Gerald Thulbourn, WebSanity Internet Marketing, HuntingdonBack in May 2012 Google changed the way that “phrase matching” worked in Google AdWords to include common plurals and mis-spellings. So, if you had the phrase “welding lathes” then your ad would trigger for “welding lathe” or “welding lathes” or, maybe, “weldin lathe”.

That’s a great time saver – you don’t need to list all plurals and try to think of mis-typings to add as individual keywords. It also meant that more ads were shown and clicked on, so Google made more money (but that’s fair enough as it is increasing advertising reach).

As readers of my blog will know, I’m not that trusting of Google (well, OK then, I think they’re a dominating bully of a company that is only after your money despite all the soft words). Today I have an example that does nothing to prove me wrong.

Having just setup a simple campaign using the keyword “welding lathe”, and then checked it the next day I was disappointed to see a CTR of 0.1% for “welding lathes”. But hold your horses – there were 2,000 impressions on that phrase in a day. You really think that “welding lathes” is searched for 2,000 times a day in the UK? I don’t think so – and Google’s Keyword Tool agree with me – we’re talking niche here, maybe tens a month.

So what’s going wrong? Well, it appears Google AdWords idea of a mis-spelling is different to the rest of the world and it is showing the ad for something completely unintended (e.g. “wood lathes” or something – I tried to track it down but didn’t have time to find it, and Google don’t supply any data to help). This leads to a very poor CTR which harms your whole AdWords campaign leading to higher costs and lower ad positions.

I’ve not seen such a stark staringly bad example before – the only solution (well, you could try to contact Google but they prefer to hide behind forums and FAQs pages) is to turn off this behaviour in Advanced Settings and put in all the keyword plurals/singulars/mis-spellings by hand.

Perhaps this is an isolated incident, but I’d recommend checking your own AdWords for similar (but possibly more subtle) clues of Google’s idiotic phrase matching update, after all, do they really need the extra money from your business?

In future we’ll be turning this off for all clients at the outset, for sure.


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