Google AdWords gives pay per click advertisers a wealth of tools to create, test and optimise highly-targeted pay per click (PPC) campaigns. One of the methods of doing so is through match type: exact, phrase and broad. While exact and phrase match keywords are generally more controllable than broad match keywords, broad match can open up your business to a significant number of additional customers – those who might otherwise have been missed if only exact and phrase match keywords were used.

As we consider the pros and cons of each match type, we find that a balance is therefore required between the extra visitors broad match can deliver, and the quality of those extra visitors. In trying to find that balance, we consider a technique called the Broad Match Generator, which uses broad match search queries to generate new exact, phrase, and negative keywords. We see how the methodical process of regularly analysing  search query data, to continually expand keyword lists and ad text relevancy (Broad Match Generation), can help take advantage of the opportunities of broad match while still delivering a strong ROI.

Exact & Phrase Match

Exact and phrase match keywords are typically the most favourable for search marketers, as they allow a high degree of control over the words a searcher has to make in order for their ads to be shown. If your campaign contained the exact match keyword ‘flights to Melbourne’, for example, you can be 100% sure your ad would only appear when someone searches for ‘flights to Melbourne’ exactly.

Phrase match also gives you a high degree of control, and ensures that the words ‘flights to Melbourne’ must be included somewhere in the user’s search phrase. You can therefore be 100% sure you will only receive traffic from searches which include the phrase ‘flights to Melbourne’, such as ‘cheap flights to Melbourne’, ‘flights to Melbourne from Hong Kong’ or ‘low cost flights to Melbourne from China’.

So with exact and phrase match, you have a high degree of control over the search words which will trigger your ads. You can ensure your ads will only be shown on Google for highly-relevant potential customers.

Broad Match

Broad match, however, is not so controllable. Bid for the broad match keyword ‘flights to Melbourne’, for example, and you ads could be shown when someone searches for ‘flights from London to Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne flying club’ or ‘Australian travel deals’. Basically any search term Google believes is somewhat relevant to the keyword ‘flights to Melbourne’.

Not very controllable, you might think, and you’d be right. Why would you risk receiving visitors from people looking for ‘Melbourne flying lessons’, when you can be 100% sure what you’re getting by using exact and phrase matching?

Traffic, stupid!

Broad match isn’t all bad. In fact, it can be incredibly useful. According to Udi Manber, Google’s VP of engineering, 20-25% of search queries each day have never been made before, making it almost impossible to target every potential customer using just exact and phrase match keywords.

No amount of keyword research can predict that someone might search for phrases such as ‘flight prices March 2011 Tokyo to Melbourne’, ‘airlines Melbourne business class from NZ’ or ‘flights around the world via Melbourne’. Broad match can help deliver thousands of additional highly-targeted potential customers, who would otherwise have been missed if only exact and phrase match keywords were used.

So broad match allows you to receive high-quality visitors from search terms you may have missed during your initial keyword research.

But the problem of broad match still remains. Broad match can still send you visitors from hundreds of irrelevant terms such as ‘Melbourne flying lessons’. What a waste of money.

A balance is therefore needed between the benefit of extra visitors from broad match keywords, and the relevancy of those extra visitors. Introducing the Broad Match Generator…

The Broad Match Generator

Since exact and phrase match keywords provide the highest level of control, and allow advertisers to display highly-targeted ads, exact and phrase match searches should account for the bulk of clicks in a paid search campaign. Broad match should only be used as a catch all, to pick up those specific, seasonal and somewhat abstract long-tail searches which were not added as exact or phrase match keywords during your initial keyword research, and as a tool to generate new exact, phrase and negative match keywords.

To see how this Broad Match Generator would work, let’s first look at an example of an excellent user journey.

Example 1 – Exact Match Keyword in Account

Suppose someone searched for ‘flights to Italy from Melbourne’. Also suppose ‘flights to Italy from Melbourne’ exists as an exact match keyword in your Google AdWords account. So when a search is made, your exact match keyword ‘flights to Italy from Melbourne’ is triggered. Not only that, but since the keyword has its own ad group with its own tailored ads, your ad which appears will be highly-relevant and mention the words ‘flights’, ‘Melbourne’ and ‘Italy’, as well as current pricings for the trip. The visitor is then taken through to a landing page which shows details of flights to Italy from Melbourne.

Highly relevant, highly engaging, and likely to result in high click through rate (CTR), high Quality Score, low cost per click prices (CPCs), low bounce rate, high conversion rate and higher return on investment. Fantastic!


