A Surprising Cause of Competing Keywords

When you bid on a keyword, AdWords gives you tools to check to see if it is a duplicate to your other keywords. In analyzing our clients’ search term report data, however, we found a very different situation where keywords are definitely competing against one another and the result is often not very good. I’ll explain, but first, let me weigh in on the much-discussed topic of duplicate keywords competing.


Is It Bad to Have Competing Keywords?

I have read many blogs where pundits rage that if you have duplicate keywords in your campaigns, they compete against one another and drive costs up. “A battle against yourself” one article says. Well, as Google actually says, one of the keywords will end up getting most of the impressions, so it is more an analytics issue that makes analysis and management more difficult.

In fact, all your keywords compete against one another. When a user does a search, Google looks at all your keywords and selects the single most appropriate keyword for the auction to gain an ad spot on the search results page. That is, AdWords selects the one keyword from each advertiser that it decides is best to enter into the auction against the other advertisers. So, yes, all your keywords are competing against one another for every click and the winner goes into the auction. But, that is good – AdWords is using its algorithms to select what it thinks is your most appropriate keyword for the particular search query. If you have two keywords that are duplicates, since the match of the words in the keywords to the words in the search query is the same, the AdWords selection would be based on other factors such as ad group click-through-rate (CTR), bid, etc. And, most of the time, the same keyword would be selected as the best.

Since the auction with competing advertisers is where the cost is determined, and you only have a single keyword entered in the auction, your duplicate keywords do not drive the cost up. That said, having duplicates does make it more difficult to analyze the keyword CPC, conversion rate, etc. Deleting duplicates is a good idea, but hardly a critical problem that many warn about.


Real Keyword Competition within Your Campaigns

What I am talking about here, though, is distinct—not duplicate—keywords in your campaigns that are competing to be AdWords’ choice for the competitive auction. With your understanding of your shoppers and your catalog, you probably would have a preference for which keyword you would want to be the winner. The problem, though, is simple – it is not your choice, Google chooses. And this happens all the time. But without automated analytic tools, it is very hard to detect and understand.

Let’s take a simple example. Say you sell athletic shoes and your campaign includes both the keywords +womens +nike +shoes and +blue +nike +shoes. Now, a shopper searches on Google for “womens blue nike shoes”. What happens? Both your keywords have 3 of the 4 words in the search query. So, Google chooses what it thinks is best based on other criteria.


Is the Selection of One of These Keywords Really Better than the Other?

Let’s look at the merchandise. A major online e-commerce shoe retailer has in their e-store today:

  • 277 Women’s Nike shoes,
  • 157 Blue Nike shoes, and
  • 31 Women’s blue Nike shoes

What would be the effect of the selection of one or the other keyword?

If AdWords selects womens nike shoes as the matching keyword, only about 10% of the items the shopper is shown are available in blue. Is it easy for her to set the filter? Or will the shopper not see blue Nike’s and just bounce? And you know that, if she was using her mobile, she sees fewer items and the process of finding and setting filters is harder and takes even more clicks.

If AdWords selects blue nike shoes as the matching keyword, about 20% are for women. Much better, but not great. Can the shopper tell by the item names? Is it easy to set the filter on that page for Women?

Now that we understand the situation, I’ll tell you what actually happens for this search with this major online e-commerce shoe retailer. Search for womens blue nike shoes, you see the ad “Women’s Nikes at …”, click and land at the destination of Women’s Nike shoes. Not bad, but, as we saw, only a small number of the items shown are in blue.

And, surprisingly, when I tried the very similar search for womens blue nike athletic shoes, the story was different and not at all what I expected — the destination was the Nike shop with all Nike items – clothes, shoes, bags, accessories for men, women and kids. A significantly worse destination for the shopper.


A Better Solution:

The problem is, even if you know that you would prefer one keyword over the other in this situation, you don’t control the choice. And it is hard to know the conflicts without detailed analysis of the search term report to see what is actually matching and what is not.

The obvious solution is actually the simplest one – once you see that there actually is an issue by analyzing actual searches and the matches in the search term reports, you know the long-tail keyword that solves the problem and puts you in control.

In the above case, you would add the long-tail keyword +womens +blue +nike +shoes. The long-tail keyword is both a better match to the search query and let’s you decide on the optimal destination landing page on your site. In addition, the long-tail keyword captures the entire intent of the shopper’s search so that you can show exactly the items you carry that your shopper is looking for.


Can This Be Automated?

Need a solution for discovering long-tail keywords and for optimizing the destination landing pages for every keyword? Vioby’s LinkDirector automates that using semantic understanding and machine-learning algorithms and have delivered 20% to 30% improvement in conversion rate in deployments for our clients.

If you think this could help your campaigns, just let me know and I would be glad to tell you more. Click here to learn more about our products.