5 Steps You Should Take Before Using Broad Match Keywords

By Brad


General, Keywords, PPC Management

Google has once again increased the frequency with which it encourages everyone to use broad match everywhere in their accounts, regardless of the circumstances.

Broad match does have some differences in how it works versus other match types. However, these differences aren’t always advantages. Let’s take a look at these primary differences.

The user’s recent search activities.
Understanding what someone has looked for recently sounds like an advantage, especially during longer search processes. However, for very short buying cycles, this is a disadvantage as you are suddenly showing ads to users who have already finished their buying journey.

For longer sales cycles, this is a benefit.
For short sales cycles, this often ends in wasted spend.

The content of the landing page.
This sounds nice. Google will look at my landing page and expand the search terms my keywords match to based on the landing page’s content. Google learned from DSAs what content to not index in this matching. When DSAs first launched, we’d see search terms like privacy policy and about us. Luckily, this has been fixed.

Pages with dynamic content, short-term offers, or large lists of services performed become problematic. We’ve seen issues where a plumber might have a large number of highly focused ad groups (plumber, emergency plumbing, fixing pipes, fixing showers, installing sinks, etc.) and many of those services on a single page.

Suddenly, your broad match term plumber is showing ads for installing new showers from your plumbing ad group instead of your new shower installation ad group.

If you have highly focused pages, this can be a benefit.
If your pages often change or have large lists of services, products, or locations, this can be detrimental.

Other keywords in an ad group to better understand keyword intent
This sounds great. Let Google examine my other keywords so that they can better understand the type of search terms I’m targeting. If you have unfocused ad groups (which you shouldn’t), this becomes a problem since you are sending mixed signals to Google.

Unfortunately, this happens when you are taking Google Reps’ advice to collapse your ad groups together with a single RSA and let Google figure out the search term and ad serving. We’ve seen time and time again that one of the biggest RSA issues (and also broad match) is poorly organized ad groups. If your reps are pushing you to use fewer ad groups with large lists of keywords, take a look at this article: One of the Biggest Mistakes with RSAs is Ad Group Organization.

If someone has good organization, the complaints about this aspect of broad match usually come into play if you meet one of these scenarios:

  • Sell highly technical products (such as medical equipment).
  • Have niche keywords that Google doesn’t understand.
  • Have jargon or buyer agent terms.
  • Using lists of numbers or product part numbers.
  • The advertiser is being ultra-specific with B2B keywords in reaching the correct audience.

There are other factors that can help you determine if you should use broad match or not, such as the bid method or impression share data.

Impression Share

Impression share is the percentage of times your ad was displayed when it was eligible to show an ad.

Campaign Impression Share

You lose impressions because your ad rank is too low to serve an ad in that auction or because your budget is too low to show ads all day long.

If you have a low impression share, you often want to remove your worst converting keywords, so you spend your budget on your top performing keywords.

There is an exception to this rule that occurs when your top keyword level impression shares (as opposed to ad group or campaign level impression shares) are very high. In these cases, you need to use some lower performing keywords that might have much lower impression shares to reach your account goals.

The other exception occurs when most of your impression share loss is due to ad rank, you have high Quality Scores, and you can’t afford to raise your bids. In this scenario, you can’t increase your impression share (unless you can increase conversion rates or make other changes), so you will need to expand your keywords or match types to get more impressions.

If your impression share is very high and you want even more, then you need to add more keywords or expand the match types of your keywords. If you want more information on how to work with impression share, please see this article: How to use Impression Share Analysis to Get More Google Ads Conversions.

As we look across thousands of accounts and many keywords, we always see that at a very high level, the best CTRs and conversion rates come from exact match, then phrase match, and finally, broad match.

While everyone’s data is a bit different, for people who use almost the same keywords in every match type, this is directionally common data (this data does not include any brand terms).

Match Types

This leads us to a few simple rules:

If your impression share is high, you want to expand your keywords or add keywords in additional match types, such as phrase or broad match. This does assume the proper bid method is being used, which we’ll talk about shortly.

If your impression share is low, then you want to remove your worst keywords or match types. If you have mostly broad match terms, then you can change them to exact and/or phrase match so you are ensuring your budget is being spent on our top keywords.

Beyond impression share, your bid methods determine the efficacy of your broad match keywords.

Bid Method

Google has been upfront that to use broad match you should use an automated bid method. Google needs a feedback loop (your conversion data) to understand how to expand and bid broad match keywords.

That means if you are not tracking conversions or you are bidding manually, you should not use broad match.

However, you must also be using a bid method that cares about your target CPA or target ROAS. With max revenue or max conversion bidding, Google wants to get you the most possible regardless of how much it costs you.

Since broad match can continually be expanded to find new search terms, the ‘max’ bid options often result in spending your entire budget, even if you are adding very few additional conversions or revenue.

This can sometimes be OK with small budgets. With larger budgets, the max bid options often result in broad match wasting a lot of your budget.

Therefore, it’s best to use broad match when you are using Target ROAS or Target CPA bidding.

If you want to learn more about max vs. target bidding and the math behind it, as well as more details about using the broad match by bid method, we have a video that goes deep into this data.

Search Term Management Processes

With any match type, but especially with broad match, you must have a process in place to manage search terms. You should regularly examine the search terms to ensure they are relevant and add negative keywords as necessary.

Ideally, you will use n-gram analysis to find patterns across your search terms in managing negative keywords and finding insights into what new ad groups to build.

Exceptions to the Above Rules

There are always exceptions, and that includes when you should use broad match. The advantage of broad match is that it can match to additional search terms, which increases the overall search volume.

If you are advertising to a small population and having issues getting search volume, then broad match can be useful. The same goes for niche businesses that have problems finding search volume.

In these cases, you are probably using a ‘max’ bid type since you don’t have enough conversion data to use a ‘target’ bid type. You have so few impressions you aren’t making many decisions based on impression share since the data is so sporadic. It is OK to keep using max bidding in these instances.

You must still manage your search terms and ensure you are showing for searches related to your business.

However, if you struggle with volume, then broad match can be useful.

Lastly, don’t fix what isn’t broken. If you are using max conversion bidding and broad match and it is working for you, you might experiment with switching bid methods or match types, but if it is working, then be happy, and don’t break the machine, as it can be temperamental.


Broad match is not inherently good or bad—it’s just another tool for optimizing campaigns.

Before you use it, you should be:

  • Tracking conversions
  • Use a ‘target’ bid method (optional, but highly suggested)
  • Have high impression shares on your top keywords
  • Have a process to manage search terms
  • Ideally, you are examining n-gram data

If you meet that criteria, then including broad match in your account can be a useful experiment. We see many accounts that meet the above criteria, and broad match does very well.

Conversely, we see many accounts that use broad match without meeting these criteria, and broad match can really drag down their performance.

Hopefully, these guidelines can help you decide when to try broad match and see how it performs for you.

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