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Is Broad Match the future?

Updated: Jul 8

Is Broad Match the future?

Broad match is a trendy topic within the PPC community. Your Google rep keeps pushing you to implement it, and we keep hearing more experts reporting successful stories when using this traditional 'evil match'. The fact is that some industry studies suggest that advertisers who adopt Broad Match see an average conversion increase of 30% at a similar CPA.

Our expert and amusing speaker, Petya Yildizgoren, made it clear in our last PPC Live UK - Broad Match has changed. It is no longer that jerk who only goes after your budget; we can fall back in love with it. So we have asked our PPC community if they are falling in love with this 'converted' match type.

Please, welcome to the stage:

Chloe Varnfield - PPC Manager at Atelier Studios

Thuha Wright - PPC Specialist

Ashton Clarke - Paid Media Team Lead at Knucklepuck

Pauline Jakober - Founder and CEO at Group Twenty Seven

Dennis Anzalone-Keesee - Associate Director of Paid Media at LinkGraph

Fraser Andrews - Head of Paid Media at HDY

Sophie Logan - Head of Paid Media at Victress Digital

Aleksandar Culum - Senior PPC Specialist at Zest Digital

Julie Friedman Bacchini - Managing Director at PPCChat

Amalia Fowler - Search Marketing Strategist at Good AF Consulting

Why are we talking about Broad Match so much nowadays?

Chloe Varnfield - Due to its potential with automated bid strategies.

Thuha Wright - With exact match not being exact match anymore, "death to broad match modifier" and move to modern search structure.

Ashton Clarke - Google continues to push it aggressively, especially with the sunset of BMM keywords.

Pauline Jakober - We've been into it for the last two years, and it has worked well, especially for long-established accounts with mega-negative keyword lists we feel comfortable using. We build up negatives preemptively as much as possible for newer accounts.

Dennis Anzalone-Keesee - Because of the improvement Google made in understanding intent and the importance of it paired with smart bidding strategies.

Fraser Andrews - Not only because Google is moving away from match-type closeness (e.g. exact Match truly meaning exact Match) but also because Google, in general, is moving towards an automated bidding/broad match approach. We know this via Broad match recommendations within accounts.

Sophie Logan - Because platforms seem to be loosening up their definition of what qualifies as a 'broad match, ' advertisers are seeing an increase in completely irrelevant search terms.

Aleksandar Culum - Because they have become smarter.

Julie Friedman Bacchini - Google Ads has been pushing broad match + smart bidding as the "best" strategy for some time now. However, the pressure to use this strategy has increased over the past year as Google Ads has ratcheted up the pressure to use broad match.

Amalia Fowler - Because it is inevitable! It's the future of Google Ads, whether we like it or not, and it still needs to improve at matching relevant terms.

When should we consider a Broad Match approach?

Broad match

Chloe Varnfield - When you've got a large budget, or the product/ service is super niche.

Thuha Wright - If you are finding growth limited.

Ashton Clarke - If you're looking to expand/capture new searches that you might not have gotten otherwise through a phrase or exact match keywords.

Pauline Jakober - my motto is and has always been, if anything has the opportunity to make the client more money - find a way to test it and just do it.

Dennis Anzalone-Keesee - When using Smart Bidding.

Fraser Andrews - I find broad match works well with strong negative keyword lists, top-level automated bid strategies - e.g. maximise clicks - and clear campaign structures that aren't convoluted by things like portfolio bidding or shared audiences.

Sophie Logan - If your Conversions (either their revenue/lead value) can offset the high volume of wasted spend.

Aleksandar Culum - Always, at least, test it.

Julie Friedman Bacchini - Testing broad match makes the most sense if your accounts have higher volume and a short conversion window. Broad match can also make sense to test if you want to gather data on queries quickly.

Amalia Fowler - In an established account with a robust list of negatives and/or where finding additional volume is the goal.

What can go wrong with this approach?

Chloe Varnfield - If you don't monitor the search term report and update negative keywords, this approach can quickly get out of hand.

Thuha Wright - Going over the top with keyword generation.

Ashton Clarke - Can bring in tons of irrelevant traffic, inflate spend, and drive unqualified leads.

Pauline Jakober - you don't know unless you try, test budget approval from the client is a must, and if it fails, we'll try it again later.

