Are Broad Match Keywords the Right Move for Every Brand?

By Tinuiti Team

*This is a guest post by Matt Shover, Paid Senior Search Specialist at Tinuiti

Broad match keywords have become more prevalent on Google over the last two years. Broad match is designed to allow keywords to match to an expanded range of relevant queries while incorporating more information about user behavior. But, is broad match a good answer for every account?

In this post, we’ll break down the search engine advancements we’ve seen over the years, data consolidation benefits, and why SEM & SEO might look a bit different in the future. Let’s start out with what broad match keywords are and why they are important.


What Are Broad Match Keywords?


According to Google, Ads may show on searches that are related to your keyword, which can include searches that don’t contain the keyword terms. This helps you attract more visitors to your website, spend less time building keyword lists, and focus your spending on keywords that work. Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned, so that you don’t have to specify another match type (like exact match, phrase match, or a negative match type).”


Why Is Google Embracing Broad Match Keywords?


Broad match sounds like a win-win, but is it too good to be true? Let’s explore exactly why Google is embracing broad match keywords.


Search engine advancements


Think about broad match keywords through the lens of the search engine. In the past, search engines have been more rigid in how they understand a user’s needs and the content of a website. SEO practices have changed from more of a focus on keyword stuffing, to needing more useful content to provide to the person searching. The updates Google has made to their language processing algorithm, BERT, have allowed these changes to be possible. This means the engine has a better understanding of intent.


Google is reducing focus on exact match


Exact match keywords used to be a command. They are now a suggestion. The control a search marketer had over this Match Type has been slipping away for some time. This lack of control incentivizes the marketer to eliminate duplicate, even similar keywords with different match types to get a better grasp on overall performance.  

Based on an update Google announced in September of 2021, per Search Engine Land, broad and phrase match keywords that are identical to a search term also receive priority. For example, ‘sushi delivery’ and ‘sushi delivery near me’ are both in the account as broad match terms. If someone searches for ‘sushi delivery near me’, this term is now preferred. According to Google, this eliminates the need to have multiple identical keywords with different match types.


Accounting for search intent by industry


It is important to think about how broad match keywords may perform in the industry being marketed. The search engine may better understand intent when marketing a retail company versus a niche B2B software service. The algorithm factors in search history as well as a suite of other signals to determine intent of a given searcher, which helps broad match keywords perform so well. Monitor what queries are triggering ads closely to guide broad match keywords further to profitable queries for the business.


How to Make the Most of Broad Match Keywords


Broad match keywords can be a great solution for a variety of accounts depending on overall goals, but how do you make the most out of broad match keywords? Let’s dive into a few tips.


Create a negative keyword and mapping strategy


The wide matching capability of broad match requires monitoring queries and having a negative keyword strategy. To do this, place obvious negative keywords that should never serve across the entire account structure at the account level. Ad group level negatives become preferable due to their ability to focus on theming. Ad group level negatives also help prevent negative keyword conflicts you may not foresee with the differences in keyword matching. This in turn helps to avoid cutting off desired campaign volume.

Mapping queries becomes more difficult whether broad match keywords are split into their own campaigns or not. Even if every exact and phrase match keyword is negated in a broad match campaign or ad group, it is highly likely there will be some level of search query overlap. Because of this, segmenting campaigns by match types is not as useful as it once was and the algorithm becomes limited in how it is optimizing. 


Consolidate your data


Smart bidding algorithms have gotten smarter. Consolidating data helps them perform at peak levels. Choosing to segment a piece of the campaign structure is becoming not a choice of best practice, but a choice of what is best for the business. Keyword match types are no longer a must in terms of segmentation. They are simply one of the tools in a marketer’s utility belt.  


Use smart bidding


As shown in the image from Google below, broad match has more signaling capabilities. This, paired with smart bidding, allows for better performance based on who is searching. If a keyword is getting signals about a user’s previous search behavior, and the marketer knows a specific audience consistently outperforms the average, this can warrant targeting segmentation that will drive meaningful business results.


Chart titled “Broad Match uses unique signals not available in Exact and Phrase,” where Broad Match can use keyword, landing page, ad group, previous searches, predicted performance, and user location as signals


Know when to use broad match


Keywords that are known to drive significantly different performance in terms of LTV want to use versions of phrase and exact match if the goal is to focus spend on maximizing impression share. Broad match keywords are not designed with this approach in mind.


Key takeaways


Search has changed dramatically over the last three years allowing marketers to unlock efficiencies by consolidating data and finding intent. Broad match helps marketers expand reach while making campaigns easier to manage due to consolidation.  

A well-thought-out approach to testing is necessary before going to a strict, one match type structure. Formulate a hypothesis, and eliminate variability as much as possible to best understand match type results. Don’t be afraid to follow the data and perhaps different segmentation opportunities will follow.

Make sure to check out our recent match type consolidation case studies and if you’re interested in learning more about the ever-evolving world of search, contact us today.

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