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Are You Paying Google For Your Competition To Hurt You? An Exploration of High Cost Adwords Clicks

For most Alberta businesses, advertising budgets need to be carefully scrutinized now more than ever.

As such, Adster is currently on a ‘tear’ looking through our clients accounts on a ‘seek and destroy’ mission. The purpose of our endeavor: To minimize low quality / high cost keywords, maximizing our client’s budgets!

These two culprits can eat up a massive portion of your PPC budget, and if left unchecked, can pull precious budget away from other (often much more productive) parts of your campaign.

The Potential ‘Evil’ in Broad Match Keywords

Interestingly enough, it all seems to stem from keyword match types.

Don’t get me wrong – broach match and modified broad match keywords absolutely have their place in the world of match types and in many cases are critical to campaign success. What we’ve found is that these match types are best utilized in the following 3 scenarios:

  • When keyword research proves difficult or you are unfamiliar with what your users might actually type in to find you, opting for ‘themes’ of keywords
  • As a ‘gap’ to fill in for your phrase and exact match keywords
  • For a quick and dirty (read:lazy) setup

In the above applications, broad match keywords are our friend. So where does the ‘evil’ part come in, and how does this effect quality?

Your Competitors – a common denominator

As we went through account after account, one theme was becoming clear: The vast majority of our high cost / low quality keywords were broad & modified broad match keywords triggering our competitors.

Visually, here’s how this plays out assuming we’ve added the following modified broad match keyword for an Edmonton dentist:

match types

Consider the following two real life examples:

Example 1 – Local Dental Health Business

We recently performed an audit for a local Dental health company. Upon exploring how they used their keywords, we found out that this ‘limited by budget’ account was blowing it primarily on how ‘competitor’ keywords were being triggered by broad and modified broad match types.

dental keywords

The above are just 3 of hundreds of ‘competitor’ names being triggered by broad match keywords. Note the cost of these competitor name clicks (as high as $18.17) is near DOUBLE that of the campaign average ($10.35).


Example 2 – Local Roofing Company:

Here we have a roofing company that came to us wondering ‘why their Adwords clicks were so expensive’:

roofer keywords

Once again, note how these broad match type keywords have triggered competitor names, and at an average CPC that is double that of the average CPC.


Why Your Competitors are so Expensive

Competitor names by their nature are going to result in a low quality score within Google’s action system as they negatively affect Google’s ‘3 prong quality test’ in every area.

low quality keywords

Broken down:

  • Google Doesn’t think many people looking for your competitors will click your ad (Low expected clickthrough rate)
  • Your don’t have your competitor’s name in your ad copy decreasing relevancy (low Ad relevance)
  • You do not mention your competitor’s name on your website (Low landing page experience)

As such, when you’re bidding $15 per click trying to climb into higher ad positions, many of your most expensive clicks are often those of your competitors.

Are you certain you want to be spending your advertising dollars this way?

Competitor Names – Solutions

matched search

The easy way to deal with this is carefully monitor your matched search query data, and as you see your competitors filing in, add them as campaign level negatives.

Of course, there are more pro-active ways to go about this.

You probably know many of your competitors, and if not, there are no shortage of directory style websites that list all the different businesses operating in your field.

By creating a ‘list’ of known competitors and adding them pro-actively as negative keywords, you can often wipe ‘em all out in one shot, or at the very least, tackle the lions share.

Bidding Directly on Your Competitors

The second way to go about this is a little more deliberate, and significantly more debatable.

The ‘ethics’ of bidding directly on your competitors is beyond the scope of this post, and as such I make no recommendation nor pass judgement. However, if you do intend on bidding on your competitors, you may want to consider placing these keywords and names in a separate campaign, where their inherent low quality and high CPC will not contaminate your data. (remember how our denture & roofing clients paid double for competitor clicks!)


For Alberta businesses running on a shoe string advertising budget, carefully selecting your keywords and ensuring you are using your competitor’s names as negative keywords can ensure you are maximizing quality score –  and minimizing your CPC!