How To Always Win With Broad Match in Adwords | Search Scientists

How to Always Win With Broad Match in AdWords

Here’s the fastest, cheapest (and free) Google Ads audit you’ve ever heard of. I don’t need access to your account, and I don’t even need to know your business website. I don’t even need you to do anything. Just keep reading.

Here’s the result: You’re currently wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars because of your broad match keywords.

If you are a business owner that created their own AdWords campaigns, then broad match is one of the top 3 reasons your AdWords campaign isn’t as profitable as it can be.

Read on to find out why broad match is dragging your account down, and find out how to fix it. Enjoy!

Broad Match Keywords in AdWords

Everyone I know has a love-hate relationship with broad match on AdWords.

Some say it’s useful, others say it should be avoided like the plague. Some AdWords managers I know never use broad match. I’ve seen some accounts that have 100% broad match (yes, really). Some want to wage war on broad match, but I’m not ready to go that far. Instead, I’d like to put it on trial.

Personally, I think broad match does have its place inside your AdWords Account. That said, I’m willing to bet that there are millions of dollars of wasted spend every day on AdWords all due to broad match. I’ve seen it ruin many small business PPC accounts, and I’ve had some profitable discoveries with broad match.

So let’s zoom in closer. Don’t be afraid of broad match. Let’s put it under the microscope, and find out what the story is behind this match type. Most importantly, let’s find out how to wield it like a mighty sword, and improve our small businesses AdWords’ account ROAS (return on ad spend).

Note: For the sake of this article, we’ll be talking specifically about broad match, not modified broad match.

What is Broad Match?

Broad match is unfortunately the default for AdWords keywords. Why do I say this is unfortunate? Let’s start with an example a lot of business owners can relate to inside their PPC accounts.

Let’s say you own a cookie shop. You ship wonderfully delicious gluten free chocolate chip cookies everywhere in the USA. You turn on your AdWords, and you think hard about what kind of keywords people might search. You even use the AdWords Keyword Planner and you get loads of great suggestions.

You use the broad match keyword ‘gluten free chocolate chip cookies’ as your main keyword. You turn on AdWords, and you start to see that you have loads of traffic! Awesome! Days go by…loads of impressions, not a lot of sales. Weeks go by and you accumulate mountains of impressions, but little sales.

You then read the Search Scientists AdWords for Businesses blog and realize something frightening when they talk about seeing what search queries your ads are actually being displayed for…and the information shocks you.

Little did you suspect, but you were showing up for a myriad of wildly different terms. You’ve been showing up for:

• Gluten free chocolate chip cookies recipes
• Gluten free desserts
• How to make gluten free cookies
• Is there egg in gluten free chocolate chip cookies?
• Is there gluten in chocolate chips?
• Free samples of gluten free chocolate chip cookies
• Gluten free chocolate
• gluten free chocolate chip cookie dough

The list goes on and on, and you’re staring at a mountain of irrelevant, unrelated mountain of queries that your ads have been displayed for. Even worse, you spent your hard earned money on these keywords. Wasted money, wasted spend, missed sales, low quality scores, low click through rates, oh dear! What has your broad matched account done?!
Bad example of broad match keywords

How Broad Match Behaves

Broad Matching: A broad match keyword match type means that your ads will be displayed for your seed keyword’s synonyms and synonym stems.

When we look at the example above, our broad match does the following:

• Sees the word ‘cookies’ and displays our ads for synonyms like ‘chocolate’
• Sees the keyword ‘gluten free cookies’ and displays our ads for stems like ‘how to cook gluten free cookies’
• (And this is where it’s especially painful)…Sees the keyword ‘gluten free cookies’ and displays it for synonym stems like ‘how to make gluten free chocolate’. (Ouch!)

So by now, you probably think broad match is the fastest way to destroy an AdWords account. You’re right. Generous use of broad keywords is a great way to ruin an account’s ROAS.

So what’s the lesson to be learned on broad match? If you are a business owner, stay far, far away from it – as much as you can. Being aware that broad match can display your ads for potentially wild and unrelated synonyms is the first step in the battle.

The Benefits of Broad Match

By now I’ve told you how broad match can absolutely ruin your AdWords Account. So should you ever have broad match? The answer is yes – and you should be aware of the benefits of broad match.

To quote the AdWords blog itself:

Did you know that 20% of the queries Google receives each day are ones we haven’t seen in at least 90 days, if at all?

You can discover great, profitable, untapped long tail keywords that people are searching for that you would miss out if you only had exact match keywords inside your account. I believe that if you have an ad group with 10 keywords, one or two of them should be broad match.

Your ad groups should be tightly focused around one specific user intent, and the truth is, it’s nearly impossible for your to predict every query that people might come up with for searching your products. Let’s say you are bidding on the broad match keyword ‘gluten free cookies’. You notice that you are getting a lot of profitable long tails for ‘healthy gluten free cookies’. If the traffic is meaningful enough to your business, you just discovered a new marketing angle.

In short, broad match allows you to inexpensively discover new keywords directly related to your business. Pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, the default settings don’t allow for this low-cost keyword discovery to take place, which is why the next section deals with how to make broad match keywords work for your business.

How to Make Broad Match Work for Your Business

There is something extremely important for every account running phrase, broad match, and modified broad match keywords. It’s negative keywords. Negative keywords are your path to balancing the profitable long tails that broad match can provide, while reducing the negative impact of potentially irrelevant queries.

