This week, the Hanapin team got together and sat down for our monthly Redbop training session.   One of the topics we covered was the psychology aspect of search marketing, including search intent.  Our presentation brought up the point of session based broad match queries and advanced location targeting, and I’d like to share some of that information with you.

Session Based Broad Match:

What is Session Based Broad Match?

If you’re unfamiliar with this match type in your search query report, a session based broad is essentially an extension of broad match.  After a user types in a query that potentially could trigger one of your ads, the “session” begins.  Google then generates similar terms and considers those previous searches in an attempt to better understand the user’s intent and serve them the most relevant ads.  Your ad could show up if one of the broad match keywords in your account matches any of the similar terms that Google generated.

Issues with Session Based Broad Match

There’s a lot of material and opinions about session based broad match – and a lot of it isn’t good.  If you ignore the match type in your search query reports, you might want to take a closer look.  Here is a handful of session based broad terms that I pulled out of a July search term report.

vampires number to call them (uh…WTQ?)


whistle calls

phone hacking scandal

iphone apps

cute voice messages

Sorry, Google, but none of these queries are related to what we’re advertising.  That’s not to say that session broad match can’t bring in conversions that are worth anything, but a lot of them are highly irrelevant and capture the user in a different search state of mind.

What Can Be Done?

Well for starters, if you aren’t paying attention to these impressions and clicks already – you should start.  At this point, you can’t opt out of these session based impressions and if you’re bidding on broad match keywords, you’re eligible for session based broad.  You can, however, apply irrelevant terms to your list of negatives.  Just make sure you’re considerate of what you add as a negative and what match type you use.  I like to take a close look at these session based broad queries in my reports and sort out those that converted versus those that didn’t.  Then, check to see if the conversion was relevant and worth the cost before deciding to implement it as a negative keyword.  Generally, you’ll want to add your negatives per ad group versus the campaign level. Then look at those that didn’t convert and look for negative opportunities there too.

On the brightside, ads served based off of session based won’t affect your Quality Score, but it is possible to spend a lot of money on these irrelevant searches.

Advanced Location Options:

Let’s consider a school in St. Louis that uses AdWords to find new potential students.  A local-based school that is only interested in finding users from a certain, restricted area can do geotargeting for just that area, right?  It’s true, however, AdWords will still also show ads to searchers with the search intent of finding a school on Google that is in St. Louis, even if they actually live in Portland, Oregon.

We can use Advanced Location Targeting for the Google search network to keep ads from showing to those students outside of the desired area, even if they are searching for ‘chiropractor schools in St. Louis’ from their location in Portland.

In the settings for your campaign, select ‘Advanced location options’ to get a list of your potential options.  Under ‘Targeting Method’ you’ll be able to select whether you want to:

  • target using a physical location or search intent (Default)
  • target using a physical location: Device-based signals
  • target using search intent: Location terms in user queries

You can also opt to exclude by a certain method:

  • Exclude by physical location only (Default)
  • Exclude by physical location and search intent

So what are the differences between these and how will they affect where your ads will show?

  • If you leave the setting on the default, the ad could still show for that user in Portland looking at the chiropractor school in St. Louis if they use a location qualifier in their search query.  If your account doesn’t see enough return from users that are out of area, then you might want to opt out of the default option.
  • Targeting by physical location only will only show ads to users in the 100 miles around St. Louis specified, despite the fact that people are searching outside the area with a location qualifier.
  • Targeting by search intent only will, of course, only show your ads to users who search for something like ‘chiropractor school in St. Louis’ where the location qualifier is included in the query.
  • Excluding by a physical location means the ad won’t show in areas that you specifically exclude.
  • Excluding by physical location and search intent means ads won’t be shown to users in your excluded areas as well as users who use the excluded area in their search query.

It’s important that when you decide to target or exclude outside of your defaults, to put a lot of thought into how the targeting will work, and whether you’ll be blocking relevant customers from seeing your ads.

So there you have it, a couple of things to be aware of when you’re making decisions on your accounts based off of search intent.  The topic of search intent is vast, and encompasses a lot of different aspects.  What tips do you have?