Broad match keywords in an account used to be the first quick win in an audit — switch the keyword to exact match, add in a modified broad variation and irrelevant negatives, and you’ve just lowered CPA a ton. However, as Google refines their intent-based bidding strategies, broad match is making a major comeback.

Through agency-wide testing, we’ve found that using broad match in Google Ads, paired with automated bidding such as Maximize Conversions or Target CPA, can be extremely effective at capturing low CPC searches that are just as relevant as the ones in your core campaigns. All of those relevant, long-tailed queries that have only been searched once and are not covered via keywords in your account can be picked up with broad match. Oftentimes those queries convert just as well as your exact match keywords, at lower CPAs. In one test case, a client with rising CPCs and competition saw a 13% decrease in CPA from their broad match campaign.

When You Should & Shouldn’t Test It

If you’re struggling with rising CPCs in your account, testing broad match may help you improve performance. Broad match can mitigate competition and rising CPCs by matching to relevant queries that your competitors aren’t bidding on. Bidding on a less competitive set of keywords decreases your CPCs, and we often find your conversion rate will stay constant.

When you’re in growth mode, broad match can be effective in researching and expanding upon your current keyword set. On the flip side, when you’re in efficiency mode, broad match can help to decrease CPCs by bidding on less competitive keywords, as mentioned above.

However, broad match can be tricky to use when you have highly segmented landing pages. For example, a search for “red high-heeled shoes” could match to the broad match keyword “heeled boots” and send the user to a mismatched page. In cases like this, you may want to focus your broad match keywords on keyword themes with more generalized pages or, if you are very focused on efficiency, hold off on testing broad match entirely.

Best Practices for Setup

When it comes to setting up a broad match campaign test, start by combining all of your top exact match keywords into one campaign — even if they span different themes and/or have different landing pages — and launch them in broad match. With automated bidding, less segmentation can be effective. The more data that Google has to work with, the better the performance results. One note here: in most cases, you should avoid running one-word keywords in broad match, unless they are very specific industry terms.

You’ll also want to change your approach to ads for these campaigns. With less control over the searches you’re being matched to, you will need to consider more generic ad copy. Start with any generic ads relevant to your new campaigns that you’ve already seen perform well, and add any more variants needed to give Google’s automation system enough messaging options to choose when matching to a search. Responsive Search Ads can be another great way to allow Google to choose the best messaging combo for a given search.

Then, exclude all other keywords in the account in exact match from that campaign. This will ensure that Google is matching to net new searches, and it will help you better segment performance. You should also proactively exclude all known irrelevant and brand negatives. One caveat: if you begin seeing significantly stronger performance from your broad match campaigns compared to regular non-brand, you might want to test taking out some of your exact match negatives. By allowing exact match searches to filter through these campaigns, you’ll increase the amount of data that Google has to optimize from, which could then improve performance even further.

This next step is important: pair your broad match keywords with automated bidding. If you’re working towards efficiency, we recommend using Target CPA, with your average non-brand CPA as the starting target. If you’re focusing on growth and want to gather quicker learnings, try Maximize Conversions. Automated bidding strategies help you target users with higher intent, which is key for avoiding irrelevant query matches.

If you’re hesitant to take the broad match plunge, try partial broad! For example, if a query needs to contain one word to make it relevant, put that term in modified broad and the rest of the keyword in pure broad.

Finally, monitor your new campaign closely! We would recommend checking the search query report daily for the first couple of weeks, and weekly after that. This will allow you to negate irrelevant queries quickly, as well as identify trends and new keywords that you might want to launch in exact match. You can also craft new ad message variants by considering themes in the searches you’re being matched with.

Happy testing! And if you’d like to explore more testing strategies for your account, we’re here to help.