If you manage a PPC account, you know that for several years now AdWords has had three match types: exact, phrase, and broad.  You also know what they mean and how your keywords are matched to search queries.  Up until a couple of years ago, broad match meant that the keywords in your phrase were matched to queries that had all of your words in any order.

Then, broad match became "expanded broad match" where Google's algorithm was given free reign to decide if search queries were a close enough match in search intent to show your ad.  Many of the results were not even close.  Your keyword could be business cards and your ad would show on state ids and business plans.

The overwhelming advantage of broad match of course is that you get more impressions, clicks and conversions; although you most likely would have a lower conversion rate that will make you pay more for each conversion.  So for some it works and for some not so much.  The major disadvantage is that you have to spend time going through your search queries very often to weed out those that are not applicable to your business because you paid for clicks state ids and business plans.

But now, Google has given us another option that offers more flexibility in balancing the tension between traffic and relevance; the old broad match and expanded broad match.  It's called modified broad match.  This option has greater reach than phrase match, but is more controlled than broad match. 

How? With this match type, if you put a plus (+) sign in front of a word in your phrase, AdWords will only match your keyword to search queries that contain that word exactly or contain a close variation of the word.

Google defines a close variation as "misspellings, singular/plural, abbreviations/acronyms, stemming (like "floor" and "flooring") and synonyms.  They say related searches like "flowers" and "tulips" are not considered close variations.

So basically they are allowing advertisers to choose between the old broad match, newer broad match, or a combination of the two.  You can choose to "bring in the reins" so to speak on broad match and decide which words in keyword phrases are necessary in the search query for their ad to be triggered.  So, you could do this:

business +cards

This means card will not be matched with id or plan but only cards exactly or close variations of it (card, etc.).  Now, this still means that you could get matched to id card; so if you want to further filter your possible matches, you could go with:

+business +cards

This functions like the old school broad match.  Now business will always mean business and cards will always mean cards.

This really takes the realistic number of possible match types up to 6 or 7.  Here's a really cool graph that shows the match types, their relative reach and an initial bidding strategy for each.

Match Type Graph.gif

If you would like to test these match types out, choose a couple ad groups where you are struggling, copy them and use the new ad groups to replace your broad match keywords with modified broad match.   Modify your broad match keywords and set their bids between the your broad match and phrase match keywords.  Then, after enough data has collected you can analyze search queries and conversions of each ad group to see the results and adjust using your reports.

September 3, 2010

Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.

Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.


Great post!

This is going to save me a lot of time. My usual routine was broad keywords + search query report tool + negative keyword matches (see what i did there)

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Fleming > Google Improves Control of PPC Exposure With Modified Broad Match