Why We Bid on the Wrong PPC Keywords

When we’re running client PPC campaigns, it’s not unusual for clients to call us in a panic. They’ve spotted an online ad, and they think that we’ve made a mistake and used the wrong PPC keyword.

But it’s not a mistake. In fact, sometimes we purposefully bid on the “wrong” PPC keywords.

And when we explain our strategy to clients, they come to like these “mistakes” as much as we do.

Below, I’ll describe how it works.

wrong PPC keywords


PPC Keyword Selection

All companies have terms they prefer to use to describe their products and services. These terms and descriptions are usually arrived at after much debate and thought, so clients are quite attached to them.

But non-experts (i.e. clients and prospective clients) may use very different terms to describe the same products and services.

So, for example, a company’s “microfiber cleaning cloth” might be a “rag” to a client.

Or a company’s “tankless water heater” might be a “no boiler water heater” to a client.

As PPC managers, we don’t know what terms will convert until we try them. But when we find some good ones, especially at a reasonable price, then we want to use them—even if they’re “wrong” at first glance.

Using Match Type to Broaden Our Terms

In addition to using different keywords, we will also often use AdWords keyword match type settings to broaden our reach. For example, rather than requiring an “exact match” of keywords, we may select “phrase match” or “broad match,” which allows our ads to impression for close variations of our bid terms.

(For more on match type, see the AdWords help file on search terms and keyword matching options.)

Let me illustrate how we use the “wrong” keywords with a few examples.

Example 1: University PPC Keywords

It’s understandable that prospective university students may not know exactly what degree or program they “should” be searching for. At most, they’ll know the area in which they want to focus (such as journalism or public relations), but they’ll have no idea whether it’s a bachelors degree, masters degree, arts program, science program, specialization within a broader program or something else entirely.

For university clients, this means taking a broader approach to keywords and match type.

For example, we might end up using terms like “creative writing” instead of “writing.” And “interpersonal communication” instead of “communication.” While these terms might not exactly correlate with actual names of university degrees and programs, they helped steer prospects in the right direction.

Example 2: Furniture PPC Keywords

To give another example, we have a PPC client who’s a retailer and wholesaler of furniture. They sell across the U.S. and internationally.

Naturally, this client has specific terms they use to describe their furnishings, such as “refurbished office furniture,” “modular storage systems” and “chaise longues.”

But guess what? No one searches for “refurbished office furniture.” They search for “used office furniture.”

Likewise, people search for “customizable storage systems” or “flexible storage systems,” not “modular storage systems.”

I had to look up the term “chaise longue.” (Yes, there is such a thing.) And yes, no one searches for it. But people do search for “loungers” or “lounge chairs.”

Fortunately, our client is onboard with our approach, and we’re getting good results.

Use Roadmaps to Limit “We Found a Mistake” Calls

Whenever possible we run these “incorrect” keywords by the client before using them in ad campaigns via our campaign and landing page roadmap tools

But inevitably, other people within the organization (with whom we don’t work with directly) will question ads from time to time. 

If you’re a business owner, or PPC manager, give your marketing team the latitude to get a little creative with your keywords. As long as they’re not misleading prospects (which will backfire), using “wrong” keywords can help both your clients and your clients’ customers.

Especially if that means using “lounger chair” instead of “chaise longue”!

Do you ever use the “wrong” PPC keywords?