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Long Tail Broad Match and Negative Keyword SEM Campaign Experiment

Posted on February 4, 2010 by Chad

When I first started creating keywords for my very first campaign, there were signs everywhere on the internet that said "Don't use broad match!"  A little later I learned about negative keywords and how to use those effectively by running a Google search query report.  So it caught me by surprise when Brad Geddes, for Search Engine Land, wrote a column on promoting the idea of using broad match called Broad Match + Negative Keywords = A Profitable Long Tail.

The Case for Broad Match

Most people have discovered that broad match typically does not have a great conversion rate (many times when using broad match it’s not the point). Historically, because...well, broad match hits everything related to it. It can be a good way just to get your website noticed, create some brand recognition or turn on the traffic hose, hopefully with some good ad text to stem the tide of the more ridiculous clicks. 

Brad Geddes, unfortunately, does not go into a lot of detail about what happens to long tail keywords that are set to broad match or the precise setup of such a campaign?  I think he is being a bit "cagey" so as not to give away his “secret sauce” so to speak. This only means that we have to be smart as marketers, use common sense and pay attention to ad spend and the limitations associated with AdWords accounts.  There is certainly a difference between a long tail keyword set to broad match and a more general one to two word keyword phrases set to broad match.  Brad uses the example:

“Let’s say you sell coffee mugs and you have tens of thousands of words pertaining to coffee mugs in multiple match types. You then run a search query report (a report that allows you to see the actual search query that caused your ad to be displayed) and find that when the search query contains the word “Starbucks,” such as “Starbucks personalized picture blue coffee mug,” your conversion rate is 0%. All those clicks you are paying for are a waste of money. However, “personalized picture blue coffee mug” is already a long tail keyword, and you have thousands of these words, so how do you still use these word in phrase or broad match yet not pay for the clicks when the search query contains ‘Starbucks?’”

Clearly using this example we would make the assumption that your AdWords account has already got some form of this phrase of keywords broken up throughout the account: “blue coffee mug”, “personalized picture mug”, “picture coffee mug”, etc.  We would also make an educated assumption that if you are advertising for products in this vertical that you have similar products and would be able to convert on broad match types associated to these terms.  If not then take heed, there are AdWords users available to help.  AdWords Forum contributor Rob. W has explained broad match to other users, “You need to be careful when broad matching keywords because Google takes extreme liberties in matching that keyword.  A broad match for 'fresh flowers' may cause your ads to show for bath soap, gardening supplies, wedding showers, or cat litter.  Seriously...” So it got me thinking. What is Brad really talking about in his column?

Jog before You Run 

At first, I thought he was talking about setting long tail keywords to broad match and then producing negative keywords for phrases that don't convert.  Further on in his column he is pointing out, based on the extensive explanation of negative keywords in his column, that you set keywords to broad match but specifically create [exact] match negative keywords to counteract any of the more generic searches and higher price terms. You know what users search for because of the Search Query report.  By doing this you are still allowing for a broad selection of searches without the hassle of dealing with the creation of a whole list of long tail keywords.  The critical point is creating those negatives and keeping up with it.  Bam! Long tail keywords that you know have been searched for as long as the user doesn't use the negative keyword in the phrase.

Though, if this is what Brad is getting to, I am not sure what would be cheaper in terms of CPC (Cost per Click): a "constrained" broad match term or a simple long tail keyword.  It seems like broad match would potentially need a higher CPC because it is hitting so many searches and you want to be ranked high enough on those to see a high-quality CTR (Click through Rate).  Then again, you are reducing how many hits you actually make with the negatives, making the broad match term less expensive.  The benefit is not really losing out on other various searches.  As usual though, the bottom line is, does it convert?  Testing this out on your own seems to be the best way to figure this out in your respective industries. 

Without knowing exactly how broad match-long tail keywords, react in search, I can't exactly give a straight up opinion on this idea of Brads.  His method still intrigues me though and I plan on experimenting with this on a few of my better performing campaigns.

I will update you with my results in a couple weeks.


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