Google Close Variant – A Match Made in Heaven?

Analytics Close Variant Matching

Puzzle_Piece_KWFLast post, we discussed how Google’s matchmaking algorithm Close Variant Matching (CVM) brings search terms and paid ads together at auction as applied to the Phrase Match and Exact Match categories. Recent changes to Google’s ad-serving policy have the digital marketing world asking – Is obligatory CVM a match made in heaven? Or will it end in heartbreak for paid search managers?

Before dissecting pros and cons of Google’s new policies, let’s examine how to capitalize on the latest shift in paid search. Here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Rethink your campaign structure – Is your campaign poised to profit from Close Variant Matching? If not, it’s time for a change. Start by measuring your campaign results and optimizing for CVM’s inclusion of atypical spellings and abbreviations. An aside – Think Google Quality Score when building campaigns, too.
  2. Check your work – and often – Running Search Query Reports (SQRs) frequently can help you stay abreast of performance. The new norm of paid search management is closer monitoring.
  3. Boost your top performers – Find your best key terms and re-add them as “Exact Match” keywords. This will boost traffic on your hottest terms.
  4. Yank irrelevant traffic – Adding negative keywords will sift out irrelevant phrases, minimizing spend for ill-fitting keywords and stimulating your paid search program.

What’s the Verdict?
Now for the debate: Does Google’s mandatory matchmaking policy help or hurt paid search marketers? While not all AdWord auctions are the pairing marketers would hope, the verdict may differ between campaigns.

Most simply won’t notice the change. Why is that? Well, CVM has been around since 2012 and was always the default selection in AdWords. Most marketers had no reason to avoid Close Variant Matching, since it pulled in even more potential eyes to view their content.

The pros? Close Variant Matching could lift campaigns honed on Gen Y searchers, whose abbreviations and SMS acronyms already are the stuff of legend. They are less likely to complete a word or phrase in a search bar versus older citizens of the Web.

Another factor – the speed of communication and commonality of analytics-backed search suggestions are so commonplace, many don’t take the time (or *gasp* may not know how) to spell the names of specialized products correctly. Rather than leaving these queries in ad-serving oblivion, Google’s latest stance on bidding for keywords ensures compatible searches are served relevant ads.

There is a downside to the change as well. With less control comes a greater potential for error. Sometimes a match may ring true to Google, but not represent a qualified lead for your business. The only way to mitigate the impact of this possibility is to monitor closely your paid search campaigns for leaky keyword results.

To dig a little deeper into Close Variant Matching and its implications for your paid search program, be sure to read our last post and check out our in-depth article in Social Media Monthly.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker – How Close Variant Matching Ends in Paid Search Bliss

Analytics Close Variant Matching

Pair_Aces_KWFAs February passes (along with another Valentine’s Day) and Spring approaches (when thoughts “turn to fancy” as the old saying goes), take a moment to consider the big business of matchmaking. Not the trifling $2-billion industry of online dating. No, let’s talk about a really big matchmaking industry, one that’s at least 15 times larger – paid search.

And in the business of paid search, the predominant matchmaker is Google, of course. The most popular search engine in the world by nearly 3 times its nearest rival, Google arguably is the most successful matchmaker of all times – That is, when it comes to bringing keywords and searches together.

But as many of us know, there’s more to a successful relationship than connecting similar parties. So, when it comes to matching buyers and sellers, Google’s algorithms take into account nuances of semantics to connect search queries and keywords at an AdWords Auction.

Here’s a primer covering the options Google offers marketers pursuing paid search campaigns:

  • The shotgun approach, Broad Match includes misspellings, abbreviations, stems, and related terms. It covers the gamut of potential customer searches.
  • If you select Phrase Match, only searches containing your specific phrase will show. No one will see your “gluten-free recipes” ad when searching “free recipes”.
  • If you’ve honed your keywords to perfection, Exact Match is your best bet. Use it when no other words will do.
  • Google lets you “subtract” keywords, too. Among other things, Negative Match can save you from advertising wedding rings to those seeking show times for “The Wedding Ringer”.

