Keyword Bidding | Search Scientists

Day 12 of 100 Days of AdWords Help: Keyword Bidding

Update to this post:

Welcome to our series: 100 Days of AdWords Help. If you have been following along, we have been discussing different kinds of keywords: exact, phrase, broad, and modified broad. Today, we’re going to discuss how to set up your starting bids for these keywords.

“How much should I bid?” is one of the most popular questions I’m asked during AdWords training sessions.

Since the difference between a one dollar bid and a three dollar bid can triple your costs, what we decide to start bidding can really impact an account’s performance. Before I talk about starting bid strategy, I first wanted to establish some ground rules.

Introducing: Search Scientists’ AdWords Bidding Rules. Internally here at Search Scientists, starting bid rules are part of our “Unified Forces.” In physics, Unified Forces are a way to unite the different kinds of forces in the universe. At Search Scientists, it’s a way to make sure every account is set-up the right way, every time, by anyone at the company.

Let’s dig in:

  1. Bids should put the focus on keyword relevance, while still allowing for some low cost keyword discovery.
  2. It’s better to stay lean, tight, and cost-effective, rather than blow the budget quickly.

Keyword Bidding By Match Type:

Don’t forget: keywords are what advertisers bid on, while search queries are what users search on Google. The different kinds of match types allow advertisers to control how they balance keyword discovery and keyword control. Keyword discovery is important, because we can never capture 100% of the variations that our customers will search when looking for our business. Some people may use misspellings, others may use 10 word queries, some may search using questions, others using problems, and plenty of iterations beyond what we expect. Some people may call it “pool cleaning” others may call it “service that cleans pools”, and others may search “trustworthy pool cleaners with pricing under 500.”

The tools we have available to balance keyword control and keyword discovery are known as match types.

  • Exact Match: The keywords advertisers bid on exactly match up with the queries searched by customers.
  • Phrase Match: The keywords advertisers bid on can appear if the search query contains the keyword in a phrase that was searched.
  • Broad Match: The keywords advertisers bid on can appear for search queries that are synonyms and synonym stems
  • Modified Broad Match: The keywords advertisers bid on can appear for search queries that are closely related, synonyms not included.

For examples and more in-depth discussion of the different match types, click the links above to access previous days of AdWords Help.s

Where Bidding Begins: the Keyword Planner

The Google AdWords Keyword Planner has changed a lot over the past few years. While the history of this tool would be beyond the scope of this post, many of the newer changes haven’t been well-received by search engine marketers. If you are involved in the PPC world long enough, you learn to roll with the punches, so let’s continue our bidding discussion.

When you approach the keyword planner and begin typing in your ideas, you will see a list of suggestions and approximate bids. When you are starting an AdWords campaign, you can use these starting bids as a base.

Keyword planner displays exact match
Remember, KW planner provides traffic and bid estimates for exact match only.


Your AdWords Bids: Balance Control & Discovery

The method we’ll use is based on keyword control and discovery. This is sometimes called “keyword bidding” or “bids by match type.”  We don’t want to appear for irrelevant terms, so when we incorporate broad and phrase match, we want to mitigate our risk.

Exact match provides the most control. This match type should always earn your highest bid. So if you look at keyword planner, and it suggests a $2.80 bid, make sure you set this for your exact match type of that keyword.

Phrase match provides slightly less control than exact match. What this means is that we should bid slightly less. A good rule of thumb is 20-25% less than your exact match. So if you are bidding $2.80 for the exact match version of a keyword, then you should be about $2.25 for the phrase match version.

Modified broad match provides about the same level of control as phrase match. In fact, some people actually prefer modified broad over phrase match. Similar to phrase match, modified broad should earn a bid about 20-30% less than your exact match keyword. I like to keep my modified broad keywords slightly less than phrase.

Finally, we have broad match. Broad match can potentially make your ads appear for irrelevant terms. Keep your bids 50-60% less of what your exact match version was. So for that $2.80 exact match keyword, you bid should be about $1.10.

Let’s recap our starting bids with an example from the screenshot above about dog training.

  • [dog school]: $2.68 exact match
  • “dog school”: $2.10 for phrase match
  • +dog +school: $2.00 for modified broad match
  • dog school: $1.25 for broad match

Why Use this Bidding Structure?

We want maximum control in our accounts. When someone searches for a the exact match version of our keywords, we want the impression to go right to the exact match version. When someone searches for a phrase match version of our keywords, we want the phrase keyword to get the impression. The same situation with broad and modified broad. This makes analysis super fast. If I have 2 match types and my performance trend is:

  • Exact match: great performance
  • Phrase match: poor performance

I know from the above that the keyword is strong, but I’m showing up for phrases that aren’t effective. I can then investigate deeper to find those phrases, and add them as negative keywords (more on that in the next few days of AdWords help).

This bidding structure also prevents “runaway broads”. If you have the highest bid for broad match, you will be showing up for irrelevant search queries, guaranteed. Remember, broad match helps you discover keyword synonyms people may search. If broad match makes up the backbone of your account you’ll be in trouble.

In future days AdWords help, you’ll learn:

  • How to further optimize bids based on performance
  • How to add negative keywords to prevent appearing for irrelevant search queries
  • How to measure how often we are appearing for search queries that don’t match with our keywords

This post is part of a series: ‘100 Days of AdWords Help.

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Michael Erickson

Michael Erickson

Emailing my clients and telling them I helped increase their return on ad spend by 300% never gets old. I love rising above the technical jargon and providing your business with online marketing momentum to reach new heights. Enthusiast for all things science, surfing, and Search Scientists.

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