How To Regain Control Of Your Google AdWords Campaigns

I’ve launched my first paid search campaign on a search engine called Overture in early 2000s (was originally GoTo and ultimately acquired by Yahoo). Things were much simpler back then. With Google AdWords being the dominant paid search platform now, there are a lot of nuances worth knowing about.

One of the common problems marketers face with AdWords is overlap between various campaigns they are running. Let’s dive into this particular issue by understand where it comes from.

Keyword vs Search Query

In AdWords, there is a difference between a keyword that you are bidding on and a search query someone uses to search on Google. The two concepts are one and the same only when you bid on an exact match of your keyword. Any other match type will introduce addition queries that you might not be actively bidding on. If you are unfamiliar with the keyword match types in paid search, stop right here and read this in-depth match type guide first.

If you are bidding on a lot of keywords across multiple match types, you likely have a lot of overlap and search queries being match to many different keywords. You might have learned to separate your match types by bidding a different amount on each. That’s a good starting point but after numerous rounds of bid optimizations, that strategy tends to fall apart. So how do you fix it?

Identify the Overlap

A good starting point would be to first see if you have a problem. Log in to your Google AdWords account, go to your “Keywords” tab and click on the “Search terms” button. Don’t forget to set a date range that would give you enough data. 90 days should be a good option for most campaigns.

Next, make sure you select the keyword column from the “Columns” drop down. That will help you compare your search term, or query, with the keyword it was matched to.

Take a look at the data and see if your keywords are capturing the right queries. Often times, your important head terms with high bids end up attracting longer tail queries. The end result is that a consumer is shown the wrong ad when searching for one of your keywords.

Campaign Structure for Maximum Control

Since the introduction of the broad match modifier match type, I tend to ignore the phrase match type entirely, at least for unbranded/generic keywords. I often times create two copies of each campaign, one for maximum control and accurate targeting and one for keyword discovery.

The maximum control campaign runs all of my keywords in exact match type only. I can effectively bid on exact search queries and know which ad will end up showing every time someone searches for one of my keywords. So far so good but there is a limitation. With exact match targeting, you can’t take advantage of the long tail searches and identify new keywords. For that, there is a discovery campaign.

The match type of the discovery campaign depends on the size of the account and the available budget. As I’ve mentioned before, I usually use the broad match modifier. It is very similar to phrase match but it gives me a bit more room to play. To be clear, the discovery campaign is the exact copy of my exact match campaign, with the identical keyword list. The only difference is the match type.

Here is the trick. To prevent any overlap between the two sets of keywords, you can add the entire keyword list from the exact match campaign as negative exact match. That insures that your discovery campaign captures only new search terms you don’t already have in your account. In other words, the long tail.

Now you can review those search queries on regular basis and add them as keywords to both your maximum control and discovery campaigns. There is no need to have different bids for each match type. There is also no need to over-complicate your campaigns and run all match types at the same time.

To reuse the famous words of the Somalian pirate from the movie Captain Phillips, “you are the captain now”.

p.s. While I often question search query matching capabilities of Bing Ads, technically speaking, the exact same approach could be taken with that platform as well.

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Andrey Milyan is an independent digital marketing professional, helping early-stage, direct-to-consumer companies grow their online sales. This article originally appeared on andreymilyan.com.