It’s easy to focus all your resources and energy on developing a sophisticated paid search strategy, but it’s often the execution that makes or breaks account performance. While figuring out what to do is important, even the best-laid plans fall apart when implementation comes up short. Last week, we kicked off our “Paid Search Pitfalls” series by demonstrating the faulty conclusions that arise from a common reporting mistake. This week, we’re turning our attention towards implementation by shining a light on a paid search problem that’s as impactful as it is easy to overlook: Search Term Funneling.
Search term funneling, keyword funneling, or negative funneling are all phrases which simply mean- making sure that the searches people make trigger the ads you want them to. The best way to understand this concept is to first understand that the search someone makes doesn’t always trigger the keyword you want it to. For a client selling cakes and cake decorations, a search of “Buy Cheap Cake Decorations” could match to all of the following keywords: [Buy Cheap Cake Decorations], +Buy +Cake, Cake, and “Cheap Cake”. (If you’re not familiar with keyword match types and why this can happen, quickly check out this article by Google before reading on).
So which of these keywords will the search of ”Buy Cheap Cake Decorations” end up matching to? There’s no clear-cut answer, but Google will favor the keyword with the 1.) Highest Keyword Bid, 2.) Highest Quality Score, 3.) Most Historic Data, and 4.) Most Narrow Match Type. With so many factors, it’s hard to control which keyword gets triggered by a search, especially when conditions such as quality score, bid, and historic data are constantly in flux.
So why does it matter which keyword gets triggered by a search? After all, every one of those searches is relevant to the products the client’s business sells, so why does it matter which keyword each search matches to? There are a couple reasons, but the most salient one is that searchers respond to ad copy that matches what they’re looking for. If a search for “Buy Cheap Cake Decorations” ends up triggering the keyword +Buy +Cake, the searcher would most likely encounter an ad offering cakes for sale rather than cake decorations.
might not seem like a big deal, but on the highly-competitive Search Engine Results Page (SERP), searchers will overlook an ad about cakes in favor of more specific cake decoration ads, causing CTR to plummet. Even if searchers do end up clicking, the +Buy +Cake keyword most likely drives to a cake landing page instead of a cake decoration landing page which can cause the shopper to bounce or detract from their landing page experience.
These types of scenarios are even more common when working with broad keywords which are great at driving volume at the expense of relevance and specificity. A broad-match keyword such as cake supplies can trigger ads for loosely-related searches like pie-making supplies, wedding cakes, and luxury cake supplies which may not be relevant to your business or marketing objectives. In this scenario, it would be much more strategic to add top-performing searches as new exact-match keywords so you can specifically tailor your copy to each search. For example, adding [wedding cakes] as an exact-match keyword will help you ensure that people searching for wedding cakes are shown copy and web pages that speak to wedding cakes, for your best chance of receiving clicks and sales.
This type of strategy is fundamental to successful paid search strategy and most SEM marketers employ this approach on some level. But how do we execute this strategy, given that search engines match searches to the keyword with the 1.) Highest Keyword Bid, 2.) Highest Quality Score, 3.) Most Historic Data, and 4.) Most Narrow Match Type? This is a perfect example of how high-level strategy is important but falls apart without the right execution. Luckily, there is a solution and it’s fairly easy to implement!
The key is to use negative keywords to funnel searches to the campaigns or ad groups where you want those keywords to trigger ads. One of the best places to start is to negative out all of your exact-match keywords from broader campaigns or ad groups using a shared negative list. Using this approach, you can force any search that matches an exact-match keyword in your account to trigger that exact-match keyword and associated ad copy, since the negative keywords prevent that search from appearing anywhere else. Using this approach, you can ensure that when someone searches “Buy Cheap Cake Decorations”, they will only be able to trigger the keyword [Buy Cheap Cake Decorations] and the relevant ad copy associated with that keyword. Let’s walk through a quick guide of how to execute this strategy.
Creating a Campaign Shared Negative List
First, navigate to your Google Adwords account. Shared negative lists exist in Bing Ads as well and use a similar process, so we’re just going to walk through AdWords for the sake of simplicity.
Once you’re in your AdWords account, navigate to the shared library and then click on Campaign Negative Keywords.
From here, you can create a new list of shared negatives by clicking on the red “+ List” button, choosing a name, and adding keywords you’d like to negative out from multiple campaigns.
Once you’ve added all the negative keywords you need for your list, save the list. You should see the new list you just created under the header “Negative Keyword List”. If you check the box next to that list, you can hit “Apply to Campaigns” and select all the campaigns where you want to block searches matching to your negative keywords.
That’s it! For the example above, our goal was to make sure searches matching to exact-match keywords always filtered through those exact-match keywords for the sake of relevance and control. To accomplish this task, we would download all of the exact-match keywords in the account, add those keywords to a shared negative list, and apply that list to all broad campaigns using the steps outlined above. Be careful to add exact-match keywords in the format [keyword] to avoid blocking too much traffic with broad negatives!
Brand Search Filtering
Now that we know how to make campaign shared negative lists and apply them to campaigns, let’s walk through one more use case that is often missed but critical to successful execution. Fundamentally, Brand campaigns are designed to serve ads to people who search using your company’s or client’s brand name in the search. It’s important to keep brand searches isolated to their own campaign(s) for the sake of controlling budgets and messaging from this segment that behaves very differently from Non-Brand search.
The first place to start is by creating one or more brand campaigns with keywords that contain your brand name, but you can’t stop here. Broader non-brand keyword types can still bring in searches containing your brand name to Non-Brand campaigns without the right negative strategy in place. For example, a search of (Company Name) Cakes for Sale could match to the non-brand BMM keyword +cakes for +sale or even the phrase-match keyword “cakes for sale,” showing a Non-Brand ad using a Non-Brand budget for a brand search.
To get around this issue, simply follow the steps above to create a shared negative keyword list containing a phrase-match negative of your company name spelled a variety of ways and with various spacing (see example below). Once you assign that shared negative list to all Non-Brand campaigns, you can rest assured that all brand searches are winding up in Brand campaigns.
Hopefully, you found this information helpful and better understand how avoiding execution blind spots can be the difference between strategy success and failure. We will be sharing more pitfalls and solutions each week, so be sure to check out our Blog, Facebook, and Linkedin pages to stay tuned! Like the way we think? Contact us here to work with us or visit our Careers Page to browse open positions.