Most people understand the auction concept that underlies Google AdWords. It's a little more complex than a simple auction, the Quality Score of your keyword determines the ad rank and that either boosts the real value of your dollar bid, or reduces it.
But it's an auction nonetheless.
What many people fail to realise is that before your keyword is even entered into the auction another selection process has already taken place.
Since, for most advertisers, there are any number of keywords within their account that could match a particular search query, Google will decide which has the higher ad rank and, therefore, is the one which should become your account's Champion in the battle for results page dominance.
There are a number of factors which will determine this decision, and, whilst some are less controllable such as historical CTR, many others reflect account structure and keyword match type.
Let's take an example. Suppose I have these three keywords in my account:
blue widgets | +blue +widgets | "blue widgets"
And then let's suppose a searcher types - Buy blue widgets online - into the Google search box.
All three of the keywords could trigger the ad - thus Google must decide which of the three to select. All things being equal Google should use the phrase match option - based on the concept of always using the tightest match type as the more precise option.
But here's the thing. The broad match, or perhaps more likely, the BMM options may have triggered more ad impressions in the past and might have had a better historical CTR and as a result one of those is selected first. Or it may even be that I happen to have a higher bid on the BMM option.
In reality you are then not sending your true Champion out into battle, but one of the lesser knights, or even a lowly squire. Allowing Google to determine which of your potential candidates should venture forth is relinquishing control - and there is no need.
There are a number of ways to "force" a particular keyword's selection. The simplest way is to increase the bid for the preferred match type. A second, slightly more complicated method, is to use the stricter match types as negative match types for the less strict match types.
Let's consider this for a moment: if we have one ad group with an exact match keyword of [buy blue widgets online] and another with the phrase match "blue widgets" we can add the negative exact match version [-buy blue widgets online] to this second ad group, thereby ensuring that the exact match version is selected.
Thus the use of negative keywords is not just for blocking unwanted search terms, but also for channeling the better keywords into their very specific funnels.
Let's look again at the example above. If we have a phrase match keyword of "blue widgets" - what should our ad copy say? What would our headline be? It's hard to know what would be best, since the search query might be "how do I use blue widgets to fix my problem" or even "looking to sell my blue widgets". On the other hand, what would the ad copy say for an exact match keyword [buy blue widgets online] - pretty obvious, isn't it?
Google tries - it really does. It is in their interest for advertisers to get the best traffic possible at the best price. But it isn't a mind reader - not yet! So we should be giving the system as much help as we can so it knows which is the keyword we would like to use in any given search.
We should select our Champion, not Google. We know the battleground better that they do. And we should also know our knights.
I have worked in Sales & Marketing since before the internet... and am a Certified Google Partner. I bring solid business acumen and a data driven approach to online marketing, understanding that every penny needs to pull its weight. I am available for both Consulting and Management and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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