Don’t use AdWords Broad Match

Nathan Pabich

By Nathan Pabich

The default keyword match type when adding keywords to an AdWords account is broad match. This is an easy way to get started and, all things considered, it doesn’t take much time. The problem is that broad match is much broader than most advertisers likely desire and much broader than many advertisers are aware. Let’s look at a couple of examples. The first example comes on when Google matches the keyword you bid on a somewhat related keyword. If you do a search for a keyword like “subprime loan” you’ll see several ads that appear to be targeting standard 30 year mortgages.

I’ve seen a few mortgage AdWords accounts and I can verify through the search query report that, indeed, Google sees your bid on “mortgages” as closely enough related to “subprime loans” that they will show your ads for such a query. The second example is when Google will liberally add intention to the keyword you think you’re bidding on. This happens time and again where, for example, a shoe company is bidding on a keyword like “nike shoes”, but because of broad match also ends up showing ads for queries like “nike track jackets” or a bid on “Kawasaki motorcycle parts” will show ads for a query like “Kawasaki motorcycles”. A few things happen here:

  1. These ads are less likely to be clicked on since your ad will not be compelling in the context of the search. Your ad will seldom match the intention of the search and when this happens…
  2. Your quality score for  the keyword you’re bidding on that matched to the query you’re not interested in bidding on will likely go down if this is repeated often enough. Or…
  3. If you ad is clicked it will cost you a few dollars and it is improbably that this click will become a customer of yours since your landing page probably has little or nothing to do with the visitor’s search. Basically, the user experience will almost certainly break down and the visitor will be forced back to Google to start the search process all over again.

So, what should be done about this? Negative keywords have been a good friend of the AdWords advertiser for some time, but it’s exhausting and somewhat reactionary to add these after the fact once you learn what kind of ridiculous keywords Google finds appropriate to match to you keywords. You should always do your due diligence and compile a through negative keyword list but you should also expand your match type. If you are looking to get some keyword feedback from your audience by leaving your advertising relatively open, then I would recommend moving forward with modified broad match. This match type was released a while back, but without much promulgation beyond the bigger search marketing industry news sites and blogs. Modified broad match takes a bit more work to produce, but the execution is pretty easy – simply add a “+” symbol before each keyword in your keyword phrase. For example, if you want to convert the keyword “Thanksgiving Turkey Presents” to modified broad it would look like “+Thanksgiving +Turkey +Presents”. Obviously this will be quite a chore if your account is filled with thousands of keywords, but it’s a conversion that is worth it. A complete explanation of modified broad match can be found from Google. Of course, if you already know your top performing keywords, both phrase match and exact match can provide you with the opportunity to really bid more specific keywords to value. This means if you know that the exact keyword “Thanksgiving Turkey Presents” converts well for your site, then put it in exact match by using the brackets – like this: [Thanksgiving Turkey Presents]. If you use phrase match or the new modified broad match it is highly recommend to also go heavy on negative keywords. I suggest two methods to compile this list: 1. Go through your existing search query reports and see what kinds of user queries are triggering your ads. 2. Go through the keyword research tool and see what Google thinks is closely related to your keywords. The problem with just using the search query report is that, in the event of not receiving clicks, you’re likely not to get a full picture of which keywords truly trigger ads. By getting rid of unnecessary impressions, your quality score should see a boost, which should lead to lower click costs and ad position. For some time there was not a good option to avoid broad match in AdWords if you still needed to gain some recognizance about the real keywords your audience used to find your ads. These days we have a few other choices, and I strongly recommend we use these options in order to more precisely target our ads to right audience and in turn, send them to the best possible landing pages. This only helps our goal of ensuring that every consumer experience is as smooth and hopefully productive as possible.