What we learnt using Broad Match Keywords

What we learnt using Broad Match Keywords

It’s been a whole year since we switched to Broad match keywords for some of our Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns and these are the few things we’ve learnt!


What are broad match keywords?

“A keyword targeting option that allows your ad to show when someone searches for that keyword, variations of it, as well as other related topics.”

Image from Google.


Issues with broad match

It is a Schrödinger’s cat situation with broad match targeting because you will not know exactly what you are paying for until you look into the Search Terms report on your Google Ads for your Pay Per Click (PPC) Search Campaigns. More often than not, your campaigns start off triggering tons of search terms with a varied range of intent – intent that may not yet be of the level that you require. This can cause advertisers to show their ads to higher funnel searchers, pay for clicks that they do not need, and pushing the PPC cost becomes too high for the sales/leads the clicks bring in. 

So are Broad match keywords all bad? Or are they a feasible option to scale your Paid Search campaign? We structured what we found out after running broad match keywords for a year into some helpful snippets here: 



1. Broad Match Targeting Is Not For All Industries

While Broad Match and Smart Bidding are two features in Google Ads that can be useful for certain types of campaigns, they may not be suitable for all campaigns. That is why we do not use broad match keywords for all our clients. 

Carefully consider whether Broad Match and Smart Bidding are a good fit for your organisation’s advertising goals and needs – in particular your budget and the search intent in the keywords you are targeting. 

A good example will be a company that offers multiple services on their website and wants hyper-specific headlines and descriptions for its ad copies. Going broad with multiple keywords in one ad group might not yield the best results and prove to be a liability for the account. 



2. Additional Flexibility for SEM Smart Bidding

If you have sufficient historic conversion data (and with the right conversion actions) on your Google Ads & Google Analytics accounts, you can consider adopting  Google’s best practice of Smart Bidding. 

Broad match keywords pair particularly well with Smart Bidding campaigns, allowing these campaigns to scale faster without any constraints by learning faster to reach your growth objectives. Considering the vast possibilities of how consumers out there can phrase their online searches, Broad Match helps you show up for your customers easily – by saving you hours of keyword research at the beginning of the campaign.

Just remember that you need sufficient conversion data upon which to optimise your campaign and avoid being too eager to follow the additional budget recommendations by Google – not all these recommendations will benefit your campaigns, and they should be evaluated wisely. 


3. Negative Keyword Management is King

Now that you have dipped your toe into Smart Bidding and Broad Match keyword targeting, your ads will likely qualify to show on many searches. It is now pertinent to ensure your ad only appears for the most relevant searches so you can maintain your campaign’s tip-top performance.

For example, if you are advertising for a weight loss product, you might want to add negative keywords that fall outside of what your business offers or do not align with the search intent you are targeting such as “free”, “DIY”, “side effects”, “exercises” etc. 

Negative keyword lists can already be started on when you are doing your keywords research. When searching for potential keywords to bid on, we also surface keywords which can be deemed as irrelevant and add them into our negative keywords list before we even start the campaign. 


4. Traditional Campaign Structure Breaks + New Structure

Another thing we discovered was that the traditional broad distinction between Brand, Generic and Competitor keywords campaigns could be broken for some advertisers. 

Broad match keywords not only target generic variations of your keywords, but could also show for competitor search terms that Google finds similar to your business. A portion of our ad accounts consist of just one search campaign which contains one ad group for brand keywords and another ad group to target generic and competitor search terms.

After switching these campaigns to target broad match keywords about 10 months ago, we have started seeing improved CTR and lowered CPC, simply by combining our keywords into one campaign and focusing on negative keywords.

This might give some an uneasy feeling – since SEM marketers have historically allocated specific budgets to Generic and Competitor campaigns. However, this actually saves you the headache of campaign budget allocation and lets Smart Bidding optimise your campaigns for you, based on your objective.

Another dilemma you might face is whether or not to share the budget allocated to broad keywords with competitor keywords as well. While there is typically lower intent among people who search for your competitor, this is still an opportunity to show up for your potential customers. We suggest you start by grouping these terms together and observe competitor terms for a period of time to ascertain if they show positive results – if they do not, then they too can be placed as negative keywords. 


5. Bidding Farewell To Keyword Research?

With all that said, do we still need to research keywords before the campaign launch? After all, Smart Bidding could potentially get the job done regardless. 

Our take is that Broad Match targeting could alleviate the pressing need to anticipate and manage every potential search. However, a quick keyword research run prior to campaign launch will get you started on the first set of keywords to include in your campaign. 

You might want to pull up longer tail keywords in this initial keyword research, instead of relying on single words (unless they happen to be unique brand keywords) so that proper context can be applied. Rule of thumb for long tail keywords that these are 3-4 words long.

If the unrestrained potential of Broad Match keywords still terrifies you, here is something you can do to ease the nerves before making the jump: Start with your usual Phrase Match keywords and religiously build up your negative keywords. 

Once you are relatively secure with your negative keyword list, you can ‘open the floodgates’ by switching the campaign to target Broad Match keywords! From that point on, it is back to monitoring your search terms report carefully to unearth negative keywords that you can add to keep your campaigns on the right track. Good luck! 

Written By


Always willing to learn and explore new ways to optimize digital campaigns, Iqbal hopes to produce the best results for his clients. He’s worked with many brands in different industries, big or small, finding out what business strategy works best in the digital environment. Outside work, Iqbal enjoys exploring Singapore for the best burgers and is a sucker for puns.

Edited By

Cheak Hong Ian