Using Broad Match Keywords Effectively

When I first started doing PPC, I was under the impression that broad match was a terrible idea, and was to be avoided at all costs. It’s easy to think that. After all, broad match keywords do tend to drive a lot more traffic than their phrase and exact match counterparts, and cost per conversion tends to be higher if your broad keyword drives a lot of irrelevant traffic. But as I’ve become a more seasoned PPC manager, I’ve realized that broad match can be an incredibly valuable weapon in your PPC arsenal. You just need to know how to use it right.

Traffic is both broad match’s strength and weakness. When you build out a keyword list, you’re never going to be able to predict all of the possible search queries that your customers will use to find you. A seven-word-long query featuring a specific US city might be valuable to you, but it’s probably not worth building out ad groups related to every major US metropolitan area, stocked full of long-tail keywords. However, if you have a lot of broad match keywords that match most of the words in the query, you’ll probably get that conversion without going through the hours of effort required to build out all those long-tail groups.

Of course, with that relevant long-tail traffic comes a lot of irrelevant traffic as well. And even worse, a lot of that long-tail traffic is going to be one-shot keywords that will only ever get one click or impression. You may never know if that keyword would convert for you, since you’ll never get enough data for a complete analysis. The key here is to figure out how best to filter out this irrelevant long-tail traffic while keeping the relevant traffic.

Whenever I use broad-match keywords, I use them as a discovery tool. That means that I’m expecting to get a lot of junk traffic from them, but I think that the valuable search query information I get from them is going to make the wasted money worth it in the long run. Here’s what you do:

  1. Create a broad-match “discovery” ad group consisting of 10-20 related broad-match terms.
  2. Let it run for 30 days or so, or when you feel like you have enough traffic for a good data set.
  3. Review your search query report for broad-match ad group over the time it was active.
  4. Weed through the query list to find queries that converted, and queries that drove a lot of traffic but did not convert.

Now, you can add those converting queries to other ad groups, and add all or part of the high-traffic, no-conversion queries to your negative keyword lists. This is a great way to get real, relevant search query information that you know will work for your account. It’s much more effective than relying on third-party tools that can’t provide conversion data.

Phrase and exact match may still tend to provide a better ROI, but don’t feel like you can leave broad-match queries out of your PPC account strategy. You might even find that you get better results with a broad match after all.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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3 Responses to Using Broad Match Keywords Effectively

  1. It’s one of the best ways to research keywords, hands down. Creating ads for broad match is an interesting subject as well. Do you typically create more general ad copy for these broad match campaigns or do you employ the same ad copy that you have in phrase/exact campaigns?

    • Like all ads, I like to incorporate the main ad group keyword within the ad text (preferably the headline). But with broad match, I tend to avoid using dynamic keyword insertion, since that could lead to some irrelevant queries appearing in your ad. It’s a good way to boost CTR, but if you’re getting a ton of irrelevant queries driving that higher CTR, you’re just going to end up getting more junk traffic and increasing your CPA.

      I can see where using more general ad copy could come in handy, but I usually like using the established benchmark of ad copy that has performed well in the past. That might make an interesting test, though.

  2. Makes sense. Broad match on CPA is a tricky animal.