Introduced in 2012 and applying only to the Phrase Match and Exact Match categories, Google’s Close Variant Matching actually simplifies your paid search campaigns. Using fewer keywords, Close Variant Matching can rope in more search terms. By including errant, misspelled results into your campaign, impressions can increase 7% or more.

A good analogy for Close Variant Matching is autocorrect. By guessing sender intent, your cell phone makes hasty messages appear legible (and bad spellers, intelligent). In the same way, Google Close Variant Matching improves paid search results by guessing searcher intent.

The downside, you ask? Some might argue the algorithm also shares autocorrect’s downfall: lack of user control. While digital marketers could previously opt out of Close Variant Matching, Google made it mandatory last fall.

For a better play-by-play analysis, read our recently published article in Social Media Monthly. While you’re at it, watch for our next post tackling pros and cons of Google’s decision – Is Google really the matchmaker it claims to be?

3 Pivotal Reasons to Manage Your Google Quality Score

Quality Score Retail Analytics

Depositphotos_14004354_originalWell into the first quarter of 2015, the frenzy of the holidays is all but forgotten. Shoppers and retailers alike have returned to their normal routine. There is one lesson, however, that retailers shouldn’t forget from 2014. Shopping habits appear to be making a strong shift from the storefront to the World Wide Web.

While this past year’s in-store Black Friday numbers disappointed some analysts, online shoppers have spent more than $42 billion during the peak holiday season for an increase of 15% over the previous year.  A sea change in shopping behavior is afoot. Purchases are moving from brick-and-mortar stores to handheld devices, establishing the mobile browser as a crucial point-of-purchase front. This has digital marketing execs looking with fresh eyes at their paid search performance.

But what should they be examining? The answer is Google’s Quality Score. There’s a Quality Score for every keyword in a retailer’s AdWords account, and it estimates the quality of a retailer’s digital ads and landing pages triggered by that keyword. Having a high Quality Score means that Google’s systems think an ad and landing page are relevant and useful to searchers viewing the ad.

Google isn’t just looking at bid size when selecting keyword-specific ads. For the benefit of searchers and ad publishers, Google wants the highest quality ads to appear rather than high-paying, poorly targeted ads. That’s one reason relevance indicators such as Quality Score are pertinent to a great ad placement. These measures are critical to beating out thousands of similar bids for the choicest spots on Google.

Here are three reasons managing Quality Score should be a critical component of your paid search campaign:

  1. Make the Cut – As a baseline, Quality Score is one measure Google uses to get the most relevant content in front of searchers. A poor grade could mean fewer eyes see your ad. For cutthroat keywords, a low score could mean no one sees your ad at all. To justify your program, keeping your Quality Score above a minimum threshold is a must.
  2. Spend Less, Get Better Placements – Not only is Quality Score a benchmark for ad eligibility, but high scores slash CPC and first-page placement estimates. The thrifty can get more out of their digital marketing budget by improving the Quality Score of ad-related content. This is everything from the offer on your landing page to the ad copy itself. Every piece of the conversion puzzle is worth improving if you want to get the most out of paid search.
  3. Compete With Ease At an auction, the way Google assigns ads to a specific search, Quality Score is a key determining factor for which ads appear where on the page. Google tracks searcher behavior with every single query. If a curious searcher clicks on your ad and converts on your landing page, it weighs in your favor through the Quality Score Google assigns. The constant measurement means your score will change over time with searcher behavior. No passive paid search managers will attain first-rate ad placements on desirable keywords. The reward to the diligent, however, is better representation on Google than competitors.

As purchase behavior wanders deeper onto the web, marketers cannot afford to fall behind. If your digital marketing metrics need help, you are not alone. Many marketers are still relying on an outdated last-click attribution model. Many are spending, but not optimizing their paid search campaigns. Get on track and educate yourself by reading our Google Quality Score and attribution modeling methods blog posts.


3 Ways to Influence Google Quality Score

Analytics Quality Score

shutterstock_189431450In the last FirstWord blog post, you learned the “5 Critical Components of Google Quality Score.” Now, you’ll learn how to influence those factors using three basic tactics.

