Manage PPC Risk With Multiple Match Types & Negative Keywords

Choosing appropriate match types for PPC campaigns is one of the most important decisions an advertiser can make, having an impact on such diverse factors as costs, quality scores and ultimately overall success. Advertisers may choose to set their keywords to either “broad,” “phrase” or “exact” match types, each used for a different purpose.

Generally, setting up an account with only phrase or exact matched keywords is a safer tactic than setting all keywords to broad match—broad match, as it implies, generally serves up far more keyword variations in an ad than the other two narrower types. However, we’ve found that a mix of keywords, leveraging multiple match types, coupled with strategic bids, can significantly enhance your account’s performance.

The problem with relying on a single match type is that no single match type offers a perfect solution and each presents its opportunities and risks. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Broad match type

  • Pros: Allows for the widest and most varied contextual reach
  • Cons: Susceptible to over-exposed keywords, broad match “masks” CTR for terms that may have triggered an ad for a phrase or exact matched query.

Takeaways: By leveraging search query reports, broach match can be a great source for generating new keywords (as well as negative keywords)—but if not monitored closely can lead to excessive spending on irrelevant keywords and suggest misguided CTRs during analysis.

Phrase match type

  • Pros: Offers additional control over when your ads are triggered (contextually speaking)
  • Cons: Limits your ability to attract clickthrus on slight variations where search query order is not consistent with your phrase-matched term.

Takeaways: Offers more control over keywords and ads, opportunity to discover new keywords, however variations are restricted to the order of the keyword phrase in the AdWords account.

Exact match type

  • Pros: Offers precise contextual control over when keywords and ads are shown
  • Cons: Most limiting of all match-types, keywords will show only when query is searched on exactly as specified in your AdWords account.

Takeaway: Offers more control, though the possibility of generating clicks on varied search queries is almost entirely nullified, which limits contextual reach substantially.

Now that we understand the pros and cons of each match type, let’s look at a hypothetical example where using a single match type vs. multiple match types can have an effect on your account performance.

Let’s imagine we operate an online guitar store and (for simplicity’s sake) we are bidding on the keywords “acoustic guitar” and “acoustic guitars.”

According to Google’s keyword research tool, there were over 2.6 million searches for these two keywords in August.


Obviously there is no shortage in traffic, but it’s more important to understand what type of traffic you may be exposed to if you bid solely using broad match.

Under the broad match setting, all of the keywords listed above (plus many other variations including conceptually related terms like classical guitars and perhaps banjo) may trigger your ad. Some are potentially relevant and others are not. This introduces a significant account-management problem. No longer is our CTR based on the keywords “acoustic guitar” and “acoustic guitars,” but rather we are managing to an aggregate CTR for all variations triggered by these keywords.

By adding a phrase and/or exact matched version of “acoustic guitar” & “acoustic guitars,” you reduce your exposure substantially—only queries containing the words acoustic & guitar(s), in that order, will trigger your ad for these variations. In doing so, we were able to create a more efficient channel for tracking our keywords without compromising the broad-matched terms.

Won’t multiple match types for the same keyword cause confusion in AdWords auctions? No. According to Google’s help documentation:

“…the more restrictive match type will always trigger the ad, regardless of CPC bids. For instance, if the broad-matched keyword ‘apple’ and the exact-matched keyword ‘apple’ both existed in your account, the exact match would always trigger an ad.”

You may still consider bidding higher on phrase and exact matched keywords in order to rank more competitively. These keywords are naturally better targeted to your audience’s search query and may result in higher conversion rates.

In addition to adding phrase and/or exact matched versions of your keywords you should also constantly monitor your broad matched and phrase matched search query results and supplement your campaigns with appropriate negative keywords. This will help fine-tune your broad and phrase matched keywords and limit irrelevant spending.

By following these simple tactics, over time you will be able to rely to a lesser extent on broad matched terms, decrease overall costs and better target your campaigns via phrase and exact match keywords.

To learn more about negative keyword phrases and keyword research tools see my blog posts on negative keywords and keyword research tools.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | How To: PPC


About The Author: is an SEM Analyst for Clickable. He began his career in search marketing in 2003.

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