The beauty of search engine marketing lies in the fact that everything, down to specific location, device, and keyword performance, can be measured. Particularly as our knowledge and technical capabilities have increased over the past decade, there is no longer any need (or excuse!) to waste budget on any part of your account that is not driving results. In fact, Google provides us with extensive tools to track exactly what is working and what is not – including several different ways to signal which searches you want to bid on.
While most beginning advertisers know that AdWords involves bidding on keywords, these keywords can actually be very different than the Google searches that end up triggering your ads. That is, when you advertise your business on AdWords, you are determining which keywords are relevant to your offering and then bidding to show up any time someone performs a similar search. However, it is still up to Google to decide which actual searches are similar and connect to those keywords.
In a perfect world, everyone in the market to buy a red cocktail dress would search for “red cocktail dress” and click on one of the resulting clothing store ads. In practice, though, your potential customer may type in “knee-length dress scarlet,” or “women’s sundress in cherry,” or even just “dress cocktail length red.” And while it is important that you include as many of those permutations as you can in your campaigns and ad groups, you may not always be able to predict how your potential customer is going to word their query.
With that in mind, Google has made available four possible match types that you can use to control the amount of leeway AdWords has to determine which searches are close enough to your intended keywords to display your ads.
Most advertisers begin with Broad match, and understandably so. With a Broad match keyword, Google has the ability to determine what types of searches could be relevant to your keyword. For example, though you may bid on the term red cocktail dress, Google may determine that your ad would be a good match for a search that uses a synonym like “gown,” misspellings such as “cotail dresses,” a related search, or anything it deems to be a relevant variation. This match type has the widest reach and often sees the highest amount of traffic, though this will not always be the most relevant traffic since you are giving up much of your control over which actual searches you are targeting.
Even though broad match is very simple, there is still a lot of power in this match type and the wide range of searches you can target with a single keyword. In addition, you can rein in the reach of your broad match keywords and give yourself a bit more control by adding in a modifier. By putting a + in front of the most important keywords, you can ensure that those terms are showing up in all of these searches. That is, if you only sell red dresses (of various lengths), you may want to bid on +red cocktail dress – this tells Google that no matter what it deems to be a relevant search, it must include the word “red.” This can help give back some control as you decide which searches are relevant to your particular offerings.
Next, you can gain even tighter control with the Phrase match. Including quotes around your keyword (“cocktail dress”) tells Google that you would like to bid as long as those keywords appear within the context of a larger phrase. For example, bidding on “cocktail dress” would mean your ad could appear on a search for “buy women’s cocktail dress” or “blue cocktail dress on sale.” Keep in mind, though, that your word order is very important here – a search for “dress for cocktail events” would not trigger your ad for “cocktail dress” due to dress coming first in the search.
Finally, the tightest form of keyword control within AdWords lies in the Exact match type. When you use brackets around your keyword ([red cocktail dress]), you are telling Google that you only want your ad to appear when someone types in those exact words (though Google will always include small misspellings or close variations). Since this style of bidding is so specific, exact matches will likely drive the least amount of traffic; however, since you get to determine exactly what your potential customer is searching for, they will also likely lead to your most relevant traffic (as well as valuable data about that exact keyword).
Bonus: Negative Keywords
In addition to what we’ve discussed above, at any time you can also implement Negative keywords, which alert Google of any search words that should immediately remove your ad from contention. For example, when you bid on cocktail dress, you can tell AdWords that a query that includes the word -recipe is not going to be relevant to your offering. There is no need to invest in a click when the person is clearly not looking for your product.
Taking a group of keywords and cloning them into three different campaigns, each with a different match type (Broad Match/Modified, Phrase, and Exact), gives you even more control over where your budget is going. This would allow you to set aside a singular budget to fully fund any searches that are exactly what your key demographic would look up, and then provide budgets to each of the other match types that may drive less relevant traffic. Don’t let your money go towards searches that aren’t relevant to what you offer, and start taking tighter control of your advertising budget!