The Secret Dangers and Advantages of Using Broad Match in Google AdWords

When I first came into the US AdWords market, I was quite surprised by how broad match was used by so many AdWords advertisers. The differences in managing AdWords in a small country like Denmark and managing campaigns in the US, were indeed many.

One difference stuck out the most though. Broad match couldn’t be applied to most accounts. The CTR that keywords in broad match produced, and the subsequent ROI that was derived, were just dismal.

In Denmark, you can still to this day use broad match to some degree of success if you manage your keywords properly. Broad match is great at picking up misspellings, once in a lifetime searches and other hidden gems.

In the US however, many of the advantages that broad match offers, are overshadowed by how they’re abused. While a Danish broad match keyword can be managed with extensive negative keyword research and limited bidding, broad match keywords in the US are almost impossible to generate a sustainable ROI from for your efforts.

I’ve had very few accounts that I’ve managed that have actually resulted in positive ROIs from broad match-based keywords.

Broad Match Isn’t As Bad As Everyone Wants You To Believe

Broad match is by many accounts, awful. I personally partly hate broad match keywords.

What I really love about AdWords is the ability to track changes and make sense of the statistics. Broad match keywords defy my approach to AdWords in some ways.

Broad match keywords are useful if you catch long-tailed and other searches that only occur once or twice a month. Using exact match or phrase match for these keywords is impossible as you’ll get a Low Search Volume and never see the keyword in action.

Broad Match can therefore be used to pick up these long-tailed searches; however this means that you’ll never see the same search generate a sale twice.

Using Broad Match Over Time is a Game of Chance

I like to refer to gambling when I explain broad match keywords. They’re great sometimes, but can be awful as well.

Seeing that you rarely have the same search generate a sale more than once, it’s proves to be very hard to manage a keyword such as that.

You can never scale up broad match keywords because once you’ve added all the searches with high enough volume to your campaign, then all conversions will derive from one-off searches.

If you go a week or two without a couple of one-off searches, that will generate a conversion and the keyword might look pretty bad ROI-wise.

If 10 or 20 of the same broad match (gamble) keywords are suddenly not producing, then you might see a pretty big chunk of your profits go down the broad match drain.

Tips for Managing Broad Match

If you’re just starting out with AdWords, or starting a new campaign, then I rarely recommend using broad match. You have plenty of potential to exploit by solely using phrase, exact and partially, broad match modifier keywords. I recommend starting out with these.

However, if you’ve achieved good results with your current campaign, and want to expand, formulating a good strategy for adding broad match keywords can give you an extra boost in profits.

Always – Always – Use Negative Keywords Aggressively

Negative keywords are your main tool when managing broad match keywords. Broad match can show up on basically any search you’d ever imagine.

I advise you to use negative keywords quite aggressively and never leave an area un-researched.

If you’re advertising for Omega Juicers, then negative keywords like:

> Blender

> Kitchen equipment

> Kitchen tools

> Juice boxes

> Fresh pressed juice…

Are absolutely mandatory to add. You can actually find a lot more and don’t think that you’re going too far in finding negative keywords – you’re not.

Don’t Bid Too High

A common mistake is to have the same bid management strategy for broad match keywords as for your other match types. Broad match has a tendency to see the size of the CPC bid as a range of how broad it can reach to get clicks.

The higher the bid you set, the more searches you’ll eventually show up for. That might not be a good thing.

I usually find the sweet spot between the 4 - 6 ad positions. I rarely get anything out of bidding on a broad match keyword on up to the top 3 ad positions (and believe me… I’ve tried).

Be Very Careful About Sudden Spikes in Clicks

Seeing that broad match keywords can suddenly start showing up for other searches than previously seen for, it’s very important that you regularly monitor your keywords for sudden spikes in click volume.

If a keyword has increased in clicks a couple of days in a row, always look through the See Search Terms Report for searches to exclude.

Broad Match Can Either Help You, or Be a Huge Disappointment

With so many facets to broad match, makes it even more of a mystery for many marketers to unlock. It can however be a highly successful tactic if managed with skill. Otherwise, you’d be missing out by not including broad match in your keyword arsenal.

Broad match can however be the biggest expense in your AdWords account and this makes me advise you to be very careful. Never add too many broad match keywords at the same time and always monitor them closely.

-- About the author, Andrew Lolk is the CMO at WhiteSharkMedia.com; an AdWords agency for small and mid-sized businesses.