Google Broad Match – Best Friend or Worst Enemy

Paul Shearing

Head of Analytics


Spend 10 minutes looking for information on Google’s broad keyword match type and you will come across hundreds of articles and forum entries. Most of them seem to be dead set against using it stating that it performs badly and is a waste of money. While others seem delighted at the results they are getting. Does it just work for some and not others? The truth is that Google’s expanded broad match type is a very dangerous thing but, once you understand it, can be a very powerful tool in a pay per click managers toolbox.

This article will explain what the broad match is, how it works, the pros and cons and, more importantly, how it should be used in an Adwords PPC campaign.

What is a broad match keyword?

I won’t bore you with too much detail about something you probably already know but basically:

Exact Match: The user search query must be exactly the same as the keyword for your ad to show.

Phrase Match: The user search query must contain the keyword, in the same order, for you ad to show. Searchers can add stuff the the front or end though.

Broad Match: Your ad will show when a search query contains your keywords (in any order), including misspells, and plurals. It will also show for synonyms and other relevant variations.


Keyword Match Type Ad, might show when a user types

Golf Equipment Exact, Golf Equipment

Golf Equipment Phrase, Cheap Golf Equipment or Golf Equipment Shops

Golf Equipment Broad, GolfEquipment, Golfing Equipment, Golf Gear, Ping Equipment or Top Flite X2

More info in Google’s help

Why the Google Broad Match is a Good Thing

  • It’s often to hard to guess all misspellings and variations of a search term
  • It often brings in a lot of relevant traffic where there is a large tail’ in search behaviour
  • It can give you visibility to keywords or search patterns that you have missed.

The Dangers of the Google Broad Match

  • There is a lack of visibility into what people are actually typing.
  • You lack control over where your ads are shown. Letting Google choose can be expensive!
  • Google’s definition of relevant and your definition are usually vastly different.

Google bang on about how it is in their interests to provide only relevant ads to a user. This is true and I actually believe they are trying hard and mostly doing it well. But the reality of it is that the algorithms that determine what is relevant and what is not are not perfect and often get it wrong. Here is the reason why:

The main factor that is used to determine if an ad is relevant to a user search phrase is the click through rate (CTR). It is often the case that an ad can look appealing to a searcher and get clicks, but the website will not provide what they are looking for. To use an example, a company offers monkey cleaning services’ and puts an ad on Adwords offering this with only the broad match keyword monkey cleaning services’. Most people clean their own monkeys so the majority of people typing in monkey cleaning’ on Google are only looking for information on how to get the cleanest monkey etc. However, an ad showing services would still look appealing and might get clicked as people may perceive the website as having information that is useful to them. Hence there is a very good chance Google would show the ad for people typing in monkey cleaning’ on its own.

Again using the golf example above, it is easy to see why someone would click a Golf Equipment’ ad when they are looking for a Top Flite X2′ golf club.

The important thing to note here is that synonyms and other relevant variations’ might not be traffic you want or might be traffic you are not willing to pay as much for.

How to get the most out of a broad matched keyword

I have highlighted why the Broad match keyword is a good thing above but not why it is a bad’ thing because I don’t believe it is. I have only pointed out the dangers. If it is used correctly the broad match can be highly valuable. The method we recommend is as follows:

1. Plant the seed – Bid for your best terms on a broad match with the intention of seeing what they generate in terms of ROI, volume and actual search phrases. We call this a seed keyword’.

E.g. Golf Equipment’

2. Analyse the actual search phrases people are typing and assess its quality to you.

Most analytics packages allow you to do this if set up correctly. You should be able to drill down into actual search phrases’ from a campaign, ad group or individual keyword. This will allow you to see what people are actually looking for.

E.g. –

Keyword = Golf Equipment’

Search Phrase Visits Sales Avg Time On Site

Golf – 500 – 4 – 1 min

Golf Equipment – 500 – 20 – 3 min

Golf Gear – 150 – 10 – 4 min

Golf Holidays – 20 – 0 – 20 sec

Golfing Equipment – 50 – 2 – 3 min

Ping Clubs 20 – 0 – 3 min

Top Flite X2 – 5 – 1 – 5 min

Ram FX9 Driver – 5 – 1 – 5 min

You can see here that there is traffic that you want and is pretty much what you were expecting, traffic that is not wanted at all and traffic that you should be valuing differently and willing to pay more per click to get more of it.

3. Add Negatives

From the step above you can now add negatives that you never want to pay for again.






Ping (a decision not based on the stats – but you don’t sell Ping gear)

4. Add Missed Keywords

All the keywords (as long as they have significant volume) you can see people typing should be added as exact match terms to get more control over them.


Golf Gear and Golfing Equipment might be added as exact match keywords to the same ad group.

The search phrase Golf’ seems to have some value as it got some sales but the conversion rate is a lot lower and so you should add this keyword on it’s own to allow you to bid appropriately for that traffic on its own.

Seeing Top Flite X2′ and Ram FX9 Driver’ might make you think that you have missed a significant segment of the search market when you originally created your campaign. You might decide to create specific ad groups and keywords to cover these terms and other products you sell.

We call the above process Keyword Cleaning’. The eventual aim should be to look at your AdWords report and see the majority of the traffic is coming through exact match keywords.


The overall conclusion is that broad matched keywords are a great idea to someone educated with the facts and willing to check that the traffic is what it seems. But be careful!!

I would be keen to hear how others have found the broad match, along with examples of the crazy search phrases Google was showing your ads for.