Doing Google AdWords’ Homework

Google AdWords ToolsSo an interesting thing happened the other day on the way to cornering the market on a keyword in Google AdWords. The situation began like this: I had been watching the sponsored scene for a product keyword for one of our clients for about 3 months. All of my search queries for the term during that time resulted in perhaps 3-4 sponsored results appearing along side the organic results. It was the prefect opportunity to take advantage of a very low competitive market on a high profit margin item which our client sells. I convinced the client that the time was right to enter into this particular keyword market and they agreed. So I set off to do my keyword discovery; In addition to utilizing our own research methodologies I also incorporated the tools that Google AdWords offers for keyword research including the ability to scan the target landing page URL for similar terms or associative terms that compliment the primary keyword. In the end I pulled together a highly satisfactory list of terms, utilizing the various match types and appropriate negatives.

With the ad group now setup and complete with the appropriate ad copy variations, and beautifully low bid rate, I launched the ad group. Within 10 minutes my ads were exactly where I wanted them to be at an incredibly low price. I was pleased.

To my utter dismay the very next day I checked on the positioning of my ad and found that not only had all of the sponsored listings been filled (over 5 pages deep!) with advertisers whom were sight unseen for 3 months prior but, my ad was nowhere to be seen on the first two pages of the search results. Being forced to dig into the search results I found my ad now on page four! Another interesting thing to note was that only one other advertiser was using the actual keyword in their ad title aside from me! My conclusion is that all of the other advertisers had been placed there via associative terms which I had unknowingly researched for Google using their tools! Only after quintupling the bid price was I able to land back in the spot I had planned so carefully to attain before my research. Score one for Google.

The moral of this story? If you see that there is low competition for a keyword be sure not to tip Google off by using their keyword tools. Do the research using outside sources.

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  1. phil
    Jan 19, 2007

    So your saying that by using the Google keyword tool that they raised the bid price on you? Have you not used google’s keyword tools in the same scenario and seen the opposite? this later experiment would prove it.

  2. jstaub
    Jan 19, 2007

    Hey Phil,

    Well more like by proxy did it raise the bid price… I am saying that Google was keyed into a low competition ad space that they were previously unaware of in terms of how to link similar terms. By using the keyword tools I effectively pointed Google in the right direction which as a result raised the competition for the ad space and therefore the bid price.

    And never have I used the keyword tools and seen the number of advertisers decrease for a particular term.

  3. anty
    Jan 19, 2007

    Nice discovery! That’s something I would consider as very important for niche sites! It would be interesting if you could game the tool by giving it totally unrelated terms…
    Anyhow, thanks for pointing this out!

  4. markus941
    Jan 19, 2007

    Very interesting observation. I’d like to see somebody conduct a more “scientific” test to verify, but it’s certainly worth keeping in mind.

  5. jstaub
    Jan 19, 2007

    Yes indeed this is certainly anecdotal and I agree it deserves more research before any definitive conclusions can be made. That being said I still feel strongly about this observation and in my opinion it should be kept in mind when designing an AdWords campaign under similar circumstances. The trick now is finding a keyword market I am willing to concede!

  6. Stefan Juhl
    Jan 20, 2007

    Definitely interesting!

    Are the “new” ads for “real” sites that might be on large budgets? Then there’s also the possibility that it’s not really automatic but instead something Google’s adwords managers has set up for the clients – e.g. simply added the keywords to the campaigns because they could see “how well” a competitor campaign does (the one you set up).

    If the “new” ads are for MFA’s it could also have been due to other tools you might have used?

  7. Chris Clark
    Jan 20, 2007

    Developing this thought a little, I have a case of Google Phantom Ads for one of my clients. Ads have been crafted and well placed Pos #2 or #3 for the product my client does. The copy was a little bland. No-one is paying for them – we checked exhaustively.

    So what if in this case, all the ads are ‘phantom ads’? I can’t see how the bid prices rose so quick, unless there was direct contact with the other advertisers because the ad I had was up for months.

    Go back and cjheck the copy quality and see if they appear uniformly written.

  8. Vladimir
    Jan 22, 2007

    It could be a bit different explanation to this fact.
    1. Your client has competitors with websites on the same topic. They have quite close organic Google SERP on the same set of keywords.
    2. The competitors have AdWords campaigns on the same topic with higher bids, but with different keywords. They also entered keywords as broad terms.
    3. Google AdWords placed completive ads on your keywords, because (1) it found them relevant (just compared websites), and (2) due to higher CPC.

    In my opinion this approach is quite simple to implement. In contrast, analyzing keywords search process is not straightforward. A user may search on different topic, which is hardly possible to understand for Google software.

  9. jstaub
    Jan 22, 2007

    The thought here is that Google uses their research tools to develop broad match associations for keywords it previously had no idea how to broad match.

    In a Google broad-match keyword type, boot or sneaker is considered a broad match to the term shoe. Somewhere down the line we have all come to associate that a boot is in fact a shoe. No brainer right? Well it seems perfectly logical for Google to want to develop lists of associative words for their under developed broad-match terms.

    Why not have the users develop your content? It’s Google’s M/O.

  10. Dolores Hark
    Feb 28, 2008

    Makes total sense – they think it’s fine for them to pull data from their own research tool.

    Thanks so much for the heads up!

    On the other side of it, I was wondering where Google started pulling all the poor thesauras match phrases from that it uses on broadmatch.

    Google needs to start exposing the granularity of the traffic phrases served up – sorry but the technology is easily there. As it should easily be in the free Urchin, but it is not (last I checked anyway).

    There is a reason Google does not want the customers to see these phrases! Okay – so maybe there are not intentionally trying to be evil, but just are a little drugged by all the money they are pulling in on crap matches. I am able to get this data with any other stats program on the market – free, paid or otherwise!

  11. Discord
    Dec 19, 2009

    General keywords are really hard to rank for lately, I’ve found using longtail keywords are easier to rank for.

  12. Bette Paugh
    Dec 12, 2011

    One other point that occurred to me after reading this thread yesterday, was how the BlackHats of this world have made Google a better search engine. BlackHats are like the ultimate QA team. Try every imaginable trick in the book to twist, circumvent, and break the software that is Google. Then, when that doesn’t work, they rewrite the book, and start again. BlackHats are the best testing team Google never paid for. The rest of us should be thanking them for improving our search experience


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