Over the years, the biggest punching bag in AdWords circles has been the Broad Match match type. Bad queries, low CPA’s, constant maintenance- it’s got a rap sheet a mile long, and the verdict is quite often (in this commentator’s eyes) unequivocally guilty. I’m not here to defend Broad Match’s offenses. They are what they are, and there’s a reason Google uses them as the default. I’m just here to say that Broad Match is a functioning member of AdWords society, and to ignore it is to do so at your peril.The Broad Match match type (and its attendant shadow “Bad Traffic”) has tanked more accounts than probably any other single AdWords problem (and there are a lot of them). The default, broad-match-based account set-up can lead to nightmarish Search Query Reports so terrifying that you’ll immediately swear to never again risk a broad-match keyword. Oftentimes, though, people go too far and tighten up too much. There’s a middle ground, between abject ruin and complete abstinence, where (yes, unmodified) Broad Match can be one of the biggest drivers of sustained account success and growth.
Broad Match’s attendant shadow: Bad traffic!
Always Be TestingA quick word about testing: you’ve got to do it. It’s that simple. Testing can be scary when things are going badly and can seem like a waste of time when things are going well, but either way, you need to throw a little grass in the air to see which way the wind’s blowing. You’ve got to be continually reinvesting in your success. Dedicating a small portion of the budget to a sandbox that sees (or better yet reveals) what works can pay huge dividends account-wide.Every account manager knows this, but few really understand and utilize what this really means. It’s easy to take too much for granted. Testing calls-to-action or landing pages is rarely an issue, but something like a keyword list can be completely forgotten or, worse yet, considered untouchable (and therefore unimprovable). Broad Match is here to help.Its weakness is its strength. Nobody likes that you’ll show up for random queries, but what I like about it is… that you’ll show up for random queries! When it comes to creating an exhaustive keyword list, I’m not so audacious as to believe that I’ve thought of every possible profitable keyword. Google will always do a great job coming up with terms that I never considered (again, both good and bad). Additionally, when it comes to knowing whether they’re actually good queries, I’m definitely not smarter than the entire population searching for my product. Assuming you’ve got the correct conversion tracking metrics in place, the data will tell you what’s good, regardless of how pretty or logical it seems. If “inexpensive foot coverings on the moon” converts cheaply for cheap boots, how else would you know? That “on the moon” query situation, where a totally random, super-cheap, low-competition keyword is discovered, happens way more often in AdWords than people might otherwise imagine. Google will find you some killer keywords that you’ve never thought of, if you’ll only loosen the reins and test a little bit. OK, OK, I’ll test. Now what? Now that we’ve established that keyword testing as a worthy goal, let’s talk about how the judicious use of Broad Match can help you get there: Tiered-Bidding We’re big fans of bidding on keywords in every match type. That means we bid the most for Exact and much, much less for Broad. For example, if you’re bidding $3.00 for [cheap boots], you may bid $2.60 for “cheap boots”, $2.00 for +cheap+boots and $1.45 for cheap boots. This is a strategy outlined in Brad Geddes wonderful book Advanced Google AdWords. We’re showing up high for searchers that we know we want to target, lower for searchers who may want to target, and lowest for searchers who we’re not sure about yet. The low bid also ensures that we’ll invest as little as possible in what is essentially a data-gathering activity, knowing that we’ll take action later once the data has become statistically significant. Additionally, I recommend that this be done for keywords that convert pretty well for you in Exact match, If it’s not converting in Exact, there’s little reason to explore whether it will convert in Broad. Actual volume is unimportant- once you’ve launched a few words in Broad Match the volume will open up considerably. This strategy requires some upkeep. A certain portion of the traffic garnered by the Broad Match keywords is going to be bad, of course, so taking a look at the queries is going to be necessary (somewhere between weekly and monthly depending on your traffic). I’ll talk a little more about the importance of Search Query Reports below. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA): If you want to have a tighter, safer sandbox to play in, throw some Broad Match keywords in an RLSA campaign. This is a recent feature that allows you to have campaigns with their own keyword lists, ads and bids. Your ads are eligible to show after someone has searched for something from your main campaign (or something else you designate). The benefit is that, since they’ve shown interest in your product or service, they’ve pre-qualified themselves to be interested in your product. Or, put another way, you can show up for a whole mess of things in your RLSA campaign only after people have shown that they’re looking for what you offer. If someone searches for surplus combat boots, which is what you sell, you might feel comfortable showing up for boots when they search later as they probably have the same intention (and used a slightly different query this time). Why not put ‘boots’ on Broad Match in the RLSA campaign, since you have no idea what they’re going to type the next time they search? People aren’t robots and don’t always say things the exact same way! That way, you can get an idea of some queries that work to a pre-qualified audience, and can selectively add those as keywords to your main campaigns. Keep it in perspective, however: some keywords (‘boots’) may give you the first benefit of Broad Match (Google putting you in a profitable place) without the second (you’d probably never add boots as a keyword if you sold Surplus Combat Boots). As always, use your discretion here. A word on SQR’s Perhaps this is another blog post entirely, but while we’re redeeming Broad Match, let’s talk a little about those dreaded Search Query Reports as well. Advertisers are often of the perspective that bad traffic is just a sad-but-necessary byproduct of the AdWords landscape. That “doing negatives” is some monotonous task to be delegated to the intern, avoided via an overly-tight account structure, or simply neglected entirely. I would like to present a competing reality. Search Queries are one of the only solid, unambiguous data sets in an account. They are the best places to learn about what’s happening in your account because they are literally a blow-by-blow recounting of what’s transpired. You can use all the predictive tools in the world, but if you don’t use the real data, you’ll never be as good as you could be. Think of it as “doing positives”. The searcher is telling you what they want and then beckoning you to come get them. How can you go get them if you don’t know what they want? Once you know what they want, you can craft a strategy to go get them. Isn’t this fun?
He found some low-competition keywords that convert under his target CPA!
Invest in your successAs mentioned above, your account will never grow to its potential if you’re not consistently investing in its growth. Why guess at keyword opportunities, when, for a small investment, you can gather data to know for sure? I’ve seen many more accounts tanked by people who presumed to know everything about search than by those who tested too much and ended up striking out.A healthy Broad Match strategy is critical to the continued success of your account. Advertisers search high and low for a safe way to take their account one step forward, and after a while, they may find something (or they may not). But if they wont risk taking one step back (or even just a careful half-a-step!), they may miss the opportunity to go 10 steps forward.