When a user visits Google and Bing to perform a search, they enter a string of words that indicate what it is they’re seeking to find. These may start off very short and generic (i.e. “music”), but will increasingly get longer and more specific (i.e. “French jazz music”) as the user tries to hone in on what they’re after.
Regardless of the length or specificity of their search term, this user will often see ads in addition to the organic listings the search engine returns for any given query. Google shows these ads based on what terms advertisers are trying to match a query too. Since it is mathematically impossible to know what every unique query will be, Google and Bing offer a variety of match types that allow advertisers varying degrees of control when their ad will show. These range from exact (must explicitly match the search term) to broad (loosely related to the search term).
But this isn’t an article comparing different match types, it’s about why using the broad match type is a recipe for failure.
What Is Broad Match?
Imagine you’re at a restaurant and the waiter asks to take your order. You reply “I’d like a plate of food.” The waiter will likely make some suggestions or offer you the day’s special, but rarely would they simply bring you a random plate of food. They know most people have tastes and preferences that won’t align well with a random choice.
This scenario is essentially what happens on a daily basis in the world of Google Ads and Bing Ads, where advertisers request to show their ads in a very undefined way with a low degree of relevance to the user’s query.
Because ads triggered by broad match frequently show up for any number of obscure or unordinary search queries, they are clicked much more often than one would expect – especially when those ads are particularly vague or open-ended. A single broad match keyword can rack up thousands in ad spend in a manner of days or weeks, depending on the market competition for that keyword (and its associated matches).
Suppose you were bidding on the keyword ‘french jazz music’. This could return:
- french kiss movie soundtrack
- french fries DJ
- french street music new orleans
- smooth jazz music
- …or any number of loosely related queries
Why Is Broad Match Used
Both advertisers and agencies will champion the use of broad match as a “keyword research tool.” Their argument is that broad match will capture a wide array of search terms, which can then be added as exact match keywords in the campaign.
This is akin to trawl or gillnet fishing – essentially trying to capture a vast array of marine life and only keeping those you can sell at market.
One key problem with this method is that it can be very expensive and – with a variety of free or cheap keyword research tools available – very unnecessary. If you’re paying an agency to run your paid search campaigns, they shouldn’t be spending your budget doing keyword research. Keyword research is their job.
The other problem with broad match is how your brand is presented in conjunction with undesirable search queries. Suppose you show high-end shoes. If your ads show for “used shoes”, “cheap shoes”, or “ugly shoes.” How does that exposure correlate with the user’s first impression of your brand?
This unfortunate juxtaposition of your brand to unfavorable search terms is compounded when your broad match triggered ads are using Dynamic Keyword Insertion, which inserts whatever the user searched for into your ad. This not only can turn an ad impression into a nightmare scenario, but can also inflate the click-through-rate on these ads, since users think the website is offering what they seek.
A digital advertising agency worth their fees takes the time to not only perform independent keyword research, but to understand your brand and the search user’s intentions to craft an ad experience that is not only relevant, but presents a strong first impression of who your brand is and what you’re offering.
When Is Broad Match OK To Use?
Broad match is never a good idea to use on its own, but Google and Bing do offer a way to use this match type in a more targeted manner. This is called broad match modified and the difference is that these words are required to be in the search query in any given order. In other words, a keyword marked +French +jazz +music would return searches for:
- French jazz music
- Jazz music from French musicians
- Music that is similar to French jazz
- Music video of a man playing jazz with a French bulldog
Not all of these will be fully relevant to an advertiser selling French jazz vinyl records or a venue hosting French jazz music nights, but we’re much closer to the ballpark than the potential matches for unmodified broad match.
How Do I Stop? What Do I Do Instead?
If you’re using unmodified broad match, take a peek into your search terms report (under Keywords > Search Terms) to see just how off-base your current advertising is. Remember, that even the terms that only get one click, can add up over time – racking up thousands in completely irrelevant ad spend and traffic that isn’t your target audience.
Convinced yet? Turn those broad match terms off or convert them to phrase match and exact match keywords. These tell Google to only show ads when those terms are explicitly included in the search query.
This is also a good time to review your overall targeting and campaign structure. Are your ads equally relevant to all of the terms in their respective ad group? Do your ads include most (if not all) of the keywords in that ad group? If not, it’s a good idea to reevaluate how you’re structuring your campaigns.
Put yourselves in the shoes of the search user. If you searched each of those keywords, does your ad seem relevant and interesting and want you to take action and see what the site has to offer them?
Where Do I Turn?
If you’re struggling with how to transition from broad match to a more coordinated, strategic Paid Search approach, get in touch with us. We’re happy to help!