PPC marketers rely heavily on data when planning the next step for their campaigns. Although it is a no-brainer to say that campaigns should be targeted towards transactional users, it can be hard to know which keyword concepts bring benefits to your advertising efforts and which are relentlessly wasting your time and money. As a digital marketing agency, we understand how competitive digital advertising can be. With online budgets continually increasing, many companies that invest in PPC platforms like Google Ads are seeing an increasing amount of accidental budget waste. When used effectively, Google Ads can be very profitable for your business. However, users often make mistakes that end up hurting their business and leaving them very unsatisfied with their ROI. When setting up your PPC campaign, Google offers four different options for targeting specific keyword: exact, phrase, modified broad, and broad match. While each of these match types serves a different purpose depending on the structure and the goal of your campaign, there is one match type every business should stay away from as much as possible – broad match.
What is a broad match (in Google’s words)?
Google explains broad match as the default match type assigned to all of your keywords if no other match type is specified. Your ads are automatically shown on relevant variations of your keywords, such as synonyms, misspellings, and related search results. They claim that this option can help you attract more visitors to your website while spending less time building keyword lists. Your ads will also appear on searches that don’t contain the keyword from your list, and those searches related to your keyword that don’t have the same meaning.
They say that broad match saves your time and money since you don’t have to come up with every possible keyword variation. Each day there is a large portion of new and unique searches, and with search behavior being so unpredictable you should put your faith and budget into the system to decide if your ad is relevant to searcher’s intent or not. You don’t do the thinking anymore, the system does.
The truth behind the scenes
While this all sounds fine and dandy, we can’t help but suspect that there is something else cooking in the kitchen. There is a reason why 98% of Google’s income comes from Google Ads. The reason is, you guessed it, broad match. From our experience as PPC marketing agency, we have found that so many inexperienced advertisers are wasting large sums of their budget not even realizing that they are being ripped off.
The main problem here is that broad match is much broader than advertisers are aware of and would like it to be. For example, Google will liberally add intention to the keyword you think you are bidding on. We have seen shoe companies bidding on keywords like “Nike shoes”, and end up showing ads for queries like “Nike track jackets”. These ads are less likely to be clicked on since the searcher’s intent is not matched. Also, your quality score for the keyword you are bidding on will go down when the keyword is matched to the query you don’t wish to bid on. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay a couple of dollars – that’s the name of the game. But the problem is that it is highly improbable that any of those clicks would lead to a customer acquisition, since your landing page has little or nothing to do with what they are looking for. This often leads to bad user experience and high bounce rates.
Broad match type gives full control over your campaign to the search engine. It is like telling Google: I sell something like this keyword, go find me some customers. This is where search engines charge top dollar for showing your ads to the wrong audience. And being the default match type means that many companies use it in their campaigns not realizing that their budget is bleeding out since a sizable portion of traffic they are bringing in may not even be in the market for their product or service.
Stop using broad match!
Now that we are familiar with what broad match can do to your campaign, let’s look at the real-life example of how broad match impacts your overall performance. We recently had a case of a company that was investing 50% of its ad budget into broad match keywords with a quarter of that budget going toward search queries that didn’t directly relate to the products offered. Their cost per click on ads with broad match type keywords was 2.11$ compared to 0.98$ for those with phrase match and 0.66$ for exact match. Although paying higher CPC, they didn’t see any improvement when it comes to conversion rates. Broad match brought them a 7.9% conversion rate with ROAS 7.17$, compared to 16.2% with ROAS 32.02$ for phrase and 9.2% with ROAS 27.48$ for exact. That is a lot of wasted money!
How to tell if there is a problem?
The easiest way to determine if there is an issue is to check if your campaign is bringing leads at an affordable ROI. Besides this, there are two methods to tell if you are wasting your money on purchasing irrelevant keyword phrases.
- A low CTR – The click-through-rate is a measurement of how often somebody clicks on your ads when it is displayed. This is the easiest way to see if your ads target the right audience. If your ads are being served for irrelevant phrases due to broad match type, they are less likely to get clicks, which reduces your CTR.
