AVALANCHE DANGER! Modified Broad Match



Read Time


Last Updated

Found Editor,

3 Minutes

20 Feb 2012

20 Feb 2012

Google’s been under pressure lately. Q4 results missing forecast, Facebook filing their IPO; it’s getting hotter in the kitchen. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing such suspicious search terms in some of our accounts.

Every good PPC’er should be using modified broad match to soak up all the relevant clicks you don’t reach with exact and phrase match. Sure, there are situations when broad match is a good idea. But if you want to avoid the mind boggling search queries that often show with barely any relevance, you are better off sticking to modified broad. Or so we thought.

Lately we’ve been getting avalanched on some of our modified broad keywords (okay I know I’m over reacting! I just liked that picture and couldn’t think of a catchy title okay!). It seems Google has been loosening up its algorithm in order to improve its financials, and taking less experienced PPC’ers lunch money in the process.

One of the ways Google recommend using modified broad is a kind of mixture of broad and modified broad match. So for example the keyword ‘formal +shoes’ would match to the following:

– smart shoes
– dress shoe
– shoess for work

As you can see the ‘+shoes’ will always match to abbreviations, acronyms, synonyms, misspellings and singular/plurals of shoes. However, by not including the + modifier on ‘formal’, this allows Google to use its formidable algorithm to match to synonyms of ‘formal’. This is a great way to gain lots of additional relevant traffic, in theory.

The problem is, lately in some of our accounts with higher CPC bids we are seeing search queries that are essentially full broad matches. Here’s an example of the kind of thing we are seeing:

The keyword ‘ +green hat’ shows for searches like:

– green
– gren
– greens

This means Google is ignoring the word that is on pure broad match and will just implement modified broad match around the modified broad word. I mean how relevant is just the word ‘green’ to ‘green hats’ anyway? You’d have to really love the colour green to be convinced to buy a green hat when you searched for the colour green!

This brings us back to the dilemma of thousands of untargeted searches for terms that will never ever convert. So what’s the solution? Well sorry there isn’t really one that doesn’t involve hard work!

One option is to just use the ‘+’broad match modifier and keyword more thoroughly rather than relying on Google to find all the keywords you didn’t input. Going back to our example, ensuring you include ‘+smart +shoes’, ‘+dress +shoes’ etc will make sure you capture the vast majority of relevant clicks.

The other is to very carefully monitor the search term report in Google and see what your keywords are actually matching to and create long lists of negative keywords from these (you should be doing this anyway). The problem with this is it can take lots of time and you are only able to exclude searches once you’ve already spent money showing on them. Plus the Adwords search term report does not list every search term your ads showed for anyway.

The ‘other search terms’ row on a search term report shows hundreds or even thousands of searches that didn’t receive a click or weren’t searched by a significant number of users. This means these searches cannot be negative matched as you don’t know what they are! And, while an individual search may only equate to a single impression, thousands of these single impressions can drastically harm your click though rates and therefore your cost per click.

So, there’s no easy fix. It seems Google is living up to its “Don’t be evil” mantra a little less these days, and even more than ever ignorance comes at a high price in the pay per click world. However this does provide yet another opportunity for those who aren’t adverse to hard work to capitalise where others either don’t know how or aren’t willing to.