
The setup part that we have changed is to look at words we think Google will consider the same and that we don’t want them to consider the same so we can examine the structure necessary to mitigate any restructuring that will need to take place due to Google’s matching.
Are backpacking and camping going to be treated the same by Google? If we’re an outdoor company, we don’t want them to consider these the same as the equipment is very different from stoves to tents to sleeping bags. We could look back at the hire vs rental car differences previously mentioned. Will Google think our Kenyan backpacking trips or Kenyan biking tours are the same as our Kenyan Safari trips?
If we think Google is going to treat something the same that we want to be treated differently, then we think about how to mitigate these crossovers with negative keywords from the start. This could mean separating them out by campaigns to use campaign negative keywords when previously they might have been different ad groups. Now, if it’s only a handful of ad groups that we need to worry about and we want to use automated bidding (which means we want fewer campaigns to consolidate data) then we might be able to get away with just using ad group negative keywords.
Of course, budget is also a factor. If we have different budgets by products, services, and locations, that’s also an organizational factor.
Overall, the biggest difference in organizing your account with these changes is trying to think through how this matching might go against your search term to ad to landing page relevance and how to mitigate those risks with negative keywords. How many negatives will you need to manage in various structure types and what other implications will those have on the number of budgets, campaigns, and other things you need to manage?
What if you have account ad groups set up by SKAG (single keyword ad group)? Because of the new keyword match changes, should I restructure and groups to be sorted by match type?
An ad group is a collection of keywords, ads, and landing pages that all go together to lead a user from search intent to conversion. If there is a keyword that needs a different ad than another keyword in the same ad group, then you need to split those keywords into different ad groups.
If you create ad groups by match types and use the exact same landing pages and ads in all of those ad groups, then there isn’t any advantage to that structure over just putting all those keywords with their various match types into the same ad group.
There are some exceptions, such as your bid technology only does ad group level bidding and you want to bid differently by match types. Or you want to watch a few brand terms closely and thus split them out by match types by ad groups for just a handful of terms.
If you want different budgets by match types, then using different ad groups in different campaigns is an acceptable organization.
However, most accounts that use SKAGs or separate out keywords by match types use the exact same ads and landing pages in these various ad groups. In those cases, there’s no benefit to the organization as you are just making more work for yourself.
I’m a fan of following this easy flowchart for ad group organization and focusing on the ad and landing pages, which is what a searcher actually sees, instead of just thinking keyword segmentation.
Do you have suggestions on how to learn more about Excel and marketing analysis such as the pivot tables you showed in today’s presentation?
We have a beginner pivot table video on our blog, which is a great way to get started learning how to create pivot tables.
I did a video on Search Marketing Land on using Pivot tables for ad testing analysis. While the UI in the video is old, the analysis is exactly the same today.
A simple search on YouTube will also give you a lot of ideas and instructions on how to use pivot tables.
Have you moved to loading the cross ad group negatives at the launch of the campaign to prevent duplicate search terms in different ad groups?
There are three reasons to preload negative keywords.
The first is organizing by match types. If you have one ad group with phrase match and another with exact match, then you need the exact match negatives in the phrase match ad group. The biggest downside to watch for is ‘low search volume’ as if your exact match doesn’t have enough impressions to show, and you blocked the phrase or modified broad match from showing ads, then you might not get any impressions for the exact match search, which is not your intention.
The second is when you have multiple ad groups that can show for the same ad and you have a preference as to the order. For instance, if you are a hosting company and have these ad groups with modified broad match words in them:
- Website hosting
- Cheap website hosting
- VPS hosting
- Cheap VPS hosting
The search term cheap VPS website hosting could be triggered by any of the ad groups. Therefore, you are stacking negative keywords to ensure the most specific ad is displayed:
The last reason is because of Google’s new match types. If Google is going to treat words the same that you want to use different keywords or ads for, then yes, we’ll start using negatives at the creation of the campaigns and ad groups. Then, we’ll watch the low search volume warnings, keyword impression shares, and search terms closely to see how these words are doing and if adjustments need to be made based upon the data.
If an exact match keyword is triggering a similar search term that you want in your account, do you recommend adding that term as an exact to make to sure you capture that traffic, or not add it so you have more data density?
If the keyword has decent volume, then I’ll add it. That allows me to see it’s impression share, quality score, conversion rates, etc and set bids for that keyword.
It’s not just a matter of showing an ad for a keyword, you also need to be able to see it’s metrics, set bids, and make adjustments for the keyword. If you don’t add it, you don’t get this data. I’ve found with these changes, I’ve been adding more search terms as keywords so I can see exactly how Google is treating these various terms since they are taking quite a few liberties with their matching.
For many people we work with, this change has made accounts more likely to add search terms as keywords to understand the ad serving instead of letting Google manage it. It’s had the opposite effect of what Google was striving for with these changes for many advertisers.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
September 28, 2023
September 28, 2023
September 27, 2023