Bad leads. The bane of any PPC marketer’s existence. You’re seeing conversions flow freely at a profitable rate and you think everything is great. All of a sudden – you receive an email from the client saying they’re getting a lot of phone calls, but they’re not the right kind of phone calls. Client number one is a dentist and he’s getting calls for “free dentistry,” and client number two runs a car dealership and she’s getting calls for “auto insurance.”

For most PPC marketers, we know exactly where to look to remedy these problems, but business owners are often left confused as to how this could take place. Below I’ve outlined the kinds of targeting mistakes someone could make in AdWords, Bing or Yahoo, to generate unqualified phone calls.

If you’re a PPC marketer this post isn’t really for you – it’s more so for the business owners you work with so they can better understand what kind of targeting mistakes could be made in this scenario. For business owners running their own PPC campaigns this could be very helpful, but hopefully you’re already familiar with a lot of these concepts.

With all that said, we ask the question: Why is my business getting bad phone calls generated via PPC?

Issue 1: You’re targeting too broad of keywords.

The first potential issue is that you might not be targeting specific enough keywords. “Dentist” can sometimes be a profitable keyword for a dental practice to bid on, but as a whole it’s far too broad to use unless you’ve got an extremely well-formed negative list (more on that later). If you’re bidding on just “dentist,” a whole host of query variations can cause your ad to appear.

Let’s take a look at the screenshot below as an example:
adwords match types

Immediately you can see if that if we’re just bidding on “dentist” – we’re going to be showing our ads for a good chunk of unqualified searches. While we’d certainly never want to appear for “dentist salary,” we may want to appear for “dentistry for children,” but if we’re not a pediatric dentist, again we want to make sure this search doesn’t trigger our ads. This is the first issue you want to check if you are receiving bad phone calls.

Getting more granular with your keyword targeting choices isn’t the only option here for preventing your ad from showing for too broad of searches, but is one of many options in this scenario.

Issue 2: You aren’t using specific enough match types.

In AdWords there are 4 “match types” that your keywords can be classified as: Broad Match, Broad Match Modified, Phrase Match and Exact Match. These match types determine how Google matches the keywords searched in Google to the keywords you’re bidding on.

The least precise match type, broad match, doesn’t have to match the literal keyword you’ve bid on, but instead matches search queries to your keywords that mean the same thing. For example if you were bidding on: “Women’s hats”, you could very well have your ad show up for “buy ladies hats”.

Here’s a graphic from Google’s page on Broad Match that gives another example:
broad match

The next match type is “Broad Match Modified” which inserts the “+” sign in front of certain keywords when you want to make sure that keyword is included in the search query you match for. Using the same “Women’s Hats” example, if you wanted to make sure “hats” was always included in the search query – you’d change your keyword to:

Women’s +hats

You can learn more about broad match modified keywords here.

The third match type is phrase match – which starts to get a bit more precise. With a phrase match keyword, the search query will have to match the word order of your keyword exactly and it’ll have to match the literal keywords as well. The caveat however is that if additional words are appended on either end of the “phrase” – your ad can still appear. For example if you were targeting the keyword “women’s hats” your ads could also appear for “buy women’s hats”, “women’s hats for sale” or “the best in women’s hats.”

Here’s a small table from Google with some other examples:
phrase match

The last match type is exact match. As you likely are able to infer from the name, this is the most precise keyword match type and it will only show your ad if the search query matches your keyword exactly. For most beginners in AdWords, exact match is your safest bet to make sure that your ads aren’t appearing for unqualified searches.

Issue 3: You aren’t using enough negatives.

Negative keywords are the keywords you add to your account to prevent your ads from appearing when they’re included in a search query. For example “free” would be a negative keyword you’d add to most any campaign. That way when someone searches for “free dentist” your ad won’t appear. In our first example above about targeting too broad of keywords – we could also avoid having our ad show for “dentist salary,” by adding “salary” as a negative.

Keep in mind that adding negatives is not a one and done scenario. Yes you can add a lot of negatives at the beginning of a campaign to prevent these unqualified searches from ever causing your ads to appear, but the reality is often that you didn’t think of every possible negative at the beginning of your campaign. You’ll need to continually check the search term reports in AdWords (these show the actual queries that triggered your ads), to look for new negative keywords to add to your account.

While I realize all of this is review for any of you seasoned PPC-vets, hopefully this was helpful for anyone less familiar with the intricacies of AdWords targeting. And hopefully it’ll save you some time trudging through bad phone call leads when they inevitably come through. CallRail also offers an automated lead scoring feature called CallScore that can classify your phone leads as bad or good without you having to listen to them. This can help save a tremendous amount of time and streamline a lot of your lead generation activities.

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