Let’s continue with our example from before, the broad match: ‘gluten free chocolate chip cookies’. Let’s recap one query our ad would be displayed on with broad match settings:

• gluten free chocolate cake recipes

Let’s think about what words in that query are irrelevant to our product? Why it’s ‘cake’, and ‘recipes’. This business is selling cookies, not cakes, and not recipes. So by adding the negative keywords ‘-cake’ and ‘-recipe’, we have just blocked our ads by being displayed by any query involving ‘cake’ and ‘recipe’. Let’s look at more potential queries that our main broad match keyword ‘gluten free chocolate chip cookies’ could be displayed for.

• How to make gluten free cookies
• How to make gluten free chocolate
• How to make chocolate chip cookies

See the keyword phrase we don’t want our ads to appear for? That’s right, we want to block ‘make’, ‘making’, and ‘how to make’. We don’t want anyone looking for ‘how to make’ gluten free cookies seeing our ads. So we’ll block that too.

Negative keywords should be added when you first make a campaign. Inside the AdWords Keyword Planner, take note of keywords that are good candidates for negatives.

In the example below, I’ve found 3 good candidates that will block loads of irrelevant keywords.

example of prime candidate for negative keywords
3 Prime Candidates for Negative Keywords

Add these guys as negatives by writing ‘-oatmeal’, ‘-dairy free’, and ‘-egg free’.

The next place you should look for ideas on negative keywords will be inside your search query report. The search query report will tell you most the queries that your ads were displayed for.

To find it:

  • Go to the keyword tab
  • Click on the details drop down
  • Search Terms
  • And view either all your search queries, or pre-select a keyword to view only its search terms.

Look through your search query report for any irrelevant keywords, and be sure to add them as a negative keyword.

You’ll notice that if you look at the bottom row of your search query report, a row is labeled ‘other search terms’. This is absolutely the bane of any keyword analysis. AdWords doesn’t tell us every single search query, which is why it’s essential to do your own negative keyword research in different tools.

Broad match is a great way to discover new, profitable long tail keywords. Unfortunately, with the default settings AdWords uses, it’s essential that broad match keywords only make up 10-20% of your total keyword count. Even so, make these 10-20% of keywords work with you instead of against you. Utilize negative keywords to block searches that you know are irrelevant to your business.

Bid Strategy with Negative & Broad Keywords

Adding negative keywords is a major part about making broad match keywords work. Additionally, you should be aware of your bidding and CPC’s for broad match. Due to the potential unpredictability that comes from broad matching, you’ll want to reduce the impact even further by implementing good bid strategy. My favorite starting bid strategy is simple.

• Exact match keywords should get the highest bid
• Phrase match keywords should get 10-25% reduction from your exact match
• Broad match should get a 40-50% reduction from your exact match

In your account, it might look like this:

• Exact: [gluten free chocolate chip cookies] $1.00 bid
• Phrase: “gluten free chocolate chip cookies” $0.75 bid
• Broad: gluten free chocolate chip cookies $0.55 bid

By reducing the bid on broad match, we get low-cost, controlled keyword discovery. We also get an inexpensive way to get related searches to our site.

So, you’ve learned about the dangers and the benefits of using broad match keywords. The last bit of parting advice to walk away with is true for any piece of PPC optimization. Have a schedule.

At Search Scientists, our calendar of AdWords Management includes something we call the SQNO which gets done one a weekly basis. SQNO stands for ‘Search Query and Negative Keyword Optimization’. Once a week, we comb through the entire account’s search query report (yes really, the entire account – and yes, on a weekly basis). We also spend time in keyword research tools looking for more negative keyword ideas. Some of our favorites include Google’s own Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, WordTracker, and SEMRush.

Additionally, we scour the search query report and find keywords that we can ‘upgrade’ to phrase and exact match. In the example from this post, if we have significant traffic for ‘vanilla gluten free cookies’ for our broad match ‘gluten free chocolate chip cookies’, then we might move ‘vanilla gluten free cookies’ to its own ad group, with dedicated ad copy. From there the process continues, as we try to build an account that is as granular and fine tuned as it can be. This boosts our CTR and quality score, which in turn, lowers our CPC. It’s a win-win-win.

Interested in how a dedicated AdWords manager from Search Scientists can help save your AdWords account? First, check if you have the kind of business we work with. Then give us a contact form below.
If you’re a business owner, and you created your own AdWords account using a lot of the default settings, like broad match, I’m willing to bet that you have 100’s – if not 1,000’s of wasted spend every month. Wasted spend refers to money you spent on keywords that have little relation to your own business!

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Michael Erickson

Emailing my clients and telling them I helped increase their return on ad spend by 300% never gets old. I love rising above the technical jargon and providing your business with online marketing momentum to reach new heights. Enthusiast for all things science, surfing, and Search Scientists.

11 Replies to “How to Always Win With Broad Match in AdWords”

  1. Using only the broad match can cause a lot of irrelevant searches & cost you money without any returns. Even if you have maintained a huge list of negative keywords, the broad match keyword will find you more to add to this list. Mike, I agree with your recommendation of using the broad match modifier with the keywords. Putting everything in phrases or exact protects the advertiser against irrelevant clicks but means that many valuable impressions are missed. Read more about broad match modifier:-

  2. Good one, I found it userful to use broad match with comprehensive list of negative keywords, btw, I am using modified broad match, simplly broad match doesn’t work for me!

    1. Ronnie, Good stuff.
      Modified Broad is a great tool in your arsenal.
      When you structure your ad groups, have you tried a something like this:
      +4 Exact Match Keywords
      +3 Phrase Match Keywords
      +3 Modified Broad
      +1 Broad

      Variants of that seem to work very well!

  3. Hi Michael. You mention reducing your bids depending on match types. If for example you say $1 for exact match would you recommend $0.75 for broad match modifer like phrase match or inbetween the bid for phrase match and broad match

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