Don’t Dismiss Broad Match: It’s Come A Long Way

shutterstock_151635734-redcarA red car is a red car. Unless it’s a maroon sedan. Or a crimson convertible. Or a burgundy truck.

Or, for that matter, a red car.

Search marketers know that bidding for exact search terms — a [red car], for instance — yields a high degree of precision, reaching searchers who are very specific with their query.

But what about searchers that mean [red car], but choose to use different terminology? Or who perhaps even misspell what they are looking for? That’s where broad match search comes in. Broad match uses search algorithms to determine when a user query is related to a marketer’s desired keywords regardless of whether the search term is the exact one. As a result, an advertiser can increase the number of opportunities for an ad to appear based on relevant – not exact – search queries.

Find New Customers With Broad Match

Broad match has gotten something of a bad rap; but, I view it as an important way for marketers to find new customers. Here at Bing Ads, we’ve seen that ad campaigns that utilize broad match drive as much as 57% of their total impressions and 43% of their clicks with it. Importantly, those impressions and clicks aren’t going to competitors.

Moreover, each day some 30 percent of the searches undertaken by our users have scarcely been seen before – a percentage that increases around the holidays. How is it even possible to create an exact match campaign that will capture them?

Broad match not only deepens the pool of potential customers, it does so affordably. True, acquisitions driven through broad match search matches may cost some advertisers slightly more on a CPA basis, but as long as you are adding scale at a profitable margin vis-à-vis other channels it is a worthwhile investment. Gaining those extra customers and sales by combining broad match alongside your exact match can more than makes up for a slightly higher cost.

Vertical Insights

Our experience clearly shows that adding broad match to an advertising campaign significantly boosts clicks and conversions, but those opportunities can differ from vertical to vertical. Here is a graphic that articulates what advertisers are missing by not adopting broad match based on what I am able to see in the Bing Ads platform (click on the image to see a larger version):

Broad match adoption impact on vertical industries within Bing Ads.

Broad match adoption impact on vertical industries within Bing Ads.

A few key callouts:

  • In the Health & Wellness category, adopting broad match can deliver 94 percent more clicks than exact match campaigns. Overall, there are 41 percent of untapped conversions available when broad match is added.
  • In CPG, broad match searches can yield 34 percent more clicks than exact match. Here, broad match yields 65 percent untapped conversions.
  • And in Automotive, broad match results in 33 percent more clicks than exact match, and 79 percent more than phrase match. Broad match adds 42 percent of untapped conversions.

We’ve see similar results in entertainment, retail, telecommunications, travel and other vertical markets.

Understanding Broad Match

So what’s the hitch? Well, broad match, unlike other products that cover a narrower scope, has been susceptible to misperceptions, especially in the early days of development. What I know from talking with our advertisers is that the current state of broad match maturity is not always well understood. In particular, there are misperceptions around broad match’s relationship to Quality Score, and to the relative matching quality of broad match.

First off, advertisers should know that broad match does not impact exact or phrase match Quality Scores. A Quality Score calculation is very complex, and there is no simple correlation between the broad match QS and that of other match types.

You will often see that your Quality Score on broad match is lower than your Phrase or Exact match types. This does not impact the quality of your campaign nor the performance of your other keywords. In general, a lower than desired Quality Score should be considered an opportunity to refine a keyword strategy. It’s important to evaluate Quality Score at the most granular levels and compare it only to other broad match type keywords.

The other common misperception has to do with broad match quality. As touched on above, broad match wasn’t always all that accurate in the early days. What many advertisers do not realize is that a lot of investment has gone into making broad match more effective since that time, including improvements in click prediction modeling, conversion and click quality metrics, offline and online algorithms, and filtration levers.

All of this vastly reduces the risk of poor clicks and ads being displayed on inappropriate search queries. Today, the Bing Ads platform, for example, is able to deliver broad match conversion metrics that are on average 85 percent of those of exact match.

New Interfaces & Customer Trends

As the world of search is redefined, new interfaces will surface that will only add to the problem of effectively reaching new customers at scale. People have been trained to use few, basic words when conducting a search through their browser.

But how does that change as search becomes an integral part of new devices? The search query on Google Glass, Xbox One and the next generation of Smart Watches are going to shift the paradigm from what we have become accustomed to and require us to adapt to new norms – broad match can help to keep advertisers in front of these opportunities.

