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Weekly Wisdom with Joel Bondorowsky: Prevent Ad Keyword Cannibalization in a Few Simple Steps

Weekly Wisdom with Joel Bondorowsky: Prevent Ad Keyword Cannibalization in a Few Simple Steps

Joel Bondorowsky

Modified Transcript


Hello to all the amazing internet marketers out there.As you know, advertisers that have keywords which are triggered by the same search term compete with one another in what is called the Ad Auction. But you may be surprised to find that before this happens, there is an internal auction inside of your own Google ads account, where you could be essentially competing with yourself!

That is right, different keywords in your own campaign compete with each other in an internal auction, when they match with the same search term. The winning keyword will be the one with the highest ad rank. This leads to a loss of control of the traffic that your campaign brings. An ad group with tailor-made ads for particular terms may lose its traffic to another group. And if it becomes necessary to lower bids on a particular word, the traffic that the keyword was bringing may hop to another keyword in another group.

Which is why today I am going to explain to you how to run a report to identify if and where this is happening and then explain to you what you need to do in order to fix the problem, which we will do on the ad group level.

Extracting The Data

We need to run and download a search term report for all campaigns that are targeting overlaps.There are several ways to do this, but for today’s lesson, I will show how to do it from the reporting section in Google Ads.

Extracting the data

  • After logging into your account, click on the reports icon.

  • Click "Custom" to create a custom report.

  • Select "Table".

  • Next, you will want to filter the campaigns groups you would like to analyze for this report. It is important that you only choose campaigns which can compete with themselves due to similar settings, such as geography and device. To enable the filter, click the filter icon, then choose campaign from the dropdown. Next, choose the relevant campaigns and apply.

  • Now you will want to set the appropriate date range.

  • And we are ready to create the table:

    • For rows

      • Campaign

      • Ad group

      • Search keyword

      • Search term

    • For columns

      • Just impressions.

  • Next, click on the download icon.

  • Select Excel .csv.

  • The report will automatically download when ready.

  • Google gives you the option to save this report to easily create it again in the future. As well as scheduling the report.

Creating the Report

Now that the report has downloaded, go ahead and open it up in Excel.

Creating the report

  • First, you will want to save your report as an Excel workbook file or .XLSX

  • Next, we will need to concatenate campaign names and ad groups; this is to distinguish from ad groups in different campaigns that have the same name.

    • First, add a column before column A.

    • In the cell to the left of the “campaign name” column, concatenate column b of that row, with column c of that row, separated by a ^ symbol.

    • Next drag down the formula all the way down column A.

  • Now we will create a pivot table which is where we will run our analysis.

  • To do this, click on "insert" and choose pivot table.

  • Select the appropriate table range.

  • Place “search term” as the first row and “campaign^ad group” right under it.

  • And impressions as values.

  • Collapse rows so that only the search terms are shown.

  • Then sort impressions from largest to smallest.

  • Now you are looking at what is essentially a search term report. If you expand one of the rows, you will see which ad groups brought in the traffic.

  • Next, let’s make it easier to see which search terms are falling into more than one ad group by adding “count of ad group” to values.

There are two ways to prevent search terms falling into more than one ad group. The first is to remove the keyword that is triggering the term, but sometimes removing the word is not an option. When this happens, you will need to use negative keywords to channel traffic into the right groups.

Say, for example, you have are advertising mobile phone chargers. You built your campaign into multiple ad groups. One ad group has the keyword “phone chargers” in phrase match, and another has the keyword “android phone chargers”. Both of these keywords can match with the term, android phone charger, thus they are both competing for the same term in the internal ad auction. You can eliminate this by putting the negative word, -Android in the phone chargers group. Now the ‘phone charger’ won’t serve for any search with the word Android in it. Those words will thus get a bid for the traffic that they are designated for, as will the words in the Android group. Each group will also have more targetted ads for the traffic they are serving to.

This concludes my Weekly Wisdom session. I hope you found it useful.

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Joel Bondorowsky

Knows everything… well, almost.

