Include both broad and exact matches for a primary keyword phrase in your ad group. A primary keyword phrase is a short (usually 1 or 2 keywords) phrase that has a high search volume. Consider this example of the top 10 keyword search counts (data from for the "womens clothing" phrase:

411711 womens clothing
109985 womens clothing shop
17566 plus size womens clothing
12572 womens sports clothing
9042 womens clothing catalog
5992 womens clothing store
5908 tall womens clothing
3906 sexy womens clothing
2945 wholesale womens clothing
2385 womens petite clothing

The keyword phrase "womens clothing" is the primary phrase. Note that if you add up the searches performed for secondary phrases 2-10, combined they don't even equal half the search volume of the primary phrase. Set a higher bid for the exact match on the primary keyword phrase. The exact match gives you greater control over the primary keyword phrase while the broad match draws additional traffic from secondary keyword phrases. Why is this important?

1. The exact phrase is often more valuable than broader phrases.
2. The exact phrase is often more expensive than broader phrases.
3. You can control the position of the ad for the exact search.

Let's look at an example to address these points in detail. We'll use a fictitious ad group with a default bid of 10 cents, populated with these keywords for a company selling clothing for women:

womens clothing
womens clothing shop
womens clothing store
womens clothing catalog

Bidding on the broad phrase "womens clothing" will cause the ad to be seen for broad phrases such as:

wholesale womens clothing
discount womens clothing
tall womens clothing
womens clothing online

If the store has a limited selection of "tall womens clothing" then that phrase is less valuable than the "womens clothing" exact phrase. It would be desirable to pay less for the broader phrases. Note that there will likely be some broader phrases that could be more valuable than the high volume primary phrase, particularly for niche retailers. Those keyword phrases should also be included as both exact and broad matches in the ad group. Since there are hundreds of broad phrases that could trigger this ad, an ideal way to separate the bids is to bid higher for the exact phrase. The ad group could be updated to include this set of keywords:

womens clothing
[womens clothing] ** 0.50
womens clothing shop
womens clothing store
womens clothing catalog

Now, the company's ad will show for both a "tall womens clothing" and a "womens clothing" search, but the company will only pay up to 10 cents for a click on the former and up to 50 cents for a click on the latter. If the company doesn't sell "wholesale womens clothing" then "-wholesale" should be added as a negative keyword.

Other companies will also have figured out that the exact phrase "womens clothing" is more valuable than many of the longer, broader phrases. As evidenced by the high search volume on the "womens clothing" keyword phrase, many shoppers will start their searching with that particular phrase. The company selling womens clothing will want to be visible in those search results. A higher bid will be necessary to maintain the ad's position for this keyword phrase. That's another reason to bid separately on important exact phrases. The person managing the Google advertising account will see this sort of information (this is a fictional example) when logging in to the Google AdWords system and viewing the ad group:

Keyword Status Current Bid Clicks Impr. CTR Avg. CPC Cost Avg. Pos
womens clothing Active $0.10 123 4,321 2.8% $0.08 $9.84 10.2
[womens clothing] Active $0.50 42 1,234 3.4% $0.47 $19.74 3.4
womens clothing shop Active $0.10 11 280 3.9% $0.10 $1.10 8.7
womens clothing store Active $0.10 7 111 6.3% $0.07 $0.49 6.8
womens clothing catalog Active $0.10 3 98 3.1% $0.05 $0.15 4.0

A quick glance at the screen shows them that the ad has an average position of 3.4 for the "womens clothing" exact phrase. If they're not happy with the position, they can increase the bid. For phrases like "womens clothing store" they would have to perform a search on Google to see where the ad stands since that keyword phrase isn't isolated via an exact match. If they changed the bid on the broad match, they'd be changing the ad's position for "chicos womens clothing store" and "womens clothing store in canada" and a huge range of possible broad searches which might not be advantageous. A more realistic ad group keyword list would look something like this:

womens clothing
[womens clothing] ** 0.50
womens clothing shop
[womens clothing shop] ** 0.30
womens clothing store
[womens clothing store] ** 0.30
womens clothing catalog
[womens clothing catalog] ** 0.40

If the impressions are much higher for broad match versus exact match for a particular keyword phrase, use web analytics to see which actual search phrases are being clicked. Then, analyze those keyword phrases to see which phrases are valuable either by tracking the conversions or by guessing what might convert well. The same tactic can be used for keyword phrases deemed less valuable. Set a lower bid for these as exact match. Over time, your ad group's keyword list will grow longer as you separate bids for exact and broad match. Your ad group will become more effective and more profitable. Plus, you'll be able to see at a glance how your important keywords are performing.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas Forum.
December 7, 2005

Richard Ball founded Apogee Web Consulting LLC, a full service search engine marketing firm, to help businesses succeed on the internet. Apogee Web Consulting provides strategic internet marketing services including pay per click advertising, search engine optimization and shopping search engine submission. All search engine marketing services begin with a foundation of keyword research and web log analysis. Use the company's free search engine marketing tools.

Prior to starting Apogee Web Consulting, Richard was a software developer for America Online. He has a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT.

Search Engine Guide > Richard Ball > Google AdWords Marketing: Exact Match Bidding