Our client, a national fertility leader, asked us to oversee their seemingly efficient Google ads program. Although the overall numbers showed positive results, we discovered, upon closer inspection, that the campaigns were actually in bad shape.
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads were being served to the wrong audiences in some cases, and fertility clinics in different locations were competing against each other via overlapping geographic targets. There were also instances where the campaigns bid on phrases describing services the clinics didn’t even offer. Worst of all, our fertility leader was spending money targeting existing clients instead of attracting new leads.
How did this happen?
Analyzing marketing data can be tricky, and it’s not enough to look at the overall campaign statistics to gauge the results. Sometimes you need to dig beneath the surface. The overwhelming success of a Google keywords campaign could be, in fact, hindering your pay-per-click cost.
To avoid paying for unnecessary clicks, it’s wise to monitor your ads manually, measure conversions, and check their value at each step in the customer journey.
In this article, we would like to point out some of the risks of keyword close variants and talk about brand and generic paid search terms. We will illustrate the work we did for our fertility clinic client using different examples. Thanks to the changes we implemented in their PPC campaigns, we focused their ad spend on new patients and helped the clinic achieve their most profitable month of all time.
How to Fix Irrelevant Traffic and False Positives
In the early days of pay-per-click, Google ads matched exact keywords or phrase search queries. Later, the search algorithm was expanded to include similar phrases and relevant variations. Then keyword close variants were created to trigger advertising campaigns in front of the thousands of broad match search queries happening each day.
Being able to widen your audience to users searching for a service “close enough” to your offering seems like a good thing. Google’s close variants promise to generate large numbers of clicks and conversions with less effort, however irrelevant traffic and false positives can undermine what initially seems like a promising campaign.
We will illustrate a brand and a non-brand paid keywords campaign example using two fictional businesses: “Chattooga Auto Repairs” in Clayton, GA and “Dog Mountain Car Spa” in Highlands, NC. The two companies operate in tourist areas and strive to attract both out-of-state visitors and local repeat customers.
We should first mention that “brand” and “non-brand” paid search terms typically perform very differently. Branded keywords often have less competition, a lower cost-per-click (CPC), and drive higher conversions. On the other hand, branded campaigns will most likely reach people who already know your company and are simply looking to get to your website. This could result in wasting advertising resources on an existing audience.
The marketing team of Chattooga Auto Repairs invests in non-brand keywords around the terms “car repairs near clayton”, “auto repair”, “oil change”, and “tire repair”.
The campaign shows great success with hundreds of hits for the defined search terms. The numbers indicate the ad is doing fantastic, and people are finding Chattooga Auto Repairs by googling something different than the brand name.
However, we know search users routinely misspell the names of businesses, and consequently, Google may present existing clients with the company’s paid advertisement. In other words, the non-branded campaign begins to function as a branded campaign. The table below illustrates how typical search queries for Chattooga Auto Repairs might incorrectly generate an ad based on what Google believes is a non-brand keyword.
Left unchecked, this type of keyword mismatch will skew your marketing results. Google’s traffic report (shown below) indicates the campaign is performing strongly, while in fact, it is failing to reach new customers.
In terms of numbers, the low bounce rate and high engagement will be reflected as a successful campaign with high KPIs. As far as Google is concerned, these “new leads” are interested in the services offered by Chattooga Auto Repairs and spend time on their website. In reality, these clicks came from existing customers who have simply misspelled the name of the business while looking to book an appointment. The auto repair center ends up paying to advertise to existing customers instead of new clients.
Anyone typing “Chattooga Auto Repairs” in Google already knows the company. To avoid unnecessarily paying for ads to existing clients, we can add the name of the company and a list of possible typos to the negative master list of keywords.
Moving on to our second example, “Dog Mountain Car Spa” decides to invest in a brand campaign to increase its name awareness and recognition. This is one of those company names that are both good and bad because it consists of words representing a physical region (Dog Mountain), an animal (Dog), a business description (Car Spa), and a different type of business (Spa).
The overall campaign numbers show hundreds of clicks for the defined search terms and close variants. Looking closely at the results, however, the team discovers the ad is not really matching the keywords put in place and has slowly moved to target the wrong audience.
According to Google’s close variant definition, the algorithm can match your campaign keywords to almost anything deemed “close enough” and make you pay for it. For example, a user typing “clean car seats” could end up finding your keyword “car wash service”. In some cases, however, the variants can be overly broad or completely off-topic.
Because the name of the company includes other commonly searched words, like “dog” and “spa”, Google begins to match paid ads with search queries such as “pet wash” and “dog spa”.
This advertising campaign requires supervision and manual adjustments to cancel unintended matches and avoid wasting money on the wrong audience.
How to Make Sure Your Online Advertising Matches Your Campaign Goals
Our advice is to reduce exposure to Google keyword variants that don’t help your bottom line. You can keep a close watch on search query reports and update negative keywords for low-quality close variants that stray too far from the underlying terms.
On the other hand, if Google has matched a new term, and the close variant performs well, add this term as a keyword. These maintenance efforts allow you to eventually clean up the campaign by eliminating irrelevant traffic and false positives.
With the new updates in AI algorithms, Google search bids apply to potentially unlimited variations of a keyword. Google is pushing ads to an enormous number of users, which could also mean you are paying for ads to irrelevant visitors.
Both examples above show why it’s important to analyze more than just the overall statistics, and we encourage our clients to conduct a detailed examination of their paid search results. This is what we did for our national fertility leader client. We reorganized their campaign and focused ad spend on new patients by manually eliminating irrelevant traffic and close variants that did not make sense. We focused our efforts on promoting their top priority services, and in less than two months, the clinic saw tangible returns on their marketing investment.
For advice on digital advertising, traffic conversions, and boosting your ad profitability, say firstname.lastname@example.org Our data specialists in New Jersey will be happy to help with your Google Ads and SEO strategy.