Mr. Clean Cost me $111.88 on Super Bowl Sunday

Adwords is a giant auction.  You tell Google what search keywords you’d like to bid on and then provide ads associated with those keywords.  If someone searches Google for one of the terms that you’re bidding on, your ad may show in one of the designated spaces for ads (above Google’s normal “organic” search results).  Of course to be successful on Adwords, there are hundreds of other settings, parameters, limitations, best practices, pitfalls, etc – but that’s basically how it works – bid on a keyword and show your ad.

Along with Dozen Digital, I’ve been running Evening Janitorial’s digital marketing for the last 4-5 years.  A large component of their ad spend is devoted to Adwords; when someone is searching for “commercial cleaners in oakland”, that person could be searching for the exact service that my parents’ business provides – we want to be in front of them for that search.

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Here’s an example of an Evening Janitorial “branded” ad – this one should show up when someone searches for EJ by name.

On Adwords, you typically only pay when someone clicks on your ad, so it’s very important to try to make sure your ad only shows up when a prospective customer is searching, not some other related search with no intent to buy.  As a small local family business, EJ is particularly sensitive to these types of “errant clicks”, so we limit our searches by geography, time of day, a few other key settings, and also something called “negative keywords”.

A negative keyword basically tells google NOT to show your ad if a certain keyword is in the search query, even if the rest of the search matches your keyword settings.  For example, if someone searches “commercial wedding dress cleaners in oakland”, EJ absolutely does not want to be advertising there.  That person wants a wedding dress cleaned.  Evening Janitorial does not clean wedding dresses (though my grandma used to make wedding dresses for a living).  Other negative keywords that we use for EJ include car, ring, DIY, jobs, laundry, lawsuits, residential and cheap.

After 4-5 years, of running Evening Janitorial’s accounts, it’s safe to say that the account is in pretty good shape.  Were in front of searches we want to be in front of, and not advertising for those we don’t.

However, Mr. Clean threw us for a loop on Super Bowl Sunday.  As you may recall, Mr. Clean ran a commercial during the Super Bowl.  This commercial, just like the Bai Bai Bai commercial and the Budweiser origin story commercial, generated a fair amount of buzz and lots of Google search traffic.   As it turns out, when people in our geographic area searched for “mr clean super bowl commercial”, our ads targeting “commercial cleaning” within our geographic region were triggered.  Here’s the search terms report to prove it:

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Why would someone click on an Evening Janitorial ad when when they searched for the Mr. Clean Super Bowl ad?  Because the internet is weird.  The search terms report for any advertiser is a constant reminder that a) people search for weird stuff and b) people click on stuff that’s unrelated to their search all the time.

As you can see above, Mr. Clean cost us $111.88 on Super Bowl Sunday.  As soon as I saw that, I added “Super Bowl”, “Mr. Clean”, “Mr Clean” and “Mister Clean” to the negatives list and moved on.  It’s annoying to have “wasted” that money, but since we acted quickly it’s a relatively small price to pay for keywords that could have been triggered for the next few months.

It’s impossible to run a perfect Adwords campaign out of the gate – there will always be ongoing tweaks like this one.  Some negative keywords will be impossible to predict (cleaning products running a Super Bowl ad), and others will be more directly related to the business (residential cleaning, job applications, etc).  Whether you saw it coming or not, both can be spotted in the search terms report with regular monitoring and iteration.

The key here is that it’s important to check the search terms report regularly and remove anything that doesn’t match with what you’re selling.  Otherwise, you could be wasting your ad dollars on people who will never become a customer.


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