Joel Bondorowsky can be described as a true PPC addict. The last thing he does before bed is check his stats, which is also the first thing he does after waking up. It is his love for the job that feeds this addiction. He dabbled with his first small campaigns back in 2000, when PPC was at its infancy. However, it wasn’t until 2010, when he started working at Wix.com, when he got into more extreme PPC. After leaving Wix, Joel started a boutique ad agency called Quality Score where he managed some of the largest PPC campaigns in history. Today, he serves as the SEMrush Academy PPC professor s well as founder of PPCDesigns, a new boutique agency providing tailor made marketing solutions for large, mass market activities.
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Paul Paquin

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

I am not going to lie, this wasn't the easiest set of instructions to follow (if you're unfamiliar with CONCATENATE on Excel and pivot tables), but it's worth the time to figure it out. Watch the video over and over again if you need to. You can Google any terms you are unfamiliar with, like CONCATENATE, and easily find the answers you need. The results are epic. You get massive insight from this cool report Joel created, making it really easy to see what Ad Groups are suffering from cannibalization (which is a big problem). It took me a while but once I figured it out, wow!

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

You are absolutely right Joel, at the time of the auction I have seen that many of the targeted keywords are competing against each other. This technique seems really good will be trying it to see how it resolves the problem.
Joel Bondorowsky

Knows everything… well, almost.

Sahil Kakkar
In order to resolve the problem, you need to decide which group you want to get the search term. Once you decide that, the right negative keyword is all it takes to eliminate competition once and for all.
Judith Lewis

A bearer of digital marketing wisdom.

"count of ad group" I love you so much right now! This is an absolutely brilliant hack and I hope you don't mind if I share it far and wide (with attribution of course) as I feel like this is going to help a lot of in-house marketers who have to be a jack of all trades in order to keep things running. I've seen a few charities struggle with things like this and while I do love my spreadsheets, this is an easier hack to pass around. Thank you for sharing and hopefully we'll see better-optimised ad campaigns coming soon for everyone ;-)
Joel Bondorowsky

Knows everything… well, almost.

Judith Lewis
I'm full of such hacks (but I'm no hack). Hit me up any time with any feedback or questions. Also, please share freely & stay tuned for more!
Arianne Donoghue

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Great advice! I'm always amazed that Google make this so difficult to do easily, although of course it's often in their financial interest! Bing (I think) offer a custom report that makes this easy to do, but really good to see this explained so clearly here.
AJ Wilcox

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

This is brilliant. I had no idea you could do this. Thanks for sharing!

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Great content and clear explanation.
The video is edited a bit weird though, and also I think this topic is hard to explain without really doing like 80% screenshots.

Great content though! Thanks
Lance Loveday

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Thanks Joel. Love seeing the steps laid out so clearly. This is yet another one of those "housekeeping" activities that everyone knows they SHOULD do but so many people avoid because it can be time-consuming. But as you point out, the results can be dramatic. Kudos to you for spelling out the process so cleanly.
Pavel Naydenov

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Hi Joel,
Nice explanation.
Here is a question. If you have in the same adgroup a broad match keyword for example +kanban and a phrase match keyword "kanban software" is there a danger of cannibalization?

Second one: How important is the quality score? I've tried many different things (considered as good practices and recommended by specialists) for low quality score and literally non of them work.

Thanks in advance.
Joel Bondorowsky

Knows everything… well, almost.

Pavel Naydenov
Hi Pavel,

If you have +kanban in one ad group and "kanban software" in another, a search for 'kanban software' can match with both groups. This chance can be eliminated by adding '-software' as a negative broad to the first group.

Quality Score is extremely important. The main factor for low Quality Score is low CTR. Google sells ad impressions but only gets paid per click. If your ads aren't getting clicks, you are showing Google that it isn't worth it for them to serve your ads. If your account is suffering from this you need to show Google a good history before regaining their trust. I suggest the following:

1. Run only the most relevant keywords in exact or phrase match.
2. Work hard to test and improve your ads.
3. Also check other reasons for low Qualityscore. Factors such as landing page load time, for example, need to be at a certain standard or you will get penalized.

I hope this helps.


Pavel Naydenov

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Joel Bondorowsky
Hi Joel,
Thanks a lot. Actually I've tried most of the things. But I'll take into consideration running only relevant keywords in exact or phrase match for a while and see what's going to happen.

Thanks for spending the time to write some advice.
Appreciate it.


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