Marketing Advice & Reflections
Keep It Simple Stupid - the KISS of PPC
A couple of weeks ago I sent out a simple tweet about how I had stopped using phrase match in my PPC campaigns. Which is strange, because my campaigns were almost exclusively built on ranks of phrase match keywords covering a multitude of search queries relevant to my clients' products or services. A few people asked me why... the reason is the launch of broad match modified keywords.
I hated broad match - it just seemed like leaving your car parked with the door open, the engine running and the keys in the ignition. Hey, Google - over here! Come spend whatever you like! And, oftentimes, advertisers were surprised by just how quickly a budget could be depleted. Ta-Daaaaa! No you see me now you don't!
But with broad match modified, you can often get all the coverage you were hoping to get with hundreds of phrase match keywords - without the wastage that came with pure broad match - and without the bloating.
Consider these phrase match keywords:
"dentist in Molarville"
"dentist in the centre of Molarville"
"Molarville's best dentist"
"dentist appointment Molarville"
"dentist in Cavity Street, Molarville"
This list could be much longer as we try to cover all the possible search terms a visitor might want to use - but we can boil them down to two words - dentist and Molarville. To a large degree, anyone who is searching for anything that contains those two words is looking for a dentist in Molarvilla.
Thus a single broad match keyword +dentist +Molarville would trigger an ad for all of those keywords.
Now - before there is a general uproar - it has to be pointed out that there are ways to finesse this approach. Clearly, there will be many search terms that, whilst they will be covered by this single BMM keyword, are clearly looking for something more specific - thus, a search term - good children's dentist in Molarville - should not be treated in the same way. and in this case, yes, a second ad group with +dentist +molarville +children - should probably also be developed. But the underlying principle is that we can simplify ad groups down to a handful of keywords where there might have been 25, 50 or - as I have seen in many accounts - thousands!
Once this approach is implemented there are two further steps that cannot be ignored. Firstly, the addition of negative keywords to limit those searches that are irrelevant which would appear and, secondly, the identification of specific search terms which have a significant volume of their own. These should then be added as exact match keywords.
Of course, this simplification is tied to the complexity of the landing page structure - it isn't such a good idea to try this for extensive ecommerce - but if you have a few thousand phrase match keywords all pointing to the same landing page, then what you complicated at one end is being simplified again at the other.
So why do campaign managers complicate things in this way? Surely, it is a rod for their own back. Why use 10,000 phrase match keywords when 100 broad match modified keywords will draw the same traffic to the site?
I believe there are two answers to this question:
1. This is the way it has been taught to them. And this was, indeed, a sensible approach in the world before BMM. The doctrine was simple - avoid broad match and don't throttle the campaigns with only exact match.
2. It's easier to justify management fees when the account is so complicated that it becomes daunting. If a client looks at their AdWords account and sees multiple campaigns each with a myriad of ad groups and each of those with a dazzling array of keywords, then the agency's fee is well worth the money - surely! But if they look at the account and see four campaigns each with four ad groups each with three keywords, then the fees look to be way too high.
And, perhaps, herein lies the problem. One of the hardest things to justify to a client who is paying you a monthly fee is that you have made no radical changes to an account that is purring like a kitten. Because that purr that should be the reason the fee is being paid. The sign of a good manager is that they can handle a crisis. The sign of a great manager is that there is no crisis.
This does not mean that campaigns should be treated as set it and forget it configurations - of course not. But we should, perhaps, begin to avoid complicating things that do not need to be further complicated, and work, instead, on improvements in other parts of the process rather than the keywords. Writing better copy and working on more effective landing pages are likely to drive better results than tweaking the match type of a keyword that triggers half a dozen ad impressions a month.
Did this piece hit a nerve? In a way, I hope so... I'd like to know how my colleagues in the industry feel about the complexity of campaigns and whether the additional management time that this complexity demands can be justified - not by fees, but by results. Use the comments below to join the discussion.