Google Ads is moving toward broad match keywords, despite the misgivings of many digital marketers. Marketers generally don’t trust broad match keywords because they can lead to bidding on irrelevant keywords.
At a recent conference, several of my peers underscored that sentiment, saying they didn’t use broad match keywords for fear of losing control. In fact, I can’t recall any marketers at the conference saying that they do use them. This surprised me. And it led me to want to share how marketers can benefit from broad keyword matches.
First, let’s look at the different types of Google Ads keyword matches available:
Google Ads Keyword Match Types
- Broad Match – ads may show on searches broadly related to your keywords or keywords that loosely match your keywords.
- Phrase Match – ads will show on searches that include your keywords or keywords that moderately match your keywords.
- Exact Match – ads show on searches that have the same meaning as your keywords or keywords that tightly match your keywords.
Common Past Uses of Keyword Match Types
To understand how broad keyword matches can be useful, it’s important to know how keyword matching has been used in the past – and why that’s led to marketers’ hesitations today.
Typically, paid ad specialists do keyword research to find the most important ones within an industry, from “fat head” to “long tail” keywords. Then they would use exact and phrase match keywords to control spend and reach on these keywords.
Even the best specialists inevitably miss some keywords. This could be due to the size of an industry or because trends change, and search terms change with them. To find these overlooked keywords, marketers typically utilize broad match keywords within their own campaign or ad group.
That process continued: You’d find exactly what you’ve bid on with broad match keywords, and how those terms performed, by examining the Search Term Report within Google Ads. This report shows the actual search terms people entered. Next, you’d analyze the performance and move converting keywords to relevant ad groups as a phrase or exact match keyword. Then, you would negative these high-performing search terms out of the broad match campaign or ad group. You would also spend a lot of time finding terms in the broad match campaign or ad group that weren’t relevant to you and make them negative keywords.
In short, you used broad match keywords to farm Google for new keywords, and you could then control spend on them.
Marketers don’t love broad match keywords because they must spend money on irrelevant keywords. On the surface, that’s wasted spend, which leads to clients and bosses asking difficult questions about your bids on some random search term or terms.
But stick with me here!
Three Reasons Why You Should Start Using Broad Match Keywords
Data and Liquidity for Smart Bidding
Some smart bidding strategy likely guides your Google Ads campaigns. That is, you use machine learning, and thus must give the machine enough data and flexibility to really learn. Utilizing the broad match type gives the AI the liquidity to learn who your customers are, where they are, and when they search for relevant products. It’s not enough to target only the keywords your audience is searching; you want to reach them at the right time, at the right micro moment.
Over time, the machine learning will stop bidding on poor performing search terms and focus on better performers. You can still guide it with negative keywords when a given term is just not relevant. But this manual weeding doesn’t need to be as extensive as it once was.
Also, think carefully before you negate too many terms. Broad match gives you the ability to reach good customers and prospective customers who don’t enter the keywords you expect them to use. Note this example from Google: It turns out that people searching for office supplies at times were also looking for sparkling water. Google’s machine learning can make connections humans usually don’t, so definitely take advantage of that.
Reach and Conversions
It’s simple: Broad match keywords have more reach and win more conversions than exact match. This competitive advantage comes with some caveats. Broad match has to overcome some machine-learning curves, especially when you launch new broad match campaigns, because the machine learning is testing different things. Also, economic factors can turn the machine learning in the wrong direction.
During COVID, I managed an account for a product that found a new use and new customers due to the pandemic. We saw an overnight click spike of 1000%, because the machine learning was attempting to learn how these new customers searched online. We had to reset the campaigns and feed them new keywords to point them in the right direction.
Broad match is a great way to give your clients or company the most reach and conversions. As a bonus, cost per acquisition will drop, because the smart bidding will learn what does and doesn’t work. Feeding the machine learning the data it needs can speed up the process. I’ve personally seen this happen on numerous occasions.
Google Is Heading Toward Broad Match
Right now, Google is merely recommending broad match. I suspect that, over time, Google will make it the only keyword match type.
Switching to Broad Match Keywords
Still, it’s important to proceed at a sensible pace. Don’t make a big, sweeping change to your account by moving all campaigns entirely to broad match. This could trigger a massive spend increase, and clients (or CFOs!) accustomed to current and older Google Ads processes, practices and costs might not understand.
I usually start with one campaign at a time, and I put the Google Experiment tool to good use. This lets me split-test Broad vs. Exact and vs. Phrase match keywords. The key: Give the experiment enough time to collect data to get a significant result.
More times than not, I end up applying the broad match version of the test. If the broad match loses, I put it at the bottom of the list and circle back to it after testing the other campaigns. This approach allows you to educate your client or boss on the value of testing broad match – and you’ll have actual data in hand.
The bottom line? Start testing broad match keywords sooner rather than later and watch your ad campaign performance improve!
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