I was recently working with a client who has a large Google Adwords campaign, with an annual ad budget in the low six figures. He’s been very careful about the keywords he’s chosen and we’ve both poured over the Google Analytics figures to see how the campaign progressed.
It took a third party keyword tracking system to discover that many of the ads were being served up to wrong keywords in the Google searches. I want to keep the client’s identity private, so let me use an analogy: say you’re a boomerang maker and you’ve bought a campaign intending ads to show up for those who search “boomerang” in Google. What we discovered is that Google was serving up a large percentage of these ads for searchers of “frisbees” — close, but not close enough for searchers to care. Few people clicked on the misplaced ad. We’re talking serious money wasted on ads served up to the wrong target audience.
How did a carefully constructed ad campaign get on so many poorly-targeted searches? Google allows fuzzy matching under their broad match guidelines:
For example, if you’re currently running ads on the broad-matched keyword web hosting, your ads may show for the search queries web hosting company or webhost. The keyword variations that are allowed to trigger your ads will change over time, as the AdWords system continually monitors your keyword quality and performance factors. Your ads will only continue showing on the highest-performing and most relevant keyword variations.
You can disable these broad searches using negative keywords (i.e., “-frisbee”) and with specific keywords (“boomerang”).
But Google does not make it easy to see just where your ads are going. You have to set up a special Search query performance report. It’s really essential that anyone doing a large Google Ad campaign set up one of these searches and have it automatically emailed to them every month. Google clearly wasn’t tracking the “performance” of its broad search on this client’s ad. I’m particularly disturbed that we didn’t see these misdirected keywords listed in the Google Analytics tracking reports. It is dangerous to use the same company to both sell you a service and to report how well it’s been doing.