It’s All About Exact Match People!

Jan. 18

I’m excited to share an AdWords account optimization tip today that will improve your efficiency, grow volume, and lower your CPA. It’s a very simple tip, and one that offers great leverage. It’s also one that few AdWords accounts obey, especially larger corporate accounts. What’s my tip? Simple: Focus on exact match as your primary match type, with broad and phrase as secondary match types. I touched on this concept a bit in my video about launching a new AdWords account and my post about PPC match type strategies. I’d like to elaborate today, however, because it’s a new year and I truly believe this simple tip will drive great results with minimal time commitment. Why am I so certain? I keep seeing this opportunity on a recurring basis as I network and talk to more and more search engine marketers.

Look At CPA By Match Type

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First, let’s perform a quick sanity check to see how much opportunity exists in your personal account. Download your Google AdWords (search only) data for the last month. It might make sense to look at Google.com only but you can also include syndication partners if you’d like. Next, go through the data and remove your trademark keywords. These perform at such low CPAs compared to other keywords (and are so heavily weighted towards exact match) that they could bias your data, making exact match look even better than it is. Next, run a pivot table to calculate your aggregate volume of conversions, CPA, and average position (you’ll need to weight by impressions before you pivot) by match type.

What do you see? If your account is like 99% of the others out there, I’m betting exact is operating at a much lower CPA than the other match types. Also if you’re lucky, the majority of your conversions are coming from broad. I’m saying “lucky” because that means your account is under-optimized and offers the ability to easily shift the mix towards more profitable exact keywords. Also, check out your average position data. If the average position of exact is already 1.0 or close to it (and the volume of conversions from exact far outpaces the other match types), you may not have much upside via this strategy, even if your exact CPA is much lower than phrase and broad.

Dig Deeper Into Your Match Type Data

Assuming your exact keywords are operating at a lower CPA than the other match types, your exact keywords are not dominating the traffic mix, and your exact match keywords are not in position 1.0 (or close to it), we should have a big opportunity on our hands! However, it’s not prudent to make conclusions from aggregate data in SEM. It’s time to go to the keyword level!

Look at your top keywords. Try to go through all the big keywords until you’ve covered at least 60%-80% of your account’s conversions by keyword. Validate the same assumptions you did on an aggregate level on the keyword level. I’m betting it will pan out and you’ll quickly see the huge opportunity on exact match.

Now, It’s Time To Optimize Your AdWords Account

At the end of the day, I’m a big fan of optimizing to the same CPA on a keyword level for all keywords except trademarks (especially if you have a large, unlimited budget). There’s rarely a case where you’d want to run broad and phrase at a higher CPA than exact. (I’m more open to running different exact match keywords at different CPAs, especially if there’s a huge volume opportunity, but that’s a different topic.) By operating the match types at the same CPA, you’ll drive added conversions and efficiency (better margins).

How do you do this? Once you have your CPA information by match type, a simple first step might be making aggregate bid changes by match type. Why not adjust the bids down for all broad and phrase keywords while adjusting the bids for exact up? In extreme cases, I have gone as far as pausing broad and phrase and then raising exact aggressively. Having PPC bidding solution such as Marin Software will really help you make these types of bidding changes. (As a side note, you may wish to check out my SEM Automation Buyers Guide.)

The Ideal AdWords Account Is Exact Match Focused

I’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past, but would like to repeat because it’s really important stuff. The strategy above only works if your account has keyword parity by match types. It’s especially important that all keywords in the account that are on broad and phrase match are also on exact. The ideal SEM account in my opinion has the vast majority of keywords on exact with only the head terms on phrase and broad for the purpose of keyword generation. Over time, you then look at your search query report, find the new queries generated by broad and phrase that work, and deploy them on exact.

I hope this framework gives your you and your company a quick win in your Google AdWords account for 2011! Just remember, be cautious and take time to make your changes. Goal number one is always preserving what you already have so I like to phase in large changes over time.

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PPC Match Type Strategies

Apr. 27

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a deep dive into tactical campaign management strategies. As such, I wanted to focus on some low level tips today that will directly impact your campaigns. Specifically, I’m going to focus on Google AdWords match types and how you can leverage broad, phrase, and exact match to their fullest potential.

Tip 1: Always Start With Exact Match For Added Control

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If you watched my recent PPC Ian video about launching new AdWords accounts, you already have a preview of my first tip today. It’s really simple: Always start with exact match, period. Exact match gives you the most control out of all match types. Exact match has the highest revenue per visitor out of all match types. Exact match is straight-forward and simple.

