When There Are No Ads

A reader asks:

I just finished going through your book Google Adwords for Dummies.

In plunking around in Google search (now that I know what those results down the right side mean), I’ve noticed that some search terms result in zero Google Adword ads on the result page.

Would that indicate that firms who would likely use Google Adwords see no value in Google Adwords for their businesses?

My reply:

When there are no ads for a given keyword, it’s either because it has a huge search volume that no one has figured out how to monetize, or because it has such a low search volume that it’s not worth the effort of writing ads for.

Here’s an example of a very popular keyword that doesn’t attract advertising:


This keyword gets about 2 million searches per month. Take a look at the Google SERP (search engine results page) for bridges:

Picture 2

As you can see, no ads.

In the examples that you gave me (which I’m not sharing publicly), I see very long tail, specialized keywords that Google may not know what to do with. If the search volume is very low, Google will disallow the keyword. This forces you to bid on more general keywords with higher search volume. This makes Google happy by aggregating auctions and keeping bid prices high.

It also makes life easier for many advertisers who can’t be bothered to brainstorm lots of keyword variations.

For example, if I wanted to sell off my collection of Three Mile Island paperweights (of course, I never would), I might bid on the keyword Three Mile Island Unit II Dedication Acrylic Paperweight.

And if you typed in that exact search term, you would hope and expect to see my ad. But in fact, all you’d see are a few ads for paperweights:

paperweight serp

If I wanted my ad to show up when you search for the long tail keyword, I need to bid on the broad match for acrylic paperweight and hope that Google  finds it a good match. Annoying, but that’s the way things are in 2009.

Google wants to show ads for every search (ads is how they make their money). So if you see zero ads for a search, it’s because nobody has figured out how to make money from that keyword.

For your specialized, long tail keywords, you need to find the more general keywords and bid on those in broad match.

But for some B2B markets, you may find that so few of your prospects exist in the world (let’s say, Directors of HR at Fortune 1oo companies, or purchasing managers at injection molding factories) that AdWords is an impractical way of reaching them. In that case, focus on SEO for the long tails (easy to rank high) and take out ads in print and online journals and go for PR.

Anybody else out there confused about keywords? If so, please check out the Traffic Surge course that begins October 8, 2009. My guarantee is that you’ll go from beginner to Market Master in 8 weeks.

Or, if you’re just interested in fine paperweights, I’m entertaining offers:

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5 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Mike Bellini said on September 20 2009:

    I am looking for the Replay from last Tuesday’s Open Mic Coaching with Howie call? I followed the link and can not find it. In fact…I followed the link and what I found made my head spin…lots of info except for the info I was promised would be there????????

  2. #2 • Howie Jacobson said on September 21 2009:

    Yah, Mike, you’re absolutely right. Sorry about the glitch.

    The replay is now up at http://askhowie.com/traffic-tuesday-replay


  3. #3 • Mike Bellini said on September 21 2009:

    You da man Howie! Thank you. I was looking forward to joining the call on Tuesday but had a conflict with my “day job” -the one that pays the bills-. Can’t wait to hear what I missed.

    Thank you,

  4. #4 • Dan - PPCPROZ said on September 22 2009:

    “the death of the long tail”

    I won’t miss those 1 million keyword accounts.

    In your example, you said to bid on acryclic paperweights in broad match…

    I’d suggest first “climbing the keyword ladder”, by bidding on it in phrase match first, before climbing all the way up the ladder to broad.

    If “acrylic paperweight” is still “low search volume”, only then would I suggest climbing up to broad match.

  5. #5 • Chris said on February 15 2010:

    What if you have bid for keyword and there are still no ads or just one ad?  For example, I bid on "Kumon" and "Kumon Reviews".  My keywords show up as "eligible".  I kept my maximum CPC low at $0.10.  When I search on Kumon, I see one ad (not mine) and when I search on Kumon Reviews I see no ads.  I realize my CPC bid is low, but doesn't google see it as better than nothing?