Sometimes Broader Can Be Cheaper

6 Comments Written on January 5th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords, Keyword Research

Are you completely stuck trying to get profitable on your most-desired keywords?

PPC advertisers, just like everyone else, can be susceptible to a ‘herd mentality’.  Herd mentality with PPC tends to show up when you see everyone and their dog piling on to a few select keywords that they’re convinced are the closest match and highest-converting terms.

While it may be true that those keywords are a good fit logically and contextually, they often long ago ceased to be the most profitable now that every sheep has started bidding on them.  Typically, the end result is the only party making money on the keyword is Google.

When ‘More Targeted’ Equals More Competition

But aren’t you supposed to focus on tight, closely-related keywords that show the buyer is ready to convert?

Not at any cost.  What you really need to focus on are the keywords that bring you the optimal blend of volume and ROI to actually make you money.

In many cases, those highly-specific keyword phrases just aren’t worth it, and sometimes, if you actually go ‘broader’, (not in match type, but keyword length) you can net out with higher volumes at substantially lower actual CPCs.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say I sell accessories for HTC cell phones.

In Canada, the starting cost to bid on “HTC charger” is .92 CPC, with 4 competitors already there.

Alternatively, if I simply bid on “htc”, (using the same ad text specifically for people looking for chargers) there is only 1 competitor and the starting CPC is only .59.

‘But won’t I get a crappy CTR if I bid on the broader term?’

Not necessarily.  First of all, CTR is only relevant as it relates to the other keywords in the same auction you’re appearing in.  So as long as my CTR is as high or higher than that other advertiser hocking HTC screen replacements, it shouldn’t dramatically affect my Keyword Relevance quality score, which is heavily CTR-weighted.

Additionally, my broader keyword will place me in a number of auctions I might not otherwise have found on my own, potentially uncovering some huge winners.  As actual search term performance data is gathered, I can branch out new, longer-phrase keywords that I see converting given what Google has phrase matched me against thus far.  If these have lower CPCs and less competition than the competitively-intense keywords I used to have to bid on, it’s a net win.

What About Irrelevant Clicks?

Of course, most people searching for the keyword “HTC” alone aren’t all going to be looking for a charger, so how do you mitigate cost overruns due to poor clicks?

In a word: negatives.  Adding as many negatives at the adgroup level as possible up front can dramatically decrease your chances of irrelevant clicks.  We have a fantastic training module for our PPCblog members that covers unorthodox but effective ways to dig up negatives before you roll out broader keywords, but one simple way is to use the Google Keyword Tool with your ‘broadish’ keyword and sort the results by highest global monthly searches down to see if there are any ‘land mines’ you should avoid right out of the gate.

As an added bonus, the fact that your ad is specific to chargers will tend to self-filter people not specifically looking for chargers. Alternatively, you could go a bit broader if your product catalogue supports it and target “HTC Accessories” in your ad text to catch people looking for other related items.

Does Google Like It?

‘Google would never allow my ad to stick for that broad of a query would they?’  Surprisingly yes.  Google will pretty much allow you to advertise on any contextually-relevant keywords that your CTR indicates users find meaningful.  The only way to know is to try it and see how you do. Often other advertisers have never tried going this broad on brand terms and the like, or they simply assumed it’s too untargeted to actually work.  You can exploit this competitive deficit if your controlled experiment is successful.

Does this work in every case? No.  Sometimes the broader term is actually more expensive to bid on than the more descriptive term, or your just can’t get an ad to ‘click’ with users well enough to sustain your ad placement on the broader term.  That said, it’s a great technique to try if you’re banging your head against the wall competitively and need to get unstuck.

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6 comments “Sometimes Broader Can Be Cheaper”

Unexpectedly, I’ve found this too, in particular for
certain markets.

One thing to remember is that only exact match impressions CTR counts for Quality Score.

Surprise surprise, you won’t find this in the adwords guidelines, but this was also confirmed to me on a recent AdWords webinar.

So if you have a good QS on a broader term, sometimes you may be better off deleting any long-tail keywords with poorer QS and let phrase match trigger your ads instead, firing off with stronger QS. Is that not insane??

I’ve been finding this to be the case as well. The
“profitable” keywords are inundated with advertisers so it requires
some creative thinking to find broader terms that are still
relevant. I love finding a new angle to approach my audience and
uncovering a new set of broad words that will bring me some nice
cheap clicks. 

Great point, and I’ve started seeing that, too. People forget that, in the auction model, if everyone goes for the long-tail, then the long-tail might get more expensive than the head keywords. I’ve set up a few ad groups with just single-word keywords to test it out, and some have performed surprisingly well.

Good post. I’m find that testing engaging, high quality headlines that draw in visitors is at least as important as picking highly relevant keywords for getting a good CTR.

For best results, try using “broad match modified” targeting for your keywords 😉

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