Match types are deceptively simple controls. They’re relatively easy to understand, and almost everyone takes advantage of their basic capabilities.
But the difference between using match types and mastering match types is enormous.
Match types can be used like a machete – to clear large areas while making sure that nothing is missed, or they can be used like a scalpel – to target very specific queries while leaving adjacent queries undisturbed. The best paid search managers use them as both.
Match Types Decide Who’s In Control
The great simplification of a keyword-biased view of paid search is the suggestion that adding keywords to your account determines the people who will see your ads and be attracted to your landing page or website. Keywords determine who might see your ads, but match types decide who will see them.
Keywords without match types are indescriminate. Keywords without match types give the search engines free rein to show your ads, and attract clicks, from just about anyone they want to.
This is because by default keywords are set on broad match. Broad match means that you want the search engine to match your keyword to any related search query. Deciding what is ‘related’ is the job of the search engine, and from a pure semantic and contextual point of view, they do a remarkable job of it.
But for broad really is broad. Most keywords have a massive range of related search queries. And without suggesting malice, the engines have a vested interest in making that range as wide as possible.
As advertisers, we have exactly the opposite goal. We want to show our ads, and pay for clicks, from the narrowest possible range of related queries – just wide enough to include the folks who actually want what we’re offering. If nobody else saw our ads it would be fine with us.
Therein lies the rub. Broad match keywords are huge nets designed to catch everything in their targeted areas – the good, the bad, and the ugly. So they’ll usually deliver some great visitors mixed in with a lot of not-great visitors.
The non-broad match types, by contrast, create focus. When used properly, they exclude the unrelated and inappropriate.
The bottom line is this: broad match puts the engine in control. Phrase and exact match take control back.
Three Rules of Broad Match
Broad match keywords serve an important purpose, and you should use them. But I’d suggest three rules:
- Use broad match keywords as much as you have to, and no more.
- Use any specific broad match keyword only as long as you have to and no longer.
- While using any broad match keyword, try to continually drive down its volume (and probably its cost)
Broad match keywords exist because as a starting point it’s hard to know which search queries people use to express a specific intent. Without this knowledge you have no way of directing search ads towards those people. Broad match keywords give you a way of advertising to them.
The cost is imprecision and therefore waste. Sometimes the good will outweigh the bad, othertimes it won’t. But in either case, the use of broad match should be a starting point and nothing more.
Once you see the search queries that broad match attracts, it’s time to start query-mining:
- Add negative keywords
- Add new phrase and exact match keywords
- Adjust bids on all three match types to reflect their relative importance and returns
Every step along the way, you catch less queries by accident and more queries on purpose.
The Match Type Keyword Trap
Some time ago I wrote a lot about match type and a strategy for using multiple match types together for the same keywords. If you haven’t yet, get our Match Type Keyword Trap whitepaper for details of how to use match types properly.
This work is perhaps the most important campaign optimization a paid search manager can perform. The benefits are extensive:
- You stop paying for bad queries
- You catch a higher percentage of the good queries
- You can pay (bid) appropriately for both the good ones (with high exact match bids) and the bad ones (with lower broad match bids.
- Your new keywords will raise impression share
- Your new keywords will increase impression and click volume
- Your new keywords should earn better quality scores (long story that, we’ll get to it in an upcoming post) which drives position up, cost down, and therefore profits higher.
Alternatively, you can just leave those broad matches alone and hope the people doing unrelated queries just stop searching…
The proper use of match types is so important that all paid search managers should measure use and progress over time. Keep track of the percentage of revenue coming from broad match in each of your campaigns. If it’s over 50%, chances are you have a lot of work to do. The right number varies by business but around 30% is probably a good general target.
In ClickEquations you can use Best Practices to warn you when a campaign has over a specified percentage of broad match revenue. You can also see cost, revenue, and clicks by match type using the Match Type analysis report in ClickEquations Analyst.
Broad match is a powerful tool, but like many others needs to be used wisely and not over-used.
For too long in PPC the assumption was that keywords should be on broad match unless it was perfectly clear or proven that they or versions of them should be promoted or duplicated to the more specific match types. It’s time to start turning that thinking around, and require keywords to prove that they should be on broad match instead.
What Do You Think?
This blog post is part of a series extending and amplifying the ideas in our free ebook ’21 Secret Truths of High-Resolution PPC’.
What they’re saying: “Everything you know about AdWords is the basics Google wanted you to know. Just enough to get you hooked. But what if there was fundamental secrets that they neglected to share? Would you want to know them? Now you can! 21 Secrets Truths is what you must read, no, act on, before your competitors do.”
