Google Ads wants advertisers to give broad match another shot

Broad match keyword suggestions will start surfacing in Recommendations

Chat with SearchBot

Google is going to start showing new Recommendations for switching to broad match in Google Ads.

“If you’re using Smart Bidding, we’ll identify existing keywords that are likely to improve performance if you switch them to broad match,” Google said in a blog post Monday.

For example, says Google, the broad match keyword “women’s hats” could match to “winter headwear for women” or “women’s accessories.”

“By pairing [a broad match] keyword with Smart Bidding, you can use auction-time signals to set the right bid for each of these queries. This means that you no longer need to anticipate and manage every potential search.”

Leaving keyword to query matching up to the algorithms has been Google’s strategy for some time now as we’ve seen close variants continue to expand.

If you’re skeptical, you are not alone.

Google notes two advertisers who’ve found success with the strategy. “With Smart Bidding’s predictive signals as the safety net, we saw an increase in unique search terms generated by broad match, leading to a 20% increase in conversions,” said Kasper Spanjer, PPC strategist at iProspect, noting they had their doubts about using broad match based on past experience.

Travel company Japan Experience said it was “really surprised” by the results of using broad match with Smart Bidding and saw one-third of its revenue growth come from broad match keywords.

Why we care. For many PPC marketers, the very suggestion of using broad match keywords is like nails on a chalkboard. And of course, now that Google has significantly limited the search terms it shows advertisers, it is harder to ensure that the queries that are triggering your broad match keywords are actually relevant. The idea that you’d want “women’s hats” matching to “women’s accessories,” for example, gives me a shudder.

Still, is it worth testing these recommendations?

I’d say yes. Hear me out.

Like it or not, this is where Google Ads paid search is heading. This is a radical shift anyone who’s been managing paid search campaigns for any length of time, but in this way it’s becoming much more like paid social where we are more accustomed to loosening the reigns and segmenting less to let the algorithms run and learn.

Yes, there is some terrible intent matching by Google’s algorithms, and the query black box makes these even harder to prevent. But if that user searching for women’s accessories truly is in-market for a new winter hat, then I’ll take it. Now, if Google gets it wrong and I end up paying for users looking for gloves, jewelry or winter hats when I only sell fedoras, then we have a problem.

But coupling broad match with Smart Bidding adds in a layer of bidding bumpers and additional signals. After I posted this article, Kirk Williams of Zato Marketing responded that they’ve been discussing this strategy internally for upper funnel and noted the distinction of using broad match with Smart Bidding vs. with manual bidding.

Caveat. What I would not do is “switch” your phrase or broad match modified keywords to broad match. I would instead consider adding the broad match to the ad group to test it.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Ginny Marvin
Ginny Marvin was Third Door Media’s former Editor-in-Chief (October 2018 to December 2020), running the day-to-day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin wrote about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, MarTech and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

Get the newsletter search marketers rely on.