Adwords: Keyword Essentials To Save Money

In this article I want to make you aware of the two areas where small businesses are losing money on Google Adwords.

Having run my own small business, I know how important it is to make sure your marketing budget is being spent as efficiently as possible. Despite this, 100% of the small businesses I've worked with have not properly implemented their Google Adwords keywords, and as a result have wasted a fairly significant proportion of their total budget.

There must be thousands of other small businesses who are also filling Google's pockets unnecessarily due to a lack of understanding of the Adwords platform - are you one of them? Here are my two essential tips for making sure you're not wasting money in Adwords.

1. Use the correct keyword match types

Looking at my clients' Adwords accounts, one of the first problems I spot is they are using broad match keywords. Basically, if you add a keyword to your adgroup without [ ] or " " or + surrounding the words you enter as your keyword, you are creating a broad match keyword. What you should do is create exact match, phrase match or broad match modifier keywords (more on these below).

Broad match keywords can trigger your search ad even if the words in your keyword are not used in the search query. Google only needs to think there is relevance between the search and your keyword, which can result in your ad being shown for searches that actually are not relevant.

For example, a client (who is a photographer) had a broad match keyword 'photography dorset' which received 8,000 impressions for the search 'for sale tv dvd & cameras dorset'. Clearly this is not relevant yet it still got clicks and over time built up a significant cost. If people don't click your ad, it may mean you're not charged but it is still impacting your quality score by giving you a low click through rate which will result in you needing to pay a higher cost per click.

The only time that broad match keywords are useful

The only time I would recommend using broad match keywords is if you are looking to expand your Adwords account by reaching more potential customers with additional keywords. Set up a new campaign and add your broad match keyword(s). Let it run for 2-4 weeks to build up some data.

At the end of this period, view the Keywords tab for this campaign and click the Details button and under Search Terms select All. This will display the actual search terms that people used when your ad was triggered. You'll be able to spot searches that are relevant and have received good click through rates which you can then apply as exact, phrase or broad match modifier keywords in the appropriate campaign of your account.

Exact match keywords

Use brackets around your keywords eg [Bournemouth photographer]. This means your ad will only show when someone types exactly the same as your keyword (though synonyms will be included such as Bournemouth photographers). Using exact match will limit the number of searches your ad will appear for but it will ensure that your ad only appears for searches which exactly match what you want your ad to appear for, and is likely to result in a lower cost per click.

Phrase match keywords

Use quotation marks around your keywords eg “Bournemouth photographer”.  This means your ad will show if someone uses these keywords in that order within a bigger search query, such as Bournemouth portrait photographer. Using phrase match keywords is a great way to ensure your ad still appears for relevant searches but gives a little bit of flexibility in terms of what searches your ad can appear for. I often find these keyword types are the most successful in my campaigns though I always recommend using a mix of match types in your campaigns.

Broad match modifier keywords

Use the plus symbol before each word eg +Bournemouth +photographer.  This means your ad will show if someone uses these keywords in a search but in any order, such as Photographer in Bournemouth that does portraits. It is very flexible like the standard broad match but the important difference is that the keywords you add a plus symbol to must appear in the search query, unlike broad match where the keywords don't have to be in the search.

2. Use negative keywords

Even if you are strict with the use of phrase match and broad match modifier keywords, it is still possible that your ad will appear for an irrelevant search and generate clicks through to your website from searchers not looking for what you offer. For example, if you were a wedding photographer you might have a phrase match keyword such as "wedding photography" but this could trigger for a search such as "wedding photography course" - which is not something you provide so you don't want to appear for this search. Negative keywords are the solution to this.

You can create negative keyword lists which you can then apply at a campaign level. In the left column of the Adwords screen (make sure the left column is expanded) click Shared Library then Campaign negative keywords. The good thing about having multiple lists of negative keywords is that you may have some keywords that you don't want to block only from a particular campaign. For example, for Artificial Nature I didn't want the artificial tree ads to appear if anyone searched for artificial Christmas trees, but I did want the artificial Christmas tree ads to appear. I applied a negative keyword list of Christmas themed keywords to all campaigns except the artificial Christmas tree campaign.

Apart from just thinking about keywords you don't want to appear for, you can use the search query report to spot searches that you are currently appearing for which you're rather not, and then add these as negative keywords.  The search query report can be found by clicking the Keywords tab in Adwords, clicking the Details button and under Search Terms select All

How to view the actual searches people made that triggered your ads

How to view the actual searches people made that triggered your ads

When you add negative keywords, remember to make them exact, phrase or broad match modifier keywords. Using broad match may mean that your ads don't show because Google is stopping your ad from showing for anything related to your negative keyword.  This is only useful if the negative keyword is totally unrelated such as "jobs" or "forum". Here are some commonly used search terms that most commerce businesses won't want to appear for:

  • employment
  • forum
  • course
  • recruitment
  • used
  • career
  • chair
  • blog
  • chairs
  • forums
  • jobs
  • job
  • training
  • vacancies
  • vacancy
  • blogs
  • courses
  • furniture
  • careers
  • secondhand
  • complaints
  • complaint

Bonus tip. Track your goals/ecommerce

You must track the thing that defines success for your business. If you're not tracking goals/conversions/revenue, how can you judge the performance of a keyword/adgroup/campaign (or any marketing activity for that matter)? For most businesses, simply reporting on clicks/CTR is not enough, yet most small businesses that ask for my help are not tracking these metrics - normally because they don't know how. You could be spending the majority of your budget on keywords that drive a huge volume of clicks, but aren't actually generating any business - and you won't know this unless your tracking is setup. Setting up tracking of goals and/or ecommerce in Google Analytics and Google Adwords is a whole other topic so I won't go in to detail in this article. If you would like help setting up tracking, contact me as soon as possible.  The sooner you do it, the sooner you'll have good data to help you optimise your marketing.