AdWords Cross-Matching

AdWords Cross-Matching – Why Your Ads Aren’t Being Triggered By The Queries You Think

There are a few techniques that separate average AdWords accounts from great ones. This is one of them.

Most people don’t realise their ad groups are “leaky”. I call this “cross-matching”. It occurs when a search query can match to many possible ad groups. Most accounts I see have a cross-matching bottleneck.

Say we have two ad groups:
AdWords cross-matching example

In this case, most people assume that the query “leather shoes” will always match to the “+shoes +leather” keyword, because it has more of the same words. When a query is eligible to match to more than one keyword, AdWords uses Ad Rank to decide which keyword to match to.

Because Ad Rank can fluctuate with bid and Quality Score changes, you can’t be sure exactly which ad groups, ads, and keywords will be triggered for each query.

This harms performance and hinders keyword or ad group bid optimisation because:

  • Performance statistics are divided between similar, overlapping keywords.
  • Bid changes (and resulting changes in Ad Rank) will “shift” queries from matching from one keyword or ad group to another. You never know exactly which ad will display for each query.
  • AdWords likely isn’t displaying your best ad and landing page combination all of the time. This lowers your click-through rate and conversion rate – costing you sales.

Most account managers put a lot of trust in AdWords, and assume that it will automatically match queries to the most relevant ad group, keyword, and ad copy. This trust is misplaced. The AdWords algorithm is designed to make Google money. Assume the cards are stacked against you.

Prevent cross-matching with a negative keyword hierarchy

I use a simple technique using negative keywords to prevent cross-matching between ad groups that contain just a few keywords. The goal of this technique is to ensure that queries can only match to the intended ad group. The technique requires considering all of the queries that can potentially match to an ad group, and adding negative keywords to prevent queries from matching to sub-par ad groups.

Let’s use an example campaign:

AdWords cross-matching example

Because we’ve written custom ad copy for the leather, suede, and blue ad groups, we want to make sure that related queries always match to those, and not the Shoes ad group. We can do this with phrase negative keywords.

AdWords cross-matching example

But what is someone searches for “blue suede shoes”? With the existing structure, the query could match to either the suede or blue ad groups.

We have two options. The first is to use negative keywords to create a hierarchy between ad groups by deciding which ad group is more relevant to the query. In the example below, the query will be blocked from the blue ad group, and match to the suede ad group.

AdWords cross-matching example

When search volume is high, the ideal option is to add an additional ad group.

AdWords cross-matching example

Considering which queries can match to each of your ad groups, and adding negatives to prevent cross-matching will ensure:

  • The most relevant keyword, ad copy, and landing page will always be triggered by a query, raising your CTR and conversion rate.
  • Queries won’t match to different keywords or ad groups when you make changes to bids.
  • Your bid optimisations will only have an impact on the desired queries.

I’ve seen the addition of just one more point of relevance in ad copy increase the CTR of a search query by an order of magnitude (from 0.5% to 5% for example). The potential impact here is massive.

On a crowded page of results, if your ads aren’t as relevant as the competition, even a fraction of the time, your performance is going to suffer. Ensuring queries are matching to the right ad groups is vital to achieving Next-Level AdWords performance.

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