But first, a refresher course:

What is Quality Score? It’s the algorithm Google uses to estimate how relevant the ads, keywords and landing pages in your digital marketing campaigns are to someone seeing them after a search. A higher Quality Score means Google’s systems consider your ads, keywords and landing pages relevant and useful to each searcher’s particular topic.

The higher your ad scores, the higher your ad ranks in every search auction. And the more likely clicks will become sales. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to drive your Quality Score higher. Now, here are three ways to do just that:

  1. Improve Clickthrough Rate (CTR) – As the most important factor in Quality Score, CTR should receive the most attention. Four simple adjustments can improve CTR’s and drive up Quality Score:
    • Keyword Negatives – Continually add new negatives to eliminate unwanted queries.  Run your Search Query Reports weekly to identify opportunities and reach beyond eliminating bad clicks. Look to eliminate irrelevant high-impression terms that can drive down CTR.
    • Match Type Breakout— Breakout keywords by match types and separate match types by campaign or ad group.  This will further group not only like terms, but like match types and increase CTR on better performing Exact match groups. In addition, shy away from Broad match and focus on Broad Match Modifiers to improve CTR.
    • Sitelinks – Add Sitelinks to all campaigns and use ad group Sitelinks, when possible, to deliver more relevant Sitelinks. Traditional Sitelinks may increase CTR by 15%, and Enhanced Sitelinks may increase CTR by 20%.
    • Targeting – Eliminate poor performing targets for greater CTR by using all the targeting options available, including GEO targeting, ad scheduling and bid modifiers.
  2. Landing Pages – Because Google will crawl landing pages to determine how relevant they are to each keyword, picking the most relevant, most granular landing pages possible is imperative. When possible, regularly adjust content on landing pages and/or create specific paid-search landing pages that align with keyword to improve Quality Score.
  3. Build Quality History – Set up every campaign the right way every time and manage each and every campaign on regular basis. That’s the only way to build the account history Google seeks to reward with high Quality Scores. This is where discipline comes into play; if you can’t execute a campaign the right way, then maybe that campaign shouldn’t launch.

In addition to these three tactics, practice Search Engine Marketing (SEM) best practices. In short, create a logical campaign structure, craft tight ad groups with similar-themed keyword clusters, develop granular ad copy using keyword themes within copy and, most importantly, continually test and tweak, tweak, tweak.

5 Critical Components of Google Quality Score

Analytics Quality Score

Paid Search is not “Set It & Forget It” media. If you want optimal results from Paid Search, you must build fundamentally sound campaigns, monitor their progress at every opportunity and continually tweak, tweak, tweak. Discipline is the way to win. And the key to winning anything is maximizing your scoring power.

That’s the reason Google calls its relevancy metric “Quality Score.” It’s the algorithm Google uses to estimate how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing pages are to a person seeing your ads. A high Quality Score means Google’s systems consider your ads, keywords, and landing pages relevant and useful to users searching a particular topic. The higher your ad scores, the higher your ad ranks in every search auction. The higher your ad ranks, the more likely clicks will become sales.

In other words, a high score increases your likelihood of winning business through Paid Search campaigns. And if you want to raise your Quality Score, you first have to understand how Google determines this metric. Google is protective of its algorithms, so I can’t say exactly how it’s done. But I can reveal the five most important factors:

  1. Click Through Rate (CTR) – CTR is a user influenced attribute so Google gives it the most weight. Theory is: Large numbers of users clicking your ad must correlate to a positive experience. So high CTR drives Quality Score higher.
  2. Ad Relevancy – Both closely related relevant ad copy and having the actual keyword within ad copy improve Quality Score.
  3. Keyword Relevancy/Campaign Structure – Google’s system looks for keyword relevancy across ad groups. When keywords within an ad group are closely related, Quality Scores go up.
  4. Landing Page Relevancy – The more relevant the landing page, the better Quality Score.
  5. Account History – The length of time a keyword has been active in an account impacts Quality Score, but more important than length of time is how the keyword has performed over time.

Knowing these five critical components leads the way to five techniques you can apply to building and adjusting Paid Search campaigns that will drive higher Quality Scores. And that will be the topic of my next FirstWord post. Stay tuned.