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A well managed Google's AdWords campaign does a great job in delivering relevant traffic to your site. 

However, if you leave AdWords alone to judge what is 'relevant' for your products or services you may uncover some surprising results. 

We have compiled a list of frightening and sometimes comical examples from real campaigns.

You spend a long time thinking about which keywords you want to target on PPC engines such as AdWords. You target some exact matches but you also mop up other relevant searches with targeted phrase and broad matches. 

You load them up and then sit back, safe in the knowledge that Google will display your ad when these are searched. Google would never show your ad when the search term is irrelevant, right? 

Wrong!  Take a look at the examples we have found when cleaning out campaigns. The ‘PPC Keyword’ on the left is the broad or phrase match in the PPC campaign. The ‘Search Term’ on the right is the actual search phrase that triggered that keyword to show an ad. 

These are all real examples from real PPC campaigns:

Keyword in AdWords Search term deemed 'relevant' by Google
carbon news new car
dance leggings cameltoe in dance leggings
teach pet dogs teachers sex pets
back up back pack
back up car reverse camera
training video best porn agency training for biginners
technology asset recovery hot tub recovery technology
balers boilers
PPC PDA
private girls college college girls live chat
birthday parties

sexual parties

It is actually very easy now in AdWords to see the search terms that are driving traffic through your PPC keywords.  You can easily spot the bad search terms and clean them using negative match keywords and tighter keyword matching such as exact matching and phrase matching. 

If you want to know how to spot the howlers in your PPC campaigns, see this article on cleaning PPC campaigns.

Ian Harris

Published 26 October, 2011 by Ian Harris

Ian Harris is the CEO and founder of Search Laboratory, and a contributor to Econsultancy.

10 more posts from this author

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Steve

Great article. I had "widows for sex" appear for a Wales-based UPVC windows supplier, either on modified broad or exact match. Can't imagine how disappointed the clicker must've been...!

almost 5 years ago

Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan, Managing Director at Liberty Marketing Ltd

We recently spotted a funny one. A UPVC window supplier had been showing up for 'widows for sex'.

almost 5 years ago

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Steve

Sorry, just modified broad match (obviously not phrase or exact because of the missing letter!)

almost 5 years ago

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Steve

Hah, great minds think alike! Me and the boss in different parts of the country and we comment at the same time by accident.

Econ admin - please feel free to delete my comments and leave Gareth's. Sorry! (Can't seem to delete them myself!)

almost 5 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

The serious side of this is that too many novice advertisers are wasting huge amounts of money simply because they don't understand keyword match types.

I saw an account recently where the account owner had entered a list of single keywords, all on broad. I guess he felt it was some kind of word association. The consequence was that approximately 95% of his spend was wasted.

almost 5 years ago

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Innes

The whole major issue with PPC is the fact there are so many marketers / advertisers out there with the money but not the talents to make it work effectively. With so many people entering the market, there are only a minor number of people who know what they are doing.

almost 5 years ago

Simon Williams

Simon Williams, Group Search Manager at Carat Media

It phases me why so many still use Broad Match over +Broad Modified, and in most cases is there really ever a need to phrase match with BMM.

It's crazy how loose Broad keywords are, and Ill be keen to see Bing's version of BMM in the next 6 months - it may result in a lot more reach with justified spend!

Education of match types as @Adrian suggested is my biggest issue, and the set up of all accounts need to reflect the purpose of the matching! Exact for response, BMM for reach and research etc, its the lack of understanding which drives those CPC's up to crazy amounts.

almost 5 years ago

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Jordi

Brilliant post :-)

To refine bad keywords like these above is something time-consuming, but it's also one of the funniest tasks as a marketing manager- ppc specialist (or whatever the name...)

Really god examples, and also it's really incredible how so few people know how to discover these bad keywords. Also some Google account managers told me this history

almost 5 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Steve and Gareth -happy to have both your comments up on this, although we're still confused about what 'windows for sex' actually are... ;)

almost 5 years ago

Peter Gould

Peter Gould, Senior PPC Analyst at Epiphany

I think more than anything, this post just highlights the dangers of using broad match keywords in your Adwords campaign.

I very, very rarely use broad match, because, as outlined above, what you and Google deem relevant to a term differ massively. If you are going to use it, keep an incredibly close eye, running search query reports every day and jump on any terms wasting your budget. Further more, you may also find click through rates declining by being matched to obscure terms - another reason not to use broad match due to the impact it can have on your overall quality score.

Instead, rule number 1 - don't cut corners at the start by just lumping in a load of broad match terms and letting Google decide other relevant terms. Conduct thorough keyword research and build out an incredibly detailed keyword list covering every conceivable term from the start on phrase and exact match. Think of synonyms, plurals and mis-spellings and add these in.

Of course, there will always be terms you won't think of to begin with, but with the addition of broad match modifier terms (as others have rightly said), and a comprehensive phrase match keyword list, you will pick these up.

Search query reporting is still essential on a regular basis, but you will see less expensive surprises by using the above approach!

almost 5 years ago

Tomás de Teresa

Tomás de Teresa, SEO Consultant at DETERESA.com

Great post! It was fun to read ;)

There are many people creating their own accounts in AdWords without knowing anything about the keywords matchings, the bids... and this people do not know how to verify what keywords trigger their ads.

I asume that is exactly what Google wants, so they encourage everybody to use AdWords, because it is easy and fast.

Regards!

almost 5 years ago

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Chris Roberts

I still think there is a place for broad match in any PPC campaign to drive additional volumes, we see some good results through broad variants.

The key of course is running regular Search Term Performance reports to identify the negatives you need to add and keeping the CPCs lower on your broad terms

almost 5 years ago

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Steve

Thanks Matt. Maybe it was just regular old broad match then. Forgive me, it was a while back. Either way, it's good to see that Google hasn't improved with age on this particular front :-)

almost 5 years ago

Ian Harris

Ian Harris, CEO at Search LaboratorySmall Business Multi-user

While you get some bad traffic, the broad match is still an essential tool in your PPC campaigns to:
1. Mop up relevant searches that you would never get another way due to low search volumes.

2. Discover keyword ideas you hadn't originally thought of.

There will be bad matches in there (as illustrated above) but you will also get a whole load of good ones that you can convert to exacts, phrases, BMM and you will even create new ad groups on the back of this mining.

Controlled well (through the search term reports) the broad match is a really useful part of your campaigns.

almost 5 years ago

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Sue Puffer

Great article! I have seen many of these "relevant" search terms over the years. Sometimes they are so far off I cannot imagine how Google found even the slightest connection! This article is a great reminder on how important it is to regularly go through the search query reports to weed out these terms. Thanks for sharing some of your funnies.

almost 5 years ago

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Marisa

Great list! I've seen quite a few crazy ones. In a women's clothing campaign, I've seen:

white scarf map to black belt
groceries online map to clothing online

almost 5 years ago

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Sue Puffer

Great article! I have seen many of these "relevant" search terms over the years. Sometimes they are so far off I cannot imagine how Google found even the slightest connection! This article is a great reminder on how important it is to regularly go through the search query reports to weed out these terms. Thanks for sharing some of your funnies.

almost 5 years ago

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Innes

PPC is on the whole a very technical area in which to dabble into when it comes to your online marketing. You must make sure that if you don't quite know what you're after you seek advice from a third party as a means to also get other ideas.

over 4 years ago

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Zarian Lewis, CEO at Hi Merit

It's funny how broad search affects PPC and digital marketing as a whole

over 2 years ago

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