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Broad match keywords have a bad name, and rightfully so by performance marketers; however, there are times that using broad match is useful.

Please note, we’re not talking about modified broad match, which is often very useful to use – only broad match. If you’re wondering why we consider broad match so terrible, just consider these examples.

Keyword Actual Search Query
Wedding cakes How to make a Dora cupcake
Flower delivery McDonald’s Delivery
Nike Tennis Shoes Restaurant waiter clogs
Electric company iPod charger


In each of these cases, the demographics and intent of the user’s query was completely different than the keyword’s idea; yet these keywords triggered ads for these queries.

While using broad match is often considered one of the biggest mistakes any account can make; it has several good uses.

1. Research

Sometimes you want to understand the entire universe of semi-related keywords. Broad match is useful for finding all of these relationships. Just consider that it should be a ‘research budget’ and it should not count against the PPC teams’ ROAS or CPA goals.

Note: If you want to understand all the related queries for your site, not just words, we recommend using DSAs (dynamic search ads) to accomplish this goal.

2. Understanding a Change in Query Volume

There are industries that have a lot of potential risk in them. For instance, a car recall can put a large strain on a company. Often these companies want to buy some broad match terms to get ahead of possible product problems and determine if there is something faulty can it be easily fixed, do they have what’s necessary in place to deal with the PR that might arise, and so forth. Buying broad match in these types of industries is a legal and PR measure to understand what might happen and to be ahead of the curve.

3. Advertising to Very Small Geographies

If you’ve been in PPC long enough, you’ve been asked to sell a niche product to a city that’s so small that every relevant word is ‘low search volume’ and there’s no way to advertise to the region effectively. In these cases, you often have to use some broad match just to get enough query volume to make your keywords display. The advantage here is that the competition is usually so light that the bids are very low; so even though you get stuck with a lot of irrelevant queries; you can still maintain acceptable returns for the company’s marketing budget.

4. Multi-Lingual Countries

This is one of my favorite broad match uses – using English words to target non-English languages.

Did you know that broad match can show for the same query in a different language? None of the other match types will trigger ads if the query was done in a different language – broad match is an exception.

In some countries, many search queries are in multiple language, but the country’s inhabitants speak and read English (I’m using English as an example, in many countries this could be French, German, Arabic, etc).

In this account’s target country, there is a lot of Arabic search volume, but everyone speaks and reads English. The ads and landing pages are all in English; and by using English broad matched keywords; we can capture some Arabic search volume and conversions without having to support an entire Arabic account and website.


5. When Queries Cross Languages

What happens when the query is in two languages? I see a lot of queries that contain English and Arabic, English and German, English and French, etc. If you thought years ago trying to manage all the possible misspellings of keywords was difficult (you no longer need to do this – once upon a time you did) – try mixing and matching keywords that comprise multiple languages.

In these cases, broad match is very useful.


6. For Non-Latin Based Languages

As a general rule, the further a languages roots are away from Latin – the better broad match is to try as it often performs closer to modified broad match than what we think of as broad match in English.

Broad match in Spanish performs fairly similar to broad match in English. However, broad match in Arabic, Cyrillic, and many other languages can do quite well.

7. Capturing the Uniqueness of the Long Tail

Modified broad match will capture a lot of the long tail; but not all of it. As voice search changes how people are searching, users are conducting queries such as:

  • What song is this? (i.e. holding up a phone and listening to the radio)
  • Who sings this?
  • Where can I buy it?

In that example, and artist name was never used. A song name was never used. The entire query chain is contextual. As broad match can show for ‘session based matches'; where an ad is shown based upon a previous query (and Google knows the context) some of these new phone interactions aren’t possible to capture with your traditional keywords.

As 15% of search queries have never been done, or haven’t been done in at least 3-6 months; you need broad match to capture the entire long tail. Now, don’t start by just thinking you need all broad match; you must manage negatives with broad match and add queries as they do convert. However, if you want to capture everything (and that includes the bad with the good); then you need to use some broad match.


Broad match in and of itself is not a bad match type.

It’s usage and the expected results are often to blame for how poorly it performs in many accounts.

As a general rule, there are two times to try broad match:

  1. You’re willing to pay to learn something about your keywords or to reach everyone
  2. You’re advertising in languages that are not Latin based

Do you have any favorite broad match uses or horror stories?

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