New Research On AdWords Broad-Session-Based Match Type Results

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Google not too long ago added another sort of broad match called “session-based”. This is the AdWords side of personalized search results.

What happens is: searchers continue to see ads based on earlier search queries.

Problem: Irrelevant Searches Within the Same Session

Some AdWords advertisers report fairly irrelevant ads showing up after a searcher has changed the focused of their searches.

You can see what those queries are via the Search Query Report, and you can exclude them with negative keywords, but how could you ever exclude every irrelevant search someone might type in after changing their search focus? You can’t.

Quantifying The Effects of Session-Based Broad Match

Richard Fergie over at the SEOptimise blog wrote up some stats on broad session based match results, but the results I saw recently for a Fuel consulting client (Amazing Wine Club) were quite different in some ways, so I wanted to add to that conversation here.

As Richard said…

Just under 2% of all broad match queries were session based. As speculated, I think this number will depend a lot on your vertical and how much you bid per click.

Here’s a comparison of our results and those for Richard’s client (and I wish Richard had mentioned the vertical of that client):



  • The CTR is artificially inflated because it’s based on very unique queries. This is like an ad that temporarily has a 30,000% ROI because it happened to get a sale in its first few clicks- the performance looks better than it really is.
  • The CTR comparison is an average per query, not overall, so it’s much higher and similar to the broad-session-based CTR number.
  • Conversion rate and cost per conversion differences between Richard’s client and mine are striking. A 91% higher cost per conversion is a major difference. Even though session-based were only 10% of all broad match, AdWords has significantly reduced the ROI of broad-match here.


The broad-session-based feature, in my opinion, is yet another of the maddening areas where AdWords refuses to give the advertiser full control- whether because it’s a lower priority for them or because it fulfills other organizational or financial goals, the advertiser loses out here.

Brian Carter
Brian is author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook and Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook's Features For Your Marketing Campaigns, How to... Read Full Bio
Brian Carter
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  • Andrew Goodman

    Brian, and unlike normal expanded broad match, there’s no easy way out such as resorting to regular consultation of the search query report, right? Do you see any solutions?

  • Craig Danuloff

    Thanks for calling more attention to this. Agree with the post and Andrew, that it is completely unreasonable for Google to do this without providing at least an opt-out (when really it should be opt-in.).

  • David

    I was hoping that it would potentially work closer to the Facebook Ad system, where if they had already clicked your ad, it would show a different ad or not show your ad if their previous visit was recorded as a bounce.

    You would get a second set of reporting such as unique impressions and unique clicks…

  • Brett

    Seems like another hurdle one needs to overcome somehow. Thanks for bringing this to my attention though. Because I hadn’t noticed it yet.

  • Brian Carter

    Andrew, ya, as you imply, you can use negative keywords for expanded broad match (after search query report), but there’s no way I can see to stop broad-session-based keywords ahead of time. And you could never anticipate what they’d be, because a searcher could totally change topic focus at any time. Dastardly, AdWords! 🙁

  • max

    good .. this m favorites topics.
    Thanks to Brian Carter

  • Elizabeth

    As soon I started reading this I started thinking about where the opt-out checkbox might be and blast! There isn’t one!

  • Sue Blatchford

    I have been arguing with Google over this one – I asked for a refund for a client who spend $2000 in a month on session based searches that were so not targeted it can only be considered waste. There is no OPT OUT and no they won’t give a refund – even though my client paid in excess of $20 per click on terms that have nothing to do with their product and for traffic we did not want. This is has made me extremely angry – and it is not even possible for us to add all of the Session Based Variables to the negative keyword list. I have been working as a paid search marketing for 7 years and I feel that we have so much less control over the campaign management today than we did 7 years ago. In fact the Cost Per Conversion has increased so dramatically over the last 12 months – he is questioning the value of using Google at all anymore. Google gone Greedy???

  • Kristien

    I just discovered an alarming session-based search query in the campaign of a photographer. Apparantly his ad appeared when a sick pervert was looking for “naked girls that are children”. How am I going to explain the customer he paid €0,50 for the visit of a paedophile?