When Broad Match Is Just TOO Broad

There’s an interesting thread at SEM 2.0 seeking thoughts about paid-search marketing “woes” in relation to Google’s broad-matching technology. What spawned the discussion was a blog post from Rimm-Kaufman that explained how Google’s broad match has been expanded to include “extended match.” The obvious change in search-query permutations and phrase orders inspired this statement:

“[T]he combination of ‘extended match’ and quality-score-based auctions means [Google] can pretty much serve any ad you have on any search related to your category. The result? Higher CPCs, less traffic because of the less-targeted copy, and lower conversion rates because the landing pages are wrong: a perfect storm for advertisers, degraded results for users, but more short-term revenue for Google.”

The great minds at SEM 2.0 took this idea and brought their own opinions to the table. The most prevalent complaint was how broad matching causes certain ads to be displayed for a competitor’s brand keywords. Even though these advertisers aren’t bidding on the branded keywords, broad match will associate and display the ads, entering advertisers into unwanted trademark disagreements. In response to this activity, the general consensus was to add these branded terms as campaign negatives in AdWords.

This is by no means a new debate. In a post from March, 2006, SE Roundtable commented on this issue and came to the same conclusion on how to protect oneself from expanded broad match:

(1) You extract your log files; (2) pull out the AdWords keyword details; (3) remove duplicates; (4) review bad keywords; (5) place bad keywords into negative keyword list (be careful with this); (6) rinse and repeat.”

Personally, I haven’t run into any major issues with Google’s broad matching technology. However, I consistently see the higher performance (i.e. increased CTR and CPA) of exact-matched keywords that are tied to highly relevant ad texts and landing pages. These ongoing discussions merely prove that in order to effectively use broad match, one must do one’s research and not just “set it and forget it.”