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Monday, October 15, 2007

Working with AdWords Expanded Broad Match

The "expanded" part of the AdWords broad match keyword match option has been getting a lot of attention recently, most of which would be described as negative.

Back in 2003 when expanded broad match (EBM) was first announced it was described as follows:

Expanded broad matching

Broad keyword matching now includes expanded matches such as plurals and synonyms. Keyword matching options enable you to control how precisely you want a user's query to match your specified keyword, and expanded broad match simply lets you find more matches automatically.

For example, if you advertise on the keyword 'web hosting,' your ad might also appear for searches on 'website hosting.'

* How does expanded broad matching work?

Based on the monitoring and analysis of millions of user queries, the AdWords system automatically shows your ads for expanded matches, including plurals and synonyms.

* How do I get samples of these new matches?

You can view your potential expanded matches using our keyword suggestion tool.

* How do I limit some or all expanded matches?

You will receive more clicks by leaving your broad-matched keywords on broad match with the new expanded matching capability. However, if you want to prevent your ads from showing on particular expanded terms, you can add those terms as negative matches to your keyword list. If you'd prefer not to expand certain keywords at all, you can use a new account tool to easily change those keywords from broad matches to either phrase or exact matches; these match types will not be expanded. This will prevent your ads from showing on any matches related to those keywords (but you may also see a decrease in impressions and clicks). For each keyword whose matching option is changed, you'll see your broad match history and your new match type. Contact your Client Service Representative with any questions.

A more recent note about expanded broad matching on the keyword matching options page says:

"A note about expanded matching: The AdWords system continually monitors system-wide keyword performance and other relevance factors. This helps determine which expanded matches and variations are the most relevant to user searches."

As I mentioned earlier, most of the recent comments about EBM haven't been what most would call positive. That's not overly surprising as with most things in life, the people who are the most vocal on a subject tend to be less than satisfied with how something works.

I've found myself in the perceived minority in relation to the EBM issue. I have actually started using broad match more in the last year due to it's effectiveness - and by effectiveness I mean ROI. I'm not talking about CTR, impressions, number of clicks or any other non success related metric. I'm not doing anything that's complicated or cutting edge either...just what in my opinion are the basic best practices one should use in conjunction with broad matched keywords. A typical new broad matched campaign build out follows the same basic steps;

1. Add keyword(s).
2. Use the AdWords keyword tool to come up with a list of negative matched key words.
3. Run those potential negative keywords through all keyword tools at my disposal to check for other potential keyword variations I would like to block.
4. Where applicable, check server logs for additional potential negative matches.
5. Launch campaign and based on the potential volume (high volume = quicker audit) schedule an account audit.
6. During the audit rerun the AdWords keyword tool to see if any new potential variations have shown up. Then on to the server logs and other keyword tools to look for more potential negatives. Now that the search query report is available I'll usually run one of those too just to be on the safe side.

Finally I pull out any high performing (i.e. converting) keywords and add them to a different campaign as exact or phrase match depending on the circumstances. Then I go back into the broad matched campaign and add those words/phrases as negatives so I'm not competing with myself in my own account. I repeat this process frequently as dictated by overall campaign volume. Of course this process will vary depending on the circumstance but generally speaking it's the process I follow.

It's been suggested that Google should allow AdWords users to opt out of the expanded part of broad matching. I wouldn't oppose such an offering but in terms of priorities, at least for me, this one's way down at the bottom of the list. I really don't think it's all that high of a priority for Google either. I'm sure they make nice chunk of change from those who just enter in a broad matched keywords with few or no negatives and high bids. Advertise at your risk I suppose.

For more on the expanded broad match issue take a look at the pages listed in my AdWords search engine by clicking here.

If you have any feedback/comments related to expanded broad match please feel free to share via the comments. No registration required.

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At 1:58 AM, Anonymous Simon said...

great post.

I think this is a key part, which is overlooked by many advertisers who are critical of EBM:

"* How do I get samples of these new matches?

You can view your potential expanded matches using our keyword suggestion tool."

In my experience this is pretty accurate in giving you a list of EBM phrases - not 100% exhaustive but really good if you use it well.

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Steve said...

I've had my fingers burned a few times with broad matching, but always that's been in terms of the clickthrough rate - the quality of the traffic that I've got hasn't been impacted.

Up until relatively recently, if I had a term on broad match, I had it on phrase and exact match as well, believing that there were advantages to be gained in the Quality Score. But Google clarified how the matching impacted the QS, and I stopped adding in multiple matching types.

Now, however, I wonder if perhaps I was doing the right thing for the wrong reason. If broad-matched keywords generate acceptable-quality traffic, but with a lower CTR, perhaps I should be bidding on these keywords on exact/phrase match as well, so that I get the better CTR for these terms (and hence lower bids), as well as the additional traffic from the broad-matching?

