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I was recently looking at an AdWords account where:

  • The broad match conversion rates were higher than the phrase or exact match keywords
  • The broad match cost per conversion was much lower than the phrase or exact match keywords

The company had therefore bid the broad match much higher than the other match types.

Broad match does not convert higher than phrase or exact match.

There are variations of other search queries that are triggering the broad match keyword to be shown that are actually converting. (As with any blanket statement, there are a few rare exceptions).

Just a reminder, with broad match keywords, you ad could show for related search queries. Just because a keyword is related does not mean it will convert or you even offer that product or service. Broad match is useful to find new keywords because: “20% of the queries Google receives each day are ones we haven’t seen in at least 90 days, if at all?” – source.

For example, if your ad group had these statistics:

Keyword Match Type Conversion Rate Cost per Conversion
coffee mug broad 5% $5
coffee mugs exact 3% $7
coffee mugs phrase 2% $12
blue coffee mug exact 4% $12
red coffee mug exact 4% $6

What is actually happening is that if you were to look into the broad match keyword ‘coffee mug’ and see the variations of searches that is being triggered for this keyword,  you will have a chart like this:

Actual searches triggering the broad matched word ‘Coffee Mug’ Conversion Rate Cost per Conversion
Starbucks coffee mug 1% $9
travel coffee mug 6% $3
tea cup 0% N/A
car coffee mug 4% $6
coffee mug set 2% $8

If you were to see that data, you should add the keywords (and maybe a dedicated landing page) for travel coffee mug, and car coffee mug. There will be decisions to be made about keeping coffee mug set and Starbucks coffee mug. And you probably want to add the negative keyword –tea (and maybe –cup).

How do you learn the search queries for which your broad match keyword is being Displayed?

If you see your broad match converting higher than your other match types (and this is a good exercise to run regardless of broad match converting higher than other keywords):

  • Run a search query report. This report will show you the actual search queries which are triggering your ad to be displayed.
  • Look for the search query variations which are converting
    • Add these variations as keywords (either to that ad group or possibly a new one depending on how related the terms are)
  • Look for variations which are not converting
    • Add them as negative keywords
  • Change your bids so that your broad match is lower than your other keywords. If you bid broad match the highest, you are giving Google the ad serving control. If you have a phrase or exact match keyword – you know more about the user intent and cost per conversion – you should want the more specific variation to show.

Take Control of Your Ad Serving

Its very easy to give Google a significant amount of control for serving your ad. A liberal use of broad match keywords, or bidding broad match keywords higher than your more specific match types – essentially takes the control out of your hands which keyword will be shown for a given query.

You know your business better than Google.

You should know that when someone searches for a given query:

  • Which keyword you want matched
  • What ad copy you want shown
  • Which landing page the visitor will see after the click

If you are not controlling those elements, you have lost some control of your account. Take back the control and you should find yourself with a more successful AdWords campaign.

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