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Google’s AdWords keyphrase matching bug: the deadly hyphen

This is an interesting AdWords problem that has an impact for keyphrase matching for industries where terms are often hyphenated, something often found in the product titles of many industrial goods.

Here are three ways to spell the company name Allen Bradley:

Allen Bradley
AllenBradley
Allen-Bradley

We are the KeyWord matching algorithm in our copy.

What we’ve found is that if the capitalized keyword match function {KeyWord:foo} is set in our ad copy, the three entries look like this:

Allen Bradley. Okay, that looks about right.

Allenbradley. Well, this is understandable. What algorithm would know how to break this word up?
Allen-bradley. Oops. Lower-case “b” after the hyphen.
We’ve notified Google and it’s a known bug. If it gets fixed we’ll let you know.

UPDATE: We just received this from our Google Account Executive:

Google’s system doesn’t recognize commas, periods, hyphens, or non-letter characters when they appear in keywords, the hyphens in your keyword are stripped out of the search terms and treated as spaces. Thus, a search on either allen bradley or allen-bradley will match up to the same term, regardless of punctuation. So, if two search terms match equally, the one with the better calculated rank (Quality Score * Max CPC) will get the impression, regardless of punctuation.

For example, a search on the keyword ‘ALLEN BRADLEY distributor’ within this account is currently matching your keyword ‘Allen-bradley Distributor’ (with a hyphen), because that keyword has a higher calculated rank than ‘ALLEN BRADLEY distributor’ (without a hyphen). Since the hyphenated keyword is being matched, it is also being inserted into the ad with keyword insertion. And since, keyword insertion recognizes ‘allen-bradley’ as one word, due to the hyphen, the ad displayed contains a lowercase ‘b.’

To resolve this issue, I would suggest that you delete all of your keywords that contain the hyphenated version of the company name. This will prevent the hyphenated company name from being inserted into your ad text (and avoid the cheesy looking ad copy). Also, if a user searches for ‘allen-bradley distributor’ on Google.com, the keyword ‘allen bradley distributor’ will still be matched in the account. Therefore, you won’t be missing out on any traffic by removing the hyphenated versions of the keyword.

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