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Broader matching for search ads: be careful

Google search advertisers will see a change soon when using phrase matching or modified broad matching techniques. The search engine announced last year that exact matching was going to be loosened in the way it was applied, so ads might show against searches that aren’t quite as specified; now it’s giving itself the same flexibility with the other two techniques.

What does this mean? Google says: “On average, we expect advertisers using broad match modifier and phrase match keywords to see 3-4% more clicks and conversions on these keywords. And of those new clicks, 85% are expected to be net new on average—meaning they’re not covered by your existing keywords.” That sounds like a great thing for everyone, especially as something like 15% of all queries are new, and we can’t possibly account for all of those. However, most PPC advertising experts are very skeptical about Google’s required ability to interpret the searcher’s intent, and that’s going to result in ads being shown against less relevant queries. We’re particularly concerned about single keyword ad group campaigns, which we’re very fond of in the type of specialist areas that our clients operate.

In a summary for Wordstream, Conor Bond advises search advertisers: “As these changes to phrase match and broad match modifier roll out, it’s imperative that you keep an even closer eye on your search terms than usual. Though results will vary across verticals, it’s likely that you’ll see an uptick in impressions and clicks from users whose queries are irrelevant to your business—that is, an uptick in queries that you should add as negative keywords. As long as you’re vigilant about keeping irrelevant users away from your ads, you should be able to mitigate the potential cost increases that may come with these changes, and focus on the potential upside.”

In summary then, be alert to what’s happening with your ads. If the move opens up a lot of ‘long tail’ keywords that had a search volume too low to show previously, we’re cautiously optimistic about it.