Use Caution when Going Broad with Overture and Google

Running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign on Google and Overture can get complicated, especially now that both networks offer different types of keyword matching options that determine when ads will be displayed. Here’s how to avoid trouble and maximize your campaign’s effectiveness.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2004 Conference, March 1-4, New York.

Essentially, keyword ads can be triggered to display by search terms that exactly match (or don’t exactly match) a purchased phrase, depending on how an advertiser has set up their matching preferences. Both Google and Overture have launched broad matching capability, which essentially triggers a keyword ad in a more loose equation, when the user’s search term includes a keyword phrase in any order.

Overture’s John Slade, Director of Product Management, joined other SEM professionals on a panel at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York City to discuss the various match types and how to get the most from them. The session, “Broad Matching & Other Ad Targeting Options” featured speakers from Overture and Google, as well as top search engine specialists.

On Overture, the match types are called Standard, Phrase, and Broad. Here’s how it works. Say you buy the term “Hawaii vacation” – here’s how your ad might be triggered by a user query:

    • Standard Match: “vacations Hawaii” or “vacation hawii” (misspellings, reverse order, plurals)


    • Phrase Match: “family vacation Hawaii” (phrase in same order, but with other words)


    • Broad March: “beach vacation in Hawaii” (all keywords present but not exactly in the same order)


“Broad matching works well for capturing highly detailed queries,” said Slade. “Specifically, SKUs and detailed product features such as ‘portable DVD players,’ as well as category unfolding in select categories. For instance, a broad match listing for ‘real estate’ would be shown for ‘Miami beach real estate.’ It’s also good for certain types of proper nouns, such as brand names.”

Where Broad Matching doesn’t work well, he said, is in cases where there might be multiple meanings of the word, such as “Java,” and also in categories that aren’t discrete (e.g. “Sony” can be related to music and electronics both). He suggested sticking with Standard Match for your most popular terms, and to try Broad or Phrase on best-performing subsets of the terms.

Richard Holden, AdWords Product Manager at Google, explained that Google’s default match type is Broad Match. “You want the broadest distribution of your ad,” he said. “Our search technology refines the results.”

Google’s newest technology will expand the reach of ads not just on keyword phrase variations, but also will show listings for related keyword concepts and synonyms. For instance, our “Hawaii vacation” ad might show on a query for “Maui vacation,” even if the advertiser didn’t specifically include Maui in its list of terms.

“I think broad match is a good idea,” said Patricia Hursh, President of SmartSearch Marketing, one of the panelists at the conference session. “Anything that attempts to simplify SEM for advertisers is a noble cause, as long as it’s implemented well.”

Hursh described a scenario of using Broad Match to implement regional keyword targeting. Her example of an Internet service provider in Los Angeles illustrated how using a concatenation method (LA + internet provider, Los Angeles + internet provider, LA + internet service provider, etc.) could potentially yield 270 keywords to manage. She maintains that she can still hit that same potential keyword inventory with only 32 keywords set to Broad Match, using exclusionary “negative words” to limit the exposure to only a qualified audience (e.g. excluding “cheap” or “discount”).

Matt Van Wagner, president of Find Me Faster, warned against using Broad Match as a solution for all keywords. He presented a very detailed discussion of the pros and cons of Broad Matching, and how to best optimize a campaign.

“Broad Match isn’t a shortcut,” he said. “If you want your ad to show for a known term, add it to your keyword inventory. This is particularly true in niche markets, where there is limited data for search engines to determine what to match phrases with.”

Van Wagner also suggested that since 2- and 3-word phrases are often less expensive per click than single terms, advertisers can save money in the long run by bidding directly on as many potential phrases as possible. You can find even more phrases, he said, by setting your complex phrases on Broad Match and watching the results. And, he said, don’t assume that Google and Overture work the same in their matching options.

Kevin Lee, CEO of Did-It, expanded on Van Wagner’s observations. He suggested reviewing traffic log files for referring keyword data when using broad match features, so that you can find new combinations to buy as Standard match, and thus potentially pay less per click. In Google, where broad listings get more traffic, he suggested breaking them out into separate ad groups.

“It’s good practice to keep blowing out keywords and ad groups,” he said. “Google rewards new listings.”

Google and Overture both offer support for international query matching, and Google’s suggestion tool will offer language-specific keyword suggestions. Overture has set up different matching engines for each country, Slade said, to support all languages.

However, the two engines differ in how they display the order of the results. Overture will rank Standard Matches above Phrase and Broad. Google shows the ad with the highest relevancy for every unique search; relevancy is determined by a combination of the click-through rate of the ad for that specific search and the price set for bidding.

The way to execute a Broad Match campaign is very different in Google vs. Overture,” concluded Lee. “You should use a combination of all three options on each network, depending on the objectives of the campaign.”

Dana Todd is a founding partner of SiteLab International Inc. She obsesses on the flagrant misuse of the apostrophe because of her journalism and advertising background. She is a frequent speaker on Internet marketing topics, including search engine strategies and link-buying.

Sound Off

Have you developed strategies for effectively selecting keyword matching options? Join the Broad Match: A Powerful Tool That Must Be Used With Care discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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