Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Broad Match Keywords

Like most people, it's hard for me to give up control. On anything.

When I came to Seer 6 months ago and learned that there were clients running broad match keywords on Google, and they were actually working better than the historically recommended phrase and exact match types, I couldn’t help but feel slightly panicked and suspicious. If you’re like me, broad match keywords have long been heavily discouraged due to a high risk of mapping to irrelevant/extremely broad and expensive queries. I had to figure out how and why this was working.

Although there are many possible ways to test broad match keywords, we will look specifically at an incremental method we used for a mid-sized healthcare client and the results that we saw. This is a low-risk option and a great way to get a feel for how broad match keywords will perform in your account. Additionally, we will outline two other untested methods that could spark ideas for future broad match testing. Depending on your appetite for risk - one of these options could work for you.

Our Method: Incremental Testing on Select Top-Performing Phrase & Exact Match Keywords for Under-pacing Campaigns (Spend or Conversions). 

The most conservative way of testing broad match keywords is starting small with top-performing phrases or exact keywords and working your way out from there. For this particular healthcare client, we started with a campaign that was underspending and a big pain point within our overall strategy. 

Phase 1 (1 Week): One broad match keyword

With launching just one broad match keyword, we were able to receive an increased volume of conversions and clicks at a more efficient CPA.


Phase 2 (1 Week): Five broad match keywords

Pleased with the results we saw in phase 1, we decided to increase the broad match keywords from 1 to 5 keywords. By increasing the amount of broad match keywords, we were able to drive even better results for our client on this campaign at a greater efficiency. When looking at just the broad match keyword performance, we saw a CPA of $34.21 compared to the campaign CPA of $92.32.


Phase 3 (2 Weeks): Seven broad match keywords

Based on these continued positive results, we decided to bring our broad match keyword total from 5 to 7 and pull a longer time period to observe trends. As you can see from the table below, the positive performance continued and these keywords have become a part of our permanent strategy. 


Future Considerations for Testing:

  • Layering on audiences to further tailor broad match ad groups or campaigns. In my opinion, audiences are arguably one of the most underutilized aspects of Google Ads. Underutilization can be due to lack of knowledge, restrictions on your targeting capabilities, or just having a major trust in your keyword list alone. Using this strategy, you’re balancing out two aspects of Google Ads in a way you might not have ever thought about before: harnessing broad match keywords with targeted audiences most relevant to your business. 
  • Campaign-level Broad Match and Brand Control. This is a new feature that Google just rolled out in beta, so you might not have access to it yet, but this feature would update your entire campaign to broad match keywords and prohibit brand terms from matching back to the campaign. You must be willing to run a whole campaign on broad match and you must be using smart bidding. This strategy requires consistent monitoring to ensure positive performance.


Why utilize broad match keywords over phrase and exact match anyway? 

Google has improved their broad match keyword algorithm to allow clients to reach relevant audiences with a smaller set of keywords. This lessens the level of account maintenance and allows for more account strategy. 

Broad Match Test for Success Checklist: 

  • Ensure Conversion Tracking is in Place and Working Properly

    • If not already set up, it is good to get your conversion tracking in place and make sure it’s tracking properly. Not only that, but you need to make sure that your conversion volume is at least 50 conversions to be able to take full advantage of smart bidding.

  • Decide on a Test Budget

      • Broad match keywords can get expensive. It’s important to set expectations and a reasonable test budget and timeline with your client if you have concerns about impacting performance.

  • Make Sure You Have Solid Negative Keyword Lists in Place

      • Broad match keywords are also…well, broad. Although the algorithm has improved and the queries are more relevant, it is still important to have comprehensive negative keyword lists in place at the campaign and ad group level.

  • Monitor Search Queries and Spend Consistently. 

    • Once launched, make sure that you are watching performance and search queries closely and adding additional negative keywords where needed. You are giving Google the opportunity to reach as many people as it can with your broad match keywords, so there is that much more of a need for human eyes.

Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New

Every method that we covered has its pros and cons. As long as you maintain a human touch in this heavily automated world, you’ll be able to test broad match keywords and much more successfully all while reaching your marketing goals. 


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Jess Henderson
Jess Henderson
Associate, Paid Media