Broader Is Better in Google and Overture

  |  October 16, 2002   |  Comments

Can you pay dramatically less for more effective campaigns? If you know how to go broad, the answer's often yes.

Marketers often pick the top 20 or 40 keywords they think are important for their businesses in search engine campaigns. Those words are the core of the campaign. Keywords tend to be the obvious ones and, therefore, the ones with high search volumes. Often, fierce competition ensues for these terms, driving up prices in auction marketplaces. Even nonauction vendors that sell keyword listings often set price on demand, based on Google's and Overture's costs.

So how does a marketer assemble a campaign in which prices are reasonable and volumes sufficient? For many, the answer is to go broad. Even if you already know how, a refresher might be in order.


Going broad is a way to capture the rather long tail of the search curve. Recently, I covered the importance of paid inclusion, supported with statistics on the number of keywords in a typical search. About 35 percent of searches are three keywords or more. Some 30 percent are two-word queries. Awareness of this should encourage marketers to include appropriately broad searches in a campaign.

How does this affect you? Once you've decided to go broad to capture the highly targeted traffic this method can deliver, the work begins. Going broad varies greatly from Google to Overture to other engines. Google lets you go broad as a default. When entering a keyword into its AdWords system, the default setting for keyword match is Broad Matches. With Broad Matches, if you enter in the keyword travel, your ad will be displayed for "air travel," "travel map," "discount travel," "travel agency," "adventure travel," "travel agent," "travel accessory," even "travel medical insurance," plus every other phrase containing "travel."

Hang on! Some of those phrases don't fit your target market or are a poor fit for your landing page, so Broad Matches may not be the best way to go broad in a Google campaign. Title and description creative is particularly important. In Google, your creative needs to pull (get high CTR). Honing your Google creative to get a good CTR means separating keywords and key phrases into different ad groups. That's where Google's matching options come in. Beyond the default Broad Matches, other matching options at your disposal are Phrase Matches (as long as the phrase appears somewhere, the ad is shown), Exact Matches (closer to the Overture model), and Negative Matches (if the negative word is part of the search, your ad is not shown).

What if multiple AdWords ads could be shown based on the logic selected? An exact match within one AdGroup takes precedence over the broad match of another. If one Ad Group has a keyword with a broad match option and a second group has key phrases including the word in the first AdGroup, Google displays the closer match. For example, if one AdGroup contains "travel" with broad matches selected and a second AdGroup contains "adventure travel," Google displays the "adventure travel" creative when that phrase is searched.

A full campaign often merges keyword matching and breadth. Here's how one hypothetical campaign might look:

  • AdGroup 1 -- keyword: "travel"; negative matches: "accessory," "insurance," "channel," "time," "nurse," "space," "magazine," and "job"

  • AdGroup 2 -- key phrases: "air travel," "airline ticket," "plane ticket," and "air ticket"; negative matches: "pet," "animal," "insurance," and "free"

  • AdGroup 3 -- key phrase: "adventure travel"; negative matches: "job," "employment," and "magazine"

In this campaign, AdGroups 2 and 3 contain keywords that would have resulted in display of AdGroup 1. But since they are specifically included in their own group with associated creative, Google displays the appropriate AdGroup. How far to break out the Google AdGroups depends on how you manage your campaign.

If you use an automated campaign management system, such as GO TOAST or did-it's Maestro, managing large numbers of keywords with unique creative, landing pages, and prices is automated. These systems take advantage of an interaction mode within the Google system, called PowerPosting, to streamline listings management. A combination of a catchall AdGroup and targeted AdGroups can capture specific important searches. If you manage campaigns manually, perhaps aggregating the keywords to some extent is a better choice. I'm an automation fan, but each advertiser's needs are different.

Overture and FindWhat

Now to Overture, FindWhat, and other engines. With these, matches are exact between your specified keyword and the searcher's query, with the following exceptions:

  • Plurals: Overture usually automatically includes plurals. Some others require plurals to be entered separately.

  • Match Driver: Overture's Match Driver maps misspellings, singular/plural, and other variations of a single primary term. There's no way to know which permutations will be mapped to a primary term, so it's better to submit each one separately for approval. Those of you who once reaped the benefit of misspellings and strange search combinations may find your cheap traffic disappears. Overture's system identifies and maps keyword combinations and misspellings to the "correct" terms with higher bids.

The general rule in Overture and auction engines is to include as many listings as you can in your campaign, based on keyword research. Bear in mind some listings will get into Overture's database only during appropriate seasons. Overture's policy approves only listings that get 25 searches a month. Halloween terms may arise all year, but really broad, multiword terms only show up this time of year.

Keyword Sources

Sources for finding broad keywords should include:

For maximum return on investment (ROI) on broad term campaigns, measure each key phrase separately. That means organized Google AdGroups and large keyword campaigns in Overture, FindWhat, and others.

Broad campaigns are worth the effort. Broader terms are cheaper and often equally, or even better, targeted. Added up, you could run one powerful campaign.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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