- Check your search terms tab – Depending on the match type you use, this list can be different from your keyword list. As we have already stated, if you are paying for keyword “storage” and using broad match, you could be paying for anything from storage units to cloud storage.
By making sure you are bidding on the correct phrases, you will decrease your cost-per-lead since you are eliminating any phrases you might be paying for that are not related to your business. By simply fixing the keyword match types for some of our clients, we see huge improvements in their PPC campaigns. By eliminating irrelevant phrases from their accounts, we’ve effectively decreased cost-per-lead by 134% and above; Conversion rates by around 151%.
Let’s see how broad match performs against other match types. In this experiment, we used over 150000 keywords that had broad match combined with other match types. This is what we have found:
Broad match vs. modified broad match
- Broad match had a 16% lower CTR
- Both types had almost the same CPC
- Broad match keywords had 23% lower CVR
- broad match keywords had 33% higher CPA
Broad match vs. exact match
- Broad match keywords had 40% lower CTR
- Broad match keywords had slightly higher CPC
- Broad match keywords had 15% lower CVR
- Broad match keywords had 40% higher CPA
Broad match vs. phrase match
- Broad match keywords had 23% lower CTR
- Broad match had very similar CPC to phrase match
- broad match keywords had 17% lower CVR
- Broad match keywords had 27% higher CPA
Our recommendation – phrase match
Phrase match offers some of the versatility of broad match but gives you a higher level of control over which cases your ads are being shown in. Your ads will appear only if the user queries your key phrase using keywords in the same order that you entered them, no matter the words before or after that phrase. This match type is more targeted than broad match and more flexible than exact match. It provides an opportunity to reach more customers, while still showing your ads to customers who are most likely searching for your product or service. This will help you increase both CTR and conversions significantly while keeping your budget from bleeding out thanks to the higher ad relevance.
Phrase match keywords are much more precise than broad match keywords, which are known to show your ads in completely irrelevant search queries. Although being more expensive than exact match, phrase match is far less limiting, which puts it in the sweet spot for highly targeted niche-specific or funnel-specific ad campaigns.
Phrase match is an excellent option for PPC campaigns focused on small audiences and select keyword groups. It lets you create copy and offers that will appear to users searching for those specific phrases, which may be able to help you to separate potential customers by use case, value proposition, and even the stage of the buyer’s journey they are in. All of this means more effective campaigns.
If for some reason phrase match appears not to be the right option for your campaign, we suggest using modified broad match. This match type is a sort of a middle ground between broad match and other more restrictive match types. You will be able to reach a similarly wide audience, but you will have better control over who sees your ad by combining individual words into a key phrase using the “+” parameter. By adding the plus sign in front of a term in your keyword you are signifying that the search query must include that term for your ad to show.
With the introduction of close variants to exact and phrase match, Google is changing the definition of these keyword match types to make them behave more like modified broad match. This means the end of exact match as we know it. All the more reason to put your campaign budget into phrase match. With these changes, your ad will be served to visitors for more diverse search queries which include keyword misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemming (word endings such as “ing”, “ed”, etc.), accents, and abbreviations. Like always, Google claims that these changes were made for the benefit of the users, and not for them to grow revenue. They stated: “Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers”, but added: “Keep in mind that results may vary by advertiser”. Something smells fishy here, don’t you think?
However, there is a way around this, and it is hidden in advanced settings. You can choose “Do not include close variants” in the Keyword Matching Options, but based on Google’s politics, we can only say for now, and hope for the best.
While broad match is the default match type on Google Ads, it doesn’t automatically make it the best for your campaign. Quite contrary – this is the least efficient keyword match type. It is the money-grab where artificial intelligence decides for you when to display your ad, completely missing the audience you wish to target and showing it to random people at the highest price between all match types and lowest conversion rates. Although corporate minds and PPC budget leeches at Google suggest starting with broad match, this is one match type you should strictly stay away from.