After starting out with exact match, you’ll have a great understanding of which keywords work and which don’t. In the cases where the keywords don’t work, you will have minimized your losses because you started with the most controlled match type. Now, it’s time to expand to phrase and later broad. As an ideal structure, I always like to see the largest number of keywords on exact, fewer on phrase, and even fewer on broad. Also, I’m a huge fan of separating the different match types into separate adgroups. Sure, this creates more adgroups, but you’ll see later that it offers even greater control for a niche strategy leveraging negative words.

While this tip may seem very basic, it’s amazing how rarely it is followed. Time and time again, I have experienced AdWords accounts over-weighted in broad match. Oftentimes, accounts are exclusively focused on broad match with very few exact match keywords. I can’t underscore it enough: The healthiest AdWords accounts are over-weighted on exact match.

Tip 2: Leverage Broad Match For Keyword Generation

I really like tip 2 because it ties into tip 1 very nicely. Once you have established your baseline of exact match keywords, it’s time to start experimenting with phrase and broad. I especially like deploying phrase and broad match variations of my top tier exact match keywords. Not only do they offer great volume expansion opportunities, but they also offer amazing keyword generation opportunities! You heard that right: I leverage phrase and broad match to generate more exact match keywords. The beauty of this tip is it keeps feeding back into tip 1 (over-weighting in exact match). As my phrase and broad match variations start generating some serious traffic, I’ll run a search query report. Those search queries that drove conversions (and are missing from my exact match keyword set) are immediately deployed as brand new exact match keywords. Why deploy them on exact? Simple: Exact match offers the greatest control in terms of traffic quality and also bidding.

Of course, it’s very important to not go overboard here. Search engine accounts need to remain manageable so it’s a judgment call whether to let phrase and broad match take care of a certain query or to deploy the query as a new exact match keyword in your account. If a query has driven a conversion, it’s important to deploy it in my opinion.

Another important point: 20 to 25 percent of Google queries are new. Because of this very fact, it’s important to have good phrase and broad match coverage. Moreover, it’s important to go far enough down the tail on phrase and broad match to help the algorithm match to all of these possible new queries. My point: Remember to keep things balanced and invest time building out phrase and broad match as well so you definitely capture those 20 to 25 percent of new, unique queries.

Tip 3: Leverage Negative Match Types To Improve Bidding Accuracy

I’d like to close out with my most advanced match type strategy. Remember under tip 1 when I said that I like to separate the different match types into different adgroups? That all comes to play with my final strategy of creating added bidding efficiencies with savvy match type execution. It’s really simple: Once I’ve separated the three match types into different adgroups, I like to leverage negative match types so the phrase and broad match versions get none of the exact match traffic and the broad match version gets none of the phrase match traffic.

Let me explain this through an example. Let’s say we deploy three keywords in three separate adgroups: [mortgage], "mortgage", and mortgage. Let’s say we have no negative words. Let’s even say that the exact match version is bid the highest, the phrase match in the middle, and the broad match the lowest. (Side note: This should usually be the strategy.) No matter what, the phrase and broad match variations will always get some amount of exact match traffic. Moreover, the broad version will get some amount of phrase match traffic. If the user types in the exact match [mortgage], it will sometimes get mapped to "mortgage" or mortgage. Why? Google likes to test.

We know that exact match offers the best quality traffic. Pay per click is all about optimization. Now, if some of that really high quality traffic is getting attributed to the other match types, we are probably over-valuing phrase and broad and under-valuing exact. What’s my solution? Easy: I’ll add [mortgage] as a negative keyword to both the phrase and broad adgroups. I’ll add "mortgage" as a negative to the broad adgroup. That way, my traffic is always perfectly segmented by match type and I’ll bid as effectively as possible. Another option: Place your exact, phrase, and broad keywords in separate campaigns. That way, you can also use campaign level negatives if you’re not fond of adgroup level negatives. Personally, I like to place negatives on the campaign level that are just plain bad keywords. I like to place negatives under this strategy on the adgroup level. These are two unique types of negative keyword strategies and it’s easier to keep them straight if I have them stored in different places.

Remember, good data is the foundation of a solid biding strategy. Leverage this structure and match type trick to your advantage and you’ll run circles around the competition!

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