Ignored and Invalid Symbols in Paid Search Keywords
Chart of Ignored and Invalid Symbols
While advertisers work tirelessly to drive efficient returns on their marketing dollars, many are inadvertently sabotaging their programs and diluting their results simply by haphazardly developing robust keyword lists. What most advertisers don’t realize is that they are creating self-competition and jacking up their CPCs by exercising diligence. The culprit? Ignored and Invalid symbols.
Ignored and Invalid symbols are common punctuations or symbols that the search engines either ignore or disallow. What does this mean for advertisers? It means that the keyword yourwebsite.com is the exact same keyword—in the eyes of the media providers—as yourwebsite com and T.V. is viewed the same as TV. If your keyword lists are riddled with punctuations like “.” or “-“, then chances are your CPC costs are inflated and driving down overall performance. Bottom line: Including such variations in your keyword set is inherently injurious.
The good news is that you can quickly remedy the problem by deleting the identical keywords. Step 1: Identify the duplicates. Step 2: Determine which duplicate to remove and which to keep. You can make this delineation based on Quality Score, current CPC, or another metric that is important to your program.
There are a few engine-specific caveats to consider before purifying your keyword sets. According to Google, symbols fall under one of three categories: Valid, Ignored or Invalid. The only valid symbols are the ampersand (&) and accent marks (i.e., á ). Thus, the term Bed and breakfast is distinct from bed & breakfast; and sidewalk cafe and sidewalk café are viewed as two unique keywords as well.
Google identifies periods (.) and hyphens (-) as ignored symbols, and actually substitutes these symbols for spaces. Therefore, the following terms are treated as identical terms: T-rex and T rex, or Fifth Ave and Fifth Ave. Including both variations will cause only one term to serve, and it is typically the keyword possessing the higher CPC, subsequently fueling internal competition, as well as competition on the auction as a whole. Removing keyword duplicates will not only trim costs, but also save you time spent optimizing your keyword sets.
The apostrophe (‘) is considered to be an ignored symbol; however, that all depends on its usage. For instance, apostrophes are only valid when the symbol precedes the letter ‘s’ at the end of a sentence. If the user’s search ends in ‘s, then Google will match the query with keywords ending in ‘s. All other uses will cause the symbol to be replaced with a space. For example, a search query containing children’s will be mapped to a keyword containing children’s; however, a query containing child’rens will be interpreted as child rens and mapped accordingly. Similarly, the term children s books and childrens books are viewed distinctly.
Google views essentially all other symbols as invalid, and claims that these symbols are kicked out during the addition process. However, it has been my experience that Google will allow most symbols in a campaign despite its reassurance.
MSN does not articulate their stance on punctuations and symbols quite as clearly as Google, beyond declaring that certain symbols are considered extraneous. Below is a comprehensive list of all symbols, as well as the engine-specific interpretation of these puncutations. While each engine does treat symbols slightly differently, it is best to take a consistent approach with symbol usage and remove these pesky punctuations prior to implementation. For more information, visit: http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=53539