Example 2 – Exact Match Keyword not in Account (and search is relevant)

Now let’s see what would happen if a search is matched to one of your broad keywords.

Suppose the search is ‘flights Christmas 2010 to Melbourne’, and ‘flights Christmas 2010 to Melbourne’ is not is your Google AdWords account as an exact match keyword (ignore phrase match for the moment). The search is then matched to your broad keyword ‘Melbourne flights’, and the generic ad for ‘Melbourne flights’ is triggered. The visitor is then taken through to a generic landing page.

Somewhat relevant, you might think, but far from perfect. The searcher explicitly stated they were looking for flights at Christmas 2010, so why not show ads which better answers their question?

This is where the Generator comes in.

For any broad-matched search query, first decide if it is relevant. If it is relevant, then add the search as a new exact and phrase match keyword and give the keywords its own highly-targeted ads in its own ad group.

So the next time someone searches for ‘flights Christmas 2010 to Melbourne’, your ad which will appear will mention the words ‘flights’, ‘Christmas’, ‘2010’ and ‘Melbourne’, and take visitors directly through to a Christmas 2010 Melbourne flight page.

Higher click through rate (CTR), higher Quality Score, lower cost per click prices (CPCs), lower bounce rate, higher conversion rate and higher return on investment.


Example 3 – Exact Match Keyword not in Account (and search is not relevant)

But what if the search query is not relevant, such as ‘Melbourne flying lessons’?

Again, this is easy. When you find a search query which is not relevant to your business, add it (and similar irrelevant searches such as ‘instructor’, ‘jobs’ and ‘careers’) as a negative keyword, to prevent it (and similar irrelevant searches) from triggering your ads again in the future.

The result will be reduced wastage, lower bounce rate, higher conversion rate and higher return on investment.


Two Simple Steps to Ultimate Broad Match Generation

The Broad Match Generation process is very simple. On a regular basis, simply look at each of the search queries that have matched to your broad-match keywords, and make one of two improvements:

  1. If the broad-match search query is relevant, add the search query as exact and phrase match keywords in their own ad group, with their own tailored ads.
  2. If the broad-match search query is not relevant, add the search query as a negative keyword.


Remember, even as you add new exact, phrase and negative keywords, your broad match keywords will continue to match to more and more search terms, so Broad Match Generation is an ongoing process. However, as you increase your number of exact and phrase match keywords, you should see broad match accounting for fewer and fewer of your visitors. A higher proportion of visitors coming through exact and phrase match keywords means you’re more in control of the types of visitors coming to your site and the ads they are shown, and is a sign that your Broad Match Generation is working.

If the Broad Match Generator is carried out regularly, broad match can be extremely effective in helping to target your ads to an increasing number of highly-qualified searchers, while at the same time reducing wastage from irrelevant and wasteful searches.

Broad match should never be used as a long-term ‘set and forget’ keyword targeting strategy; instead, it should only be used to generate new exact, phrase and negative match keywords, and improve the relevancy of your ads. It should only be used as a means to an end – that end being more exact, phrase and negative keywords and better relevancy.

Broad match keywords, left alone, should never be a long-term solution.


As we have seen, ongoing Broad Match Generation is a great way to make use of the extra traffic available through broad match, while at the same time providing a simple and practical means to continually improve the quality of your Google AdWords campaigns. It can help you uncover new seasonal trends and long-tail opportunities (such as ‘Christmas flights to Melbourne’ and ‘flight and hotel packages Melbourne Cup 2011’), and provide you with a great opportunity to provide highly-relevant ads, tailored to these new search terms.

What’s more, since there will also be some difference between your phrase match keywords and the search queries being matched to them, phrase match also presents another great opportunity for similar ongoing refinement. Looking at the searches being matched to your phrase match keywords, and adding new exact, phrase and negative keywords, as well as new tailored ads, can help take your Google AdWords campaigns even further.

And although Google’s recently-announced broad match modifier will help to give you more control over the types of searches being matched to your broad match keywords, ongoing Broad Match Generation will still be an incredibly powerful strategy – not only to help expand your list of long-tail keywords, but also to identify seasonal keywords trends and improve the relevancy of your ads.

Broad Match Generation provides a practical means to continually provide ever more specific and relevant ads to help better cater for the growing demands of searchers and better connect with your target audience. Use it to your advantage and watch how your return on investment from Google AdWords improves.

Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell

14 Years Experience. 10,000 Hours Research & Innovation. Exclusive Self-Built Technology. World-Leading PPC Marketing by Alan Mitchell

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Melbourne, Australia