Don’t Get Duped By Google And Yahoo! Match Typing

In Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing (Y!SM), not only do match types have different names, but matching technologies and algorithms are dissimilar. I’ll review the various match types and discuss differences. For this article, I’ve done some testing and included some results.

Yahoo Search Marketing match typing

The match types in Panama are the same as they were in the previous Yahoo system: standard match and advanced match. Right off the bat, be aware that both Y!SM match types incorporate Match Driver technology. This maps root terms to derivatives of root terms including misspellings, singular & plural variations of root terms. For example, the phrase “apple ipod” could map to “apple ipods,” “apple ipozs,” and so on. So Match Driver technology makes Y!SM match types slightly broader in scope than you might expect. To review, here are definitions of both match types:

Standard match: Displays your ads for exact matches to your keywords, as well as for singular/plural variations of keywords, common misspellings of keywords, and to variations including the words like “a,” “and,” “the,” “of,” etc.

Advanced match: Displays ads for a broader range of searches relevant to keywords, titles and descriptions and/or web content. With advanced match, keyword phrases do not need to appear in the account to trigger advertising. If terms are not in your account but on landing pages, or in your titles and descriptions, they can trigger ads in Y!SM, their distribution partners, and content network.

Y!SM doesn’t mention the mapping of synonyms in definitions but in some cases terms are mapped to synonyms and other related terms. For example, in an account that sells domain registration, the term “domain registration” is mapped to terms like “buy domain,” “domain web hosting,” “affordable web hosting” and more (look at the screenshot below). This information is available in the “create your ad” screen (step 5) in the ad creation process.

Before I move on to Google, there are a few things worth noting:

1. It’s impossible to opt out of Match Driver technology.

2. Y!SM matching tends to be most effective when keyword variations like synonyms are individually included in Y!SM accounts.

3. Advertisers must either opt into standard match (alone) or to advanced match (which includes standard match). Advertisers can make match type choices at an account, campaign, or individual keyword level. The match type at the most granular level is the one used by the Y!SM system. It’s worth noting, to use advanced match, the feature needs to be enabled at the account level. Advertisers need to select standard match at the campaign or keyword level to opt out of advanced match.

4. There is a 50 keyword limit on negative keyword terms (at both the account level and ad group level).

Google AdWords match typing

Historically, Yahoo has been the engine with the wider, more encompassing definition of “broad match.” With changes on the Google side, this is no longer seems to be the case. With the introduction of expanded broad match technology (2003), Google’s exact match type option became broader, but how broad has been something that has fluctuated over the years. In the early going, Google claimed to be calibrating expanded broad matching “conservatively,” but there have been flare-ups of Google experimentation in this area. Lately, some advertisers have noticed drop-offs in performance recently on high-bid broad-matched keywords, especially when brand name queries trigger ads from advertisers advertising on keywords not including those brand names.

Here’s Google’s definition of expanded broad matching: “With expanded matching, the Google AdWords system automatically runs your ads on highly relevant keywords, including synonyms, related phrases, and plurals, even if they aren’t in your keyword lists”. Lately, a good policy seems to be: refocus attention on phrase matching, if you’re using too much broad match in your accounts.

The most recent iterations of expanded broad match (late 2006/2007) are much broader than they’ve been in the past. In terms of broad match, Google may be putting profits ahead of ad quality. With the “new” broad match, we’ve seen all sorts of interesting query/result matches. My friend and fellow Paid Search columnist Alan Rimm-Kaufman recently saw the term “DeBeers” and “diamond” mapped to each other.

In light of recent ramblings on this topic, I ran a broad match test. In the test, I changed all broad matched terms to exact match terms for a two-week period. This is what happened in the campaign:

  • Impression decrease – 22%
  • Click decrease – 13%
  • CTR increase – 12%
  • CPC decrease – 22%
  • CPA increase – 10%

The bottom line is that de-emphasizing broad match in Google AdWords improved the bottom line. Broad match terms are sometime inappropriately served and can negatively impact quality score with lower CTR and higher CPC costs. In the test, with exact match invoked, there was an instant positive impact on quality score (and not to mention CPA) as CTRs increased (12%) and CPC decreased (22%).

It’s worth noting (and to complicate matters): the quality score algorithms make it difficult to have certain keywords even included in accounts from the get-go (regardless of match type). Take a look at the following example. In an account that sells a vacation- related product, the broad-matched phrase “Boston golf vacation” was included the account at a bid of 0.30 cents (top screen shot). On the other hand, the phrase “Boston golf vacation” was considered less relevant and given a quality score of 0.40 cents (bottom screen shot).

What to do?

  • Build out tail terms in accounts. Include synonyms in Y!SM accounts.
  • Use phrase match or exact match terms (standard match in Yahoo).
  • To maximize the relevancy of your listing, use negative match (or excluded terms in Yahoo) to prevent listings from matching in appropriate search queries.

I hope these paid search vendors will bring back a broad match (or advanced match) that is narrower in scope.

Mona Elesseily is director of marketing strategy at Page Zero Media, focusing on paid search campaigns and conversion improvement. She’s also author of Page Zero’s Unauthorized Yahoo! Search Marketing Handbook. She is currently working on the Panama version of the Y!SM Handbook (forthcoming May 2007). The Paid Search column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Paid Search Column | Search Ads: General | Yahoo: Search Ads


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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  • David Quiec

    Good advice – especially on the nuances of the match types.

    While CPA might decrease, it doesn’t mean you should do it. I’d like to see the difference in # of conversions. At the end of the day, you want to maximize profits, even if you are paying more for each sale.

    Also: what do you think about buying all match types for a keyword on Google?

  • http://www.rkgblog Alan Rimm-Kaufman

    Thanks for the mention!

    Here’s an interesting post by George Michie on rkgblog on match types:

    And some general match type tips:

    Cheers –



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