In addition, as consumers start to evolve away from these basic search query impediments and interact with the search engine in a more natural, conversational way, it will be nearly impossible to capture the magnitude of search query variables without the use of broad match. New devices, new interfaces and changes in consumer behavior are fueling what’s next in search and search advertising.

Broad Match Best Practices

It’s easy to add broad match to your search marketing strategy. Some best practices include:

  • Opt-in to broad match to get maximum reach and retain great quality for other match types.
  • You can adjust your broad match ad campaign by bidding explicitly for each match type, depending on their performance.
  • For even better control, employ negative keywords. That will block query mappings you don’t want. Adjust as needed with additional negative keywords.
  • If need be, you can set limits with restrictive modifiers. But keep in mind that doing so may block up-to-90-percent of the additional volume you win by using broad match.

The world of search is constantly changing. By using broad match, an advertiser reaches new potential customers and keeps up with the evolving search landscape. It’s an easy way to boost search results and find new business.

 (Stock image via Used under license.)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is responsible for Microsoft Search Advertising’s global brand marketing and communications activities, which includes Bing Ads. He has over 15 years of digital marketing experience across a diverse set of industries, including Entertainment, Technology/Software, Advertising, and Creative Services. John has been overseeing search advertising campaigns for over 10 years.

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  • Tom Goodwin

    “For even better control, employ negative keywords. That will block query mappings you don’t want”
    I’d say this is pretty much a must if you are even thinking of adding broad match keywords to any Adwords account

  • Chande

    This is useless. With Google AdWords blocking / not showing triggered search terms for most of the long tail, this is just a way to throw your money through the window. Use SEMRush, Ubersuggest to drill down keywords. Use Google Webmaster Tools to find other keywords as well. And when you find them, use broad modified with a lot of negative keywords.

  • Benjamin Hong

    To say that broad match significantly boosts clicks and conversions is stating the obvious. If the advertising goal is simply get traffic, than broad match is the way to go. But even still broad match needs to be tempered with the right word combination. When broad match is implemented improperly i.e. very short keyphrases like red car as used in this example, the volume of irrelevant traffic is huge and it increases cost needlessly. To capture new searches it’s better to use modified broad match that picks up misspellings and other variations but still keeping things in check to pick up on new searches while not sacrificing CPA.

    By using broad match, you put too much control into the ad auction system and too reactive. It’s better to be proactive and put in those keyword variations in the account that fit with the advertising goal. To use the red car example again, put in ad groups and keyphrases that account for those other variations like maroon sedan.

  • George Michie

    We agree, Bing broad match has come a long long way, and is an essential part of a well run search program. Yes, it needs to be used smartly and with attention to query logs for negatives. Bidding well is also a key. John, you mention that the CPA may not as good, but that’s really up to the SEM manager. If the traffic worth less, then bid less for the broad match. No reason to torpedo the bottom line. We’re seeing tremendous growth because of broad match, and bid well it’s coming in at the same ROI.

  • Tom

    Way to shill your Broad Match bigs ads

  • oliver

    Nice post. Broad match keywords are great for spotting long tail terms. If you add negatives or use modified broad you can get a wide variety of commercial traffic.

  • mattboland

    Also, ensure you’ve got your broad match keywords in a campaign by themselves so you can restrict spend against them. You certainly don’t want your budget spanked by irrelevant terms…

  • Austin Lance Butler

    Outside of testing, and with a very limited budget, quarantined from other efforts, with heavy negative keyword development, and keeping a VERY close eye on ROI and matched search-terms, perhaps a professional manager could make user of broad matched.

    For the most part, its a trap.

  • alanmitchell

    I often use broad match keywords as ‘generators’ of new exact (and phrase) match keywords.

    By keeping your broad match keywords separate from your exact (and phrase) keywords, and applying your exact (and phrase) keywords as negatives to your broad match generator campaign(s), your broad match keywords will only be triggered if it wasn’t possible to match the search query to an exact (or phrase) match keyword.

    It’s then a case of mining the search queries to see what’s relevant. If a search query is relevant, add it as an exact (and phrase) match keyword, and apply exact (and phrase) match negatives to your broad match campaign(s). If the search query is not relevant, simply add the query as a negative to all campaigns.

    Rinse and repeat indefinitely or until your broad match campaigns receive only a minuscule amount of traffic

    I find this technique can be very useful in extracting the value of broad match while maximizing control and relevancy.


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