What do you think? Is there a benefit in having the same term on multiple match-types?

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

Hi Steve,

"What do you think? Is there a benefit in having the same term on multiple match-types?"

I really don't do this too often anymore. I'm typically using broad match as a "net" to identify keywords /phrases that have an acceptable roi. After I've identified them with broad match I add them in different ad groups as exact or phrase, depending on the circumstances.

As with everything AdWords related, this varies from project to project depending on the goals.

At 6:52 PM, Blogger szetela said...

Our clients have been badly impacted by EBM, especially since earlier this year when the matching algorithm was changed to match even more synonyms. As a result Google is matching broad-match keywords with a wider variety of completely unrelated search terms. The net result has been an increase in the number of clicks, and the cost, but without a corresponding increase in conversions. In other words, cost has gone up, but conversion rates have gone down - exactly the opposite of the intended trend. We've had to run Search Query reports frequently, and add hundreds of additional negative keywords to each campaign.

We would love to see Google make the expanded broad match optional - we'd turn it off in a heartbeat.

At 3:58 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Hmm... I was bidding on "Hotels in Leeds" and it broad-matched to "Short Breaks In Amsterdam".

Of course, until somebody clicked on my advert, it didn't appear in the Search Query report...

I would happily use broad matching, if they only included all the results on the Search Query report, but until they do the results are always going to be a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...


I agree. It seems to me that a lot (not all) of the complaints about EBM could be solved by simply using all of the available tools. Like you said, the AdWords keyword tool is not 100% exhaustive but it will help you filter A LOT of potential unwanted clicks if used early and often. I even take it step further and use other tools to come up with potential negative matches as well.


I have an associate that works in the property market and whenever he builds an AdWords campaigns for a specific area and is using broad match he negative matches all city and state names in the surrounding area. He uses a database to generate all the names for exclusion. Just wanted to toss that out for consideration if you don't do something similar already.

Expanded broad match isn't perfect - like you said it's hit and miss. At this point in the game to me the pros still outweigh the cons in most cases. When that's not the case I've found the other matching options to be great substitutes.

Regarding the search query report - I fully agree - Google should show everything and stop with the "other queries" gibberish.


Thanks for the comment. You used a phrase I've seen a lot in the conversations about EBM... "completely unrelated". Based on what you're seeing do you think that AdWords is showing ads for things that are truly "completely unrelated", or, are they using the massive amounts of user data they have at their disposal to draw correlations between search terms that on the surface don't quite make sense? Like others I've seen some weirdness but most of the time when I really dig into something that I think is "completely unrelated" I can find a correlation, or at least come up with a decent theory as to what the relationship is and why the ad was shown.

Who knows, maybe Google will surprise us all with an announcement that they will let advertisers opt out of EBM...

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Jeremy Mayes said...

I wanted to add one additional tip regarding building your negative keyword list - run possible negative keyword reports for each word in a multi word phrase.

For example if you're bidding on "fishing tackle" using broad match use the AdWords keyword tool and run keyword suggestion tool and run 3 separate reports - one for fishing, one for tackle and one for fishing tackle. That will help round out your negative keyword list.

At 10:56 PM, Blogger Richard said...

EBM is contrary to QS. Think about that for a minute. Google is driving up min bids, forcing advertisers to create more relevant landing pages but then displays ads for keywords that aren't always relevant. If the landing pages remain general, this is ok. However, with the more specific landing pages in place, coupled with higher bids, EBM is not always in the best interest of the advertiser. Good for Google, though. ;-)

Having said that, I don't want EBM to disappear. Using an iterative approach like you do, EBM becomes another method of keyword discovery. Still, advertisers should be able to choose whether or not they want EBM. Broad match should actually have 2 options. EBM shouldn't be the default. Consider these match types:

[exact match]
"phrase match"
/expanded broad match/
broad match

That would solve the problem for many advertisers. Wouldn't help Google, though, so I doubt something like this will be implemented.

FYI, I have some examples of how EBM can be atrocious. Some of these cases are really contracted matching and can be devastating for local advertisers. Let me know if you want examples.

Also, this is similar to the parked domain implementation problem. If you've never had bad traffic from the AdSense for Domains program, you don't believe it's a problem. Once you do, you're pretty darn irritated Google doesn't offer these choices:

search network
content network
domain network

If there's Adsense for Domains on the AdSense side, why not a domain network on the AdWords side? Getting off topic, though, so I'll end this comment.

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Alex Rothaus said...


Would site targeting be a quasi version of what you are looking for with domain match?

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