- Bryan Eisenberg Conversion Expert and New York Times Best-Selling Author ’.
Seen some crazy broad matches lately?
Everyone has, and PPCProz is building a list of the zaniest, so we can all laugh our way to the poor house.
There will always be broad match in every campaign. But if huge portions of your traffic/revenue are coming through broad match you (or your agency) are not working hard enough.
And if you have a lot of broad match it’s certain that you’re:
- Paying too much per click
- Missing a lot of impressions
- Getting useless clicks
- Wasting money
I’ve written extensively about Match Types in the past, and proposed the ‘Match Type Keyword Trap‘ as a guiding principle of how and when to use them and most importantly transition your search queries into phrase and exact keywords, with appropriate bidding.
Broad match is an important tool – it saves time and energy, and provides a place to start.
But mostly – although not entirely – it is a training wheels set you should get beyond for the lion’s share of your PPC spend and revenue.
NOTE: This is part of a post series. It’s available as a single post for easier reading: The Match Type Series.
The first and second posts of this series introduced and expanded on the concept of the Match Type Keyword Trap. In the first, it said:
Over time, by watching the queries that each keyword attracts we can tune this system quite precisely, not only filtering unwanted queries with new negative keywords, but expanding our total volume through quality score and bidding improvements and tailoring the ROI of different query classes.
And promised to expand and elaborate. So here it is:
When you buy the same keyword at different match types, or different keywords and phrases at different match types in a coordinated effort to properly target and value queries, your initial settings will be less than perfect.
You don’t know what queries you’ll see, the price you’ll pay for each, or how they’ll perform in terms of conversions.
But you can monitor and measure each of these over time, and make adjustments to create a more effective trap.
There are three controls you’ll primarily use to tune the trap:
- Negative Keywords - Without question your campaigns will see (and you’ll pay for) queries that are either undesirable or prove to be poor performers. You should continually review query reports and add keywords as negatives either to all appropriate ad-groups, or to those which have bids above the keyword value.
- Add or Move Keywords - As you review the queries caught by each keyword and ad-group, and the performance of both queries and keywords, there will be interesting or well performing keywords which should be moved up the match type & bid hierarchy.
If a query is performing exceptionally well against the Phrase Match option, for example, you might want to create an Exact Match copy of that keyword and give it a higher bid. This should cause that query to be grabbed by your new Exact Match and yet let other matches to that Phrase Match keyword keep matching there.
Well performing keywords in the Broad Match group (which is usually bid particularly low) are especially good candidates to be ‘promoted’ into the higher-bids & more targeted environments of the Phrase Match or Exact Match ad-groups.
- Raise or Lower Bids – Based on your goals (revenue or CPA or ROI or whatever) and reflecting the measured performance of the purchased keywords, find the right shape of the pyramid by bidding good Exact Match performance up and cutting Broad Match bids as you negative out losers and promote winners.
I should have pointed out somewhere earlier, that by far the best way to configure the MTKT is to separately each keyword group with different Match Types into separate Ad-Groups. This makes reporting and measurement easier, and allows you to control negatives at the right level.
As a naming convention , we end each Ad-Group name with a (E) if it holds Exact Match keyword, (P) if it holds Phrase Match keywords, and (B) for Broad Match. This makes is much easier when visually inspecting reports or making account changes.
Success with your MTKT is achieved when you’re attracting only desirable queries and have maximized ROI by setting bids according to conversion profitability.
Reviewing the queries on an ad-group by ad-group basis is the cornerstone of the process. The Exact Match keywords should be clear and profitable. The Phrase Matches should be on target or quickly either promoted to Exact or made into negatives. And the Broad Match should also winnow down in many cases (but not always) through promotion or negative creation.
In some cases the Broad Match ad-groups are ultimately turned off, or left running with extra low bids just to capture any potentially new and interesting queries.
Results are harder to summarize, although as pointed out in the previous post, what you normally shouldn’t see is great variation between the ROI (or ROAS if you must still use that horrid metric) for the different Match Type divided ad-groups.
There are exceptions, but they should be positive ones where Exact Match, or more rarely Phrase Match groups are extremely profitable while others are just normally so. But very low or negative returns are a sign that either the queries being attracted just don’t have potential, or else something later in the chain is wrong – ad-text, landing page, offer, checkout process etc.
In the next post, unless something else comes up we’ll finally cover that Rock Scissors Paper game I promised to disclose.