Dennis Anzalone-Keesee - Ranking for irrelevant terms when starting to use Broad Match. Negative keyword exclusion needs to be done frequently to train the algorithm faster.

Fraser Andrews - With broad match, relevant search queries will always have an enhanced likelihood.

Sophie Logan - There will always be wasted spend, we can't eliminate it completely. But if you're using broad match and spending more money on irrelevant search terms, it makes little sense to continue using that match type.

Julie Friedman Bacchini - You can get many irrelevant and/or non-converting traffic with broad match. Google Ads wants advertisers to use broad match, smart bidding, and "let the machine learning figure it out." Unfortunately, Google Ads can optimize for the wrong things and burn through a lot of money without delivering on the conversions. So, it is best to test incrementally rather than just switching your strategy entirely to broad match + smart bidding.

Amalia Fowler - If someone isn't paying attention to the SQR, a lot. You can get tons of volume on irrelevant terms, as the matching isn't exactly well done.

When is Broad Match unlikely to be an effective strategy?

Chloe Varnfield - Minimal budget in a very competitive market.

Thuha Wright -

1) When brand bidding. Exact match will help with efficiencies, particularly has high conversions rate

2) When you are triggering competitor searches and get no conversions. These competitors could be indirect competitors.

Ashton Clarke - When the keywords aren't given any guardrails (like negative keywords or layering on audience targeting).

Pauline Jakober - I think the obvious answer is smaller budgets, and clearly, if it's not driving leads/sales, then we pause, but it's still worth testing pausing phrase and exact to test broad for a bit. It can perform better than exact since broad clicks tend to be lower.

Dennis Anzalone-Keesee - For Brand campaigns or if you want to reach exactly specific search terms with no possibility of expansion.

Fraser Andrews - In industries where brand messaging is essential - e.g. legal businesses - OR where contractual agreements are in place to not bid on competition.

Sophie Logan - I do not see it as an effective strategy for B2B lead generation accounts. I've seen too much-wasted spend on irrelevant search terms (such as brands, products and features not remotely related to the client) and have yet to have any broad match Clicks result in a Conversion. This is despite providing first-party data and a scrupulous approach to Negative Keywords. For SaaS, in particular, CPC can be extremely high, and I can't afford to be wasting so much money on poorly matched keywords which don't result in a Conversion.

Aleksandar Culum -

1) If you don't have proper negative keywords in place

2) When you target only one word.

Julie Friedman Bacchini - If you cannot track conversions in your account, broad match is not a good idea. The system needs conversion data to learn from. Similarly, broad match won't learn quickly if your accounts are low volume or have long conversion windows. You'd be better off with either phrase and/or exact match in these scenarios - and since they are fuzzier in their matching, you will get some effectively broad matching even without using it.

Amalia Fowler - If you have limited budget and leads are the goal, you're going to spend a lot of that budget on terms that may or may not be related to what you want to target.

How should we be using Broad Match within our marketing funnel?

The marketing funnel

Chloe Varnfield - The research phase.

Ashton Clarke - Testing.

Pauline Jakober - Probably top funnel, but it can vary based on the business.

Fraser Andrews - I would use it at various points of the funnel. TOFU-wise broad match can be used to discover keyword opportunities (via search queries). Consideration-wise it can be used alongside specific audience groupings to reach users at MOFU points. BOFU-wise, it can ensure reach is solid with RLSA's.

Aleksandar Culum - If you are using audience targeting, you can use Broad Match to bring insights on all funnel steps.

Julie Friedman Bacchini - Broad Match can be great for finding patterns of queries when you need more clarification about how potential customers are searching for what you're selling. And for higher volume and quick converting, accounts can be very effective at capturing demand and driving sales.

Amalia Fowler - It's not a low-hanging fruit tactic, and it's more mid-funnel. But this is also highly dependent on industry, budget, and structure.

What do we do with Phrase Match?

Google logo

Chloe Varnfield - once we have our keywords that convert well, add these as phrase.

Ashton Clarke - Continue to use/prioritize.

Pauline Jakober - great question!

Fraser Andrews - Who knows anymore! We're slowly losing phrase match as a match type with the increase in 'close variants' - I still include these as a best practice, but who knows for how much longer!

Aleksandar Culum - Phrase Match can be used for Brand safety.

