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Overture Shifting To Default Broad Match

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The longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members takes a closer look at how the new advanced broad matching will work, reasons to exclude terms, how "tiered" display of match types will continue, how higher bid prices for terms are likely and why traffic will increase for those doing advanced match. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Within the next few weeks, Overture will make a major switch to matching terms on a broad basis, rather than the traditional exact match default it has followed since the company's launch.

The change will make it easier for advertisers to gain more traffic, as they'll no longer have to think of each exact term they want to target. This makes tapping into the "tail" of search queries, the relatively low-volume searches that happen, easier to target.

The change will likely increase Overture's revenues, as well. Not only will advertisers probably to target more terms, but they'll also likely pay more as previously low cost terms get rolled into the same bid price as more expensive terms.

Overture had no comment on whether the change would generate more money. Spokesperson Gaude Paez stressed that the move is primarily being made to respond to advertiser demands to gain more traffic through less work.

Unlike Overture, Google has offered default broad matching from when it started its own pay-per-click AdWords program. Now, Overture's system will become more Google-like in terms of targeting, though Google's system will still offer more advertiser control.

In particular, Google's keyword matching options allow exact, phrase and broad matching to be individually selected. Overture's new system will simply allow a choice between exact and broad matching. However, like Google, advertisers will have the option to use "negative" (Google's term) or "excluded" (Overture's term) words to ensure their ads don't show up if particular word also appears in a query.

Overture advertisers were to be informed today about the change. An exact date for it hasn't been announced, but Overture says it will happen in the next few weeks.

When the change happens, all new ads will automatically have broad matching -- what Overture confusingly calls "advanced match" -- enabled. Advertisers can choose to deselect this option on an ad-by-ad basis and fall back to Overture's traditional exact matching, or what it will continue to call "standard match." Advanced match will completely replace the broad and phrase match type option Overture introduced last year.

Existing ads in the Europe and Australia markets will automatically have broad matching enabled, Overture said. Advertisers will have to manually move these back to standard match, if that's what they prefer. Overture says all advertisers will be notified well ahead of time that the change will happen. In other markets, including the US, existing ads will remain using standard match, if that's what was previously selected.

What's The Search Tail?

Earlier, I'd mentioned the move will help Overture advertisers better tap into the "tail" of queries, in the way Google advertisers have long been able to do. But what does this mean, to those new to the term? The illustration below may help:

0409-tail-big

It shows the top queries on Overture's network that contained the word "shoes" in July 2004, as reported by Overture's Search Term Suggestion Tool. The most popular query was "shoes" itself, happening a reported 650,000 times on the sites Overture serves.

The next most popular queries containing the word "shoes" in them come next, and you can see how the search volume quickly drops off. Those who only target the term "shoes" are missing out on the long "tail" that follows behind the primary word of "shoes." Broad matching -- at Overture and Google -- gets advertisers into these additional terms more easily.

To really understand the potential in the search tail, look at the chart below. Instead of showing only the top 25 terms related to "shoes," it goes out to the top 100 terms:

0409-tail-long

As you can see, exact matching only the word "shoes" can miss a lot of potential traffic. Nor is it bad traffic, simply because the volume is lower. Anecdotally, many advertisers report that more specific queries often bring more qualified buyers.

Latest Move Toward Pay Per Lead, Not Per Term

Overall, the ability to more easily target tail terms will be an advantage to advertisers. It's likely to cost them more money, but this is something that's been inevitable.

As I've talked about before, paid listings have been moving away from a "pay per term" model to instead a "pay per lead" one. In other words, how much is a particular lead worth to you, not a particular keyword that the lead typed in?

The search engines want to get paid for the lead, the full value it represents to advertiser, which is often more than the particular term valued at because "tail blindness" -- focusing only on popular terms -- leads to less competition among advertisers for tail terms.

We saw a big move this way when Overture brought in auto-bidding in 2002 (see Overture Says Forget CPC, What's Your ROI?) and its Match Driver feature rolled up similar terms that same year (for SEW members, see Overture Weakens Advertiser Control With Match Driver). At the end of last year, Google's expanded broad matching was another step in this direction. The forthcoming Overture change is further shift forward.

As long as you understand what you can afford to pay, you'll be able to survive the changes. And you do have the option to stick with standard match, trading off your time for perhaps less cost, in some cases. As for the search engines, making life easier for advertisers is great -- as long as they also provide as much control and transparency as possible to advertisers who want this.

Want to comment or discuss this story? Come join in at our forums in this thread: Overture Going Broad Match.

The longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members takes a closer look at how the new advanced broad matching will work, reasons to exclude terms, how "tiered" display of match types will continue, how higher bid prices for terms are likely and why traffic will increase for those doing advanced match. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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