Ever since I saw him live in concert, I’ve been a huge fan of Lyle Lovett. The name of his newest release, “It’s Not Big, It’s Large”, provides a tantamount mantra for advertisers grappling with Google AdWords’ expanded match. Sometimes, even something that seems synonymous, like “big” and “large”, really mean two different things altogether.
Lovett’s group is often billed as “Lyle Lovett with his Large Band”. Lovett describes the band as “large” because it truly is. VH1 describes the large band as, ” a modified big band complete with guitars, a cellist, a pianist, horns, and a gospel-trained backup singer“. If instead, you called his group a “big band”, that’s a whole different type of band altogether, harboring back to the twenties, thirties and forties, when big band music prevailed in the US.
Lovett doesn’t just face an uphill battle with the general public calling his band “big,” but also Google AdWords. With broad match, Google automatically enables “expanded matching” capability, then showing advertisers’ ads for synonymous terms. While on the surface that might sound great to an advertiser, sometimes seemingly synonymous terms are not synonymous in certain situations, as in the “large band” vs. “big band” example with Lovett.
For one of our major auto manufacturer clients, we had the same problem. Many car manufacturers make small, fuel-efficient cars these days, so a term like “small cars” may seem like a good broad match term. But expanded matching often serves the ad for terms that Google considers synonymous with “small”, but does not realize that the context of the adjective also makes a big difference in the meaning of the query.
In the case of “small cars”, we’ve seen the ad appear on queries including “miniature cars” and “toy cars” — obviously not the same item as the small, fuel-efficient car.
Advertisers can certainly opt out of expanded match by making all of their keywords be phrase or exact match. But that isn’t ideal in my mind — it restricts you as an advertiser too much. Instead, we recommend running a search query report in Google on a semi-regular basis to weed out potentially irrelevant terms like “miniature” or “toy” by adding them as negative keywords when found in queries.
So Lyle, there’s hope yet. Just make sure that you make “big” a negative keyword.