The Flip Side of Google AdWords "Automated Intelligence"

July 24, 2013 by Erin Vezzetti

AdWords Pay-Per-Click ServicesBe careful when you let Google do the thinking for you in pay-per-click!

Last week, one of my Google AdWords clients ran through their entire ad budget within a few of days. That might be fine for some campaigns, but in this case, the plan was for those dollars to take them through the entire month.

When I received the “low balance” notice from their AdWords pay-per-click account, I had one question:

What is Going on Here?

The first thing I do when there is unusual activity in an AdWords account is check the account balance. The best information about what’s happening with an under-performing, over-performing, or just downright confusing AdWords campaign is right there, under the Billing tab. And sure enough, the balance had fallen to a whopping $0.01!

What keywords were costing my client so much money?

I headed over to the Search Terms Report – the place in AdWords that shows you the exact search terms people entered that caused Google to show them an ad.

The client was advertising for participants in an study about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), but much to my surprise, the keywords driving clicks to the site were things like, “add songs to your ipod,” “adding lawn seed to soil,” “add reminder,” and just plain “add” - all ranging from $5 to $36 per click.

Why people searching for how to add songs to an ipod would click on a link to an ADHD Study is a question for another day. Suffice it to say that the monstrous costs per click and the number of clicks from these bad search terms wiped out my client's budget in a heartbeat, all because Google decided that “ADD” was a suitable synonym for ADHD, and showed my client's ads to people searching with those terms.

As a Google AdWords Certified Professional, I know when it’s the right time to call Google directly, and this was clearly it.

I knew exactly what the problem was – my campaigns were set to “use close variants” of my keywords. Google is pretty forgiving and willing to return credits for these types of mistakes, so long as you take the steps necessary to avoid it happening again. Realizing the potential of more ADHD-related keywords improperly attracting searches including the word “add,” I changed the settings so that the campaigns run only for the exact spelling of my keywords - no close variants. Google agreed to credit the client's account.

The Lesson Learned: Think about & research what words Google might consider as a synonym or “variant” of your keyword before starting, or you might be out of cash before you know it!

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