Julie Friedman Bacchini - I still use phrase match in my accounts. The way it functions these days is more like the old broad match modified match type, so be aware that you will get broader or fuzzier matches with this match type than in years past! But it will narrow the queries that match to your targeted keywords.

Amalia Fowler - Haha, great question. Nothing, usually. I start with exact match, and if I have a volume issue, then I go to phrase.

Top Do’s and Don’ts when implementing Broad Match

Chloe Varnfield

Do - stay on top of search term reports and update negatives

Do - test it but closely monitor it

Do - make the client/ team aware of the risks and what you are going to do to minimise these.

Don't - leave the account weeks unmonitored.

Don't - implement this if your gut says this is wrong for your account.

Thuha Wright -

Do - use them

Do - add relevant negatives. Use account negative lists to organise and apply to more than one campaign easily.

Do - test with DSA to capture related searches. Some have tested as part of the campaign but as a separate ad group, and some in separate campaigns with mixed results.

Don't - overkill on keyword generation. Sometimes less is more.

Ashton Clarke -

Do - layer audience targeting into the campaign/ad group

Do - review the Search Terms Report and add negative keywords

Do - closely monitor traffic and lead quality.

Don't -"set it and forget it."

Don't - follow Google's recommendations without verifying whether it would help your business.

Pauline Jakober -

Do - if you have a robust negative keyword list, that will be helpful. Audit current negative lists as well to ensure they are not impeding opportunities. New accounts should be handled differently - negative keywords management should be proactive, not reactive.

Don't - let old habits or beliefs stop you from trying this. (if you've been around for a while :)

Dennis Anzalone-Keesee -

Do - Check your search terms regularly and add irrelevant ones as negative keywords.

Fraser Andrews -

Do - ensure negative keyword lists are in place and that campaigns are monitored regularly to check in on performance.

Don't - let them roam free without the above.

Sophie Logan -

Do- I'd recommend creating a Broad Match only campaign, with an allocated 'testing' budget. If the campaign works well, that is great, but at least you aren't compromising your performance by allowing Broad Match to eat up all of your budget.

Aleksandar Culum -

Do - Start with highly relevant keywords, and start with at least an initial starting set of negative keywords.

Julie Friedman Bacchini -

Do - Start with fewer rather than more broad match terms. Give the machine learning a limited runway, so it doesn't go too nuts. Keep an eye on the queries with broad match! Google Ads doesn't want you to add negatives, but you should do so regularly. Eliminate matches you know won't convert as early as possible to get them out of the machine-learning mix.

Amalia Fowler -

Do - For the love of everything, have negative keyword lists! Also, ensure that if you're matching it with an automated bidding strategy that the strategy is conversion based, and you've layered on affinity audiences to keep the searches in the realm of what your customers are interested in.

You can find further information on our match type resources page.

About our experts:

Name: Chloe Varnfield

Department: Digital Marketing

About you: I worked in Digital Marketing for 10 Years and have specialised in PPC for four years agency side. I am passionate about supporting clients to get the best out of their Google Ads


Name: Thuha Wright

Department: Paid Search

About you: PPC Specialist with 16+ years of experience in Travel and Retail.


Name: Ashton Clarke

Department: Paid Media

About you: Ashton, whose core speciality is Paid Search, is the Paid Media Team Lead at a full-service digital agency called Knucklepuck.


Name: Pauline Jakober

Department: Paid Media

About you: I lead a women forward digital marketing agency. We focus on B2B Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads management.


Name: Dennis Anzalone-Keesee

Department: Paid Media

About you: Associate Director of Paid Media @ LinkGraph.


Name: Fraser Andrews

Department: Digital

About you: I have been working in paid media for six years, working across a range of large and small B2B and B2C campaigns. Can often be found deep in an audit sheet!


Name: Sophie Logan

Department: Paid Media

About you: Head of Paid Media at Victress Digital.


Name: Aleksandar Culum

Department: PPC

About you: After years of business experience in many fields, I have found my satisfaction and love in internet marketing, especially in Google Ads platform.


Name: Julie Friedman Bacchini

Department: PPC

About you: Been managing PPC since literally the beginning! Managing Director of PPC Chat - the biggest and most active PPC community.


Name: Amalia Fowler

About you: Amalia Fowler is the owner of Good AF Consulting, a top 25 PPCer and a marketing professor.

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