Breaking down those PPC match types

Ever wondered what Keyword match types are all about? Which ones should you be using?

When you’re first starting out managing a PPC account it can be confusing. That’s not surprising. A well-structured and run PPC account is a complicated beast and partially relies on wise choices in Keyword match types. A better understanding of Keyword match types is crucial to running a successful PPC Campaign. Having a well thought out strategy to handle your varying match types can increase Click-Through-Rate (CTR), reduce Cost per Conversion (CPC) and increase Conversion Rate.

What are Keyword Match Types?

When adding new Keywords to an Ad Group within a Search Campaign, you can select a specific match type that you wish to use to gain greater control on how closely Keywords align to user’s search queries. This then determines when an Ad is triggered.

There are four match types available:

  • Broad Match
  • +Broad +Match +Modifier
  • “Phrase Match”
  • [Exact Match]

Each match type has its advantages and disadvantages. Bidding on Exact match Keywords can be restrictive and you may miss out on potential long-tail search queries that successfully convert at a low cost. Leaving all Keywords on Broad match can and may result in paying for irrelevant clicks and wasting spend on clicks that are unlikely to convert.

Broad Match

By default Google AdWords adds Keywords as Broad match, this match type will gain the most traffic as it matches the greatest number of varying search queries. Ads may show for searches that include close variations (misspellings, plurals/singulars, stemmings, acronyms, abbreviations, and accents), synonyms and related searches.

These Keywords are great for learning and discovering new Keyword opportunities in the early stages of a campaign, since data is accumulated quickly. However, this can also lead to Ads displaying for irrelevant search queries. It will, therefore, be harder to account for them with negative Keywords and will make it more difficult to optimise relevant Ad Copy and Landing Pages to achieve higher Keyword Quality Scores and subsequently Ad Positions.

A company that offers virtual learning to children may bid on the Broad match Keyword ‘online school’. This would show ads on relevant variations, including synonyms, singular and plural forms, possible misspellings, stemmings (such as school and schooling), related searches and other relevant variations which could include ‘online private school’, ‘high school online’ and ‘best homeschool’. However, it could also show ads for phrases such as ‘online school email log in’, ‘online diary for fernhurst school’.

Broad Match Modifier

The broad match modifier type is successful in that it can match searches that contain the modified term and close variations in any order, but excludes synonyms. This is a safer match type to use as you can be sure it is less likely to conflict with other similar Keywords in other Ad Groups, yet it still casts a wide enough net to capture more obscure and relevant queries that may not necessarily have enough search volume to target with Exact match.

The same company may bid on the broad match keyword ‘+online +school’. This would show Ads to anyone searching for queries that contain both ‘online’ and ‘school’ in any order with any additional keyword before, between or after for instance someone searching ‘school for online learning’. This match type however, does not include synonyms.

Phrase Match

The Phrase match type allows you to target more closely matched and more relevant phrase variations. It will only show ads based on queries that contain your exact keyword and close variants of that keyword in the order you put the Keyword phrase in, with additional words before or after and no synonyms. Phrase match type will also include close variations of a keyword.

The same company may bid on the phrase match keyword “online school”. This would display Ads to anyone searching ‘online school maths’ and ‘best online school’ but would not show for queries like ‘online maths school’ because it disrupts the order.

Exact Match

With Exact match, you can show your ad to customers who are searching for your exact keyword, or close variants of your keyword. This means nothing before, after and in-between. An Exact match will also include misspellings, plurals, and other very close variations.

The same company may bid on the exact match keyword [online school]. This would show Ads to anyone searching [online school], [online schools] but would not show an ad to someone searching the phrases ‘online school maths’ or ‘best online school’ as these have additional words.

So which match types should I use?

If you are bidding on a number of Broad match keywords by default, try switching them to Broad Match Modifier instead and dig into your Search Terms report to pull out high-performing search terms, you can then utilise these to include as Exact match Keywords. You won’t necessarily need to include phrase variations at this stage as the broad match modifier will cover all phrase variations. You can then increase bids on the Exact match Keywords that you know will give you highly relevant traffic more likely to convert.

Generally, we would recommend setting up an Ad Group that targets a very closely related list. For example, let’s say you had an ‘Online School’ Search Campaign you could then target performing variations of ‘online school’ by creating new Ad Groups like ‘Online High School’ and target +online +high +school, [online high school], [best online high school], [high school education online] etc. That way you have the Broad Match Modifier still in place to capture obscure searches but you can really focus on the performing terms with Exact match.

This is a tactic we have used with International Connections Academy for 2017 where, compared to the previous year, we managed a 43% increase in Conversions, a 65% increase in Conversion Rate and a 58% reduced Cost / Conv with 39% less spend. Read more about what we did for International Connections Academy.

If there is enough volume and a very wide number of closely related terms you could also consider duplicating your campaigns and having them be match type specific. You would have a ‘Search – Online School – Broad’ Campaign for Broad Match Modifier keywords only, a ‘Search – Online School – Phrase’ Campaign for Phrase only keywords and a ‘Search – Online School – Exact’ Campaign for Exact match keywords only. This would allow you to add all Exact match keywords in the Exact campaign to the Phrase campaign as Exact match negatives, add all phrase match keywords in the Phrase campaign into the Broad Match Modifier campaign as Phrase match negatives. This allows you to have match type specific campaigns without risk of cannibalising your own campaigns and competing against yourself.

Adwords is a particularly nuanced platform. Whilst it provides incredibly measurable results and black-and-white data to work with, it also requires strategy, structure and data-driven refinements to become a converting advertising avenue with an ROI your business can benefit from. This is true of the regional campaigns we’ve run right through to the international accounts we’ve managed successfully for our clients.

Interested in seeing how digital marketing can help your education business?

Get in touch