What Are Broad Match Keywords & Do They Work?


It used to be that paid advertisers on Google stayed away from broad match due to a lack of control. Google is now pushing broad match keywords aggressively, resulting in more advertisers moving to this match type. 

Are broad match keywords worth it for your business? What are the pros and cons of broad match keywords in Google Ads? Should you listen to Google and move to broad match?

In this blog, I’ll show you examples of broad match keywords and share my experience on how to make them work (or not). By the end, you’ll clearly know whether broad match is the right choice for your PPC campaigns.

What are Broad Match Keywords?

  • There are three different match types within Google Ads. Broad, phrase, and exact. Broad match modifier used to be an option, but this was phased out
  • According to WordStream, broad match allows your ad to match the most comprehensive range of possible keyword searches that are still somewhat related to your keyword.
  • According to Google, broad match is the default match type assigned to all your keywords. This helps your ads reach a wider audience without requiring you to build an extensive keyword list.
  • In the screenshot below, you can see Google recommends you use broad match!

Google recommending broad match

Example of Broad Match Keywords and Queries It Returns

I used the broad match keyword Columbus Marketing Agency within our agency’s Google Ads account. This resulted in the following clicks (see bullets below). As a sub-bullet, I provided more context as to whether or not the keyword was helpful for my desire to acquire new business via Google Ads. 

  • Columbus Ohio Web Designers 
    • Web design is a big part of our business, and this is a quality search query. 
  • Design Firms Columbus Ohio 
    • We offer graphic design services, but it’s not our most profitable part of the business as it typically results in smaller, one-time projects. 
  • Design Firms in Columbus 
    • Like the above search term, design is not a keyword I like spending money on. 
  • Digital Marketing 
    • This keyword is too broad. There would be a higher likelihood for someone to convert if they searched for “digital marketing company” or “digital marketing agency” 
  • Digital Marketing Strategy Consultant 
    • Someone looking for a strategy consultant is likely looking for a smaller, hourly project. Again, not our ideal client. 
  • Focus Groups Columbus Ohio 
    • We are not a focus group, so this is irrelevant. 
  • Marketing Companies for Small Businesses Near Me 
    • This is a great long-tail search query! More on this example later on. 

Helpful Tip: Within the search terms report, if you “modify columns,” you can add “keyword” as an attribute. This will allow you to see what keyword triggered each specific search term.  

Search Terms and Corresponding Keyword

Sentiment on Broad Match Keywords for our Agency

Google states that broad match helps your ads reach a wider audience. This is undoubtedly true. I was looking for people typing in “Columbus Marketing Agency” but got searches related to focus groups, design, and development. 

Overall, I felt the search terms for this campaign were not of the greatest quality. There are ways to improve performance with your broad match campaigns, which I will hit on later in the blog, but I was disappointed in the results. 

Reaching a wider audience isn’t always the best thing for an advertiser. The beauty of bidding on keywords with phrase and exact match is that you can get precise with your business’s search terms. With broad match, you lose some of that control.

Tips for Using Broad Match 

If you want to succeed with broad-match keywords, I recommend following this checklist we put together to improve quality and increase conversions. 

Go Long-Tail

We recommend a minimum of 3 words when selecting a keyword. For example, Columbus Marketing Agency gives Google more information to work with as opposed to Columbus Marketing or Marketing Agency. With Columbus Marketing Agency, Google is now aware of the local intent. Agency lets Google know you’re not looking for generic marketing information, such as a marketing class, but you’re looking to hire an agency. You’ll get low-quality clicks from your advertisement when you go two keywords or less.

Monitor Search Terms like a Hawk

Bidding on broad match keywords is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of strategy. You’ll need to monitor your search terms like a hawk and add negative keywords to your campaigns and ad groups.

In the example from earlier, “Focus Group” was added as a negative keyword as this doesn’t pertain to my business. I also added “design firm” based on my desire not to spend money on this service.

If you spend time monitoring search terms and building a negative keyword list, the quality of your broad-match keywords will start improving.

Optimize For Conversions

  • If you leverage broad match, your campaign should use smart bidding
  • Smart bidding strategies include maximize conversions, maximize conversion value, Target CPA, and Target ROAS. 
  • With smart bidding, Google is trying to find a user typing in keywords that will convert for your business. 
  • The search terms are generally much more unhinged without smart bidding, as no conversion objective exists. 
  • It’s essential to set-up the proper conversion tracking in GA4 so Google can optimize based on this.

Admire the Long Tail Searches

One of the beauties of broad match is when quality long-tail queries come through.

Over 70% of all search queries are for long-tail terms. Long tail keywords have higher conversion rates than generic keywords [source]. 

In the example from earlier, one of the queries that came through for Columbus Marketing Agency was the following: 

  • Marketing companies for small businesses near me

This was an excellent click for our agency! We love working with small businesses, and the intent was very high since someone was looking for a company nearby. This sort of high-quality click would be nearly impossible to achieve with phrase or exact match types.

Related Blog: Another great way to generate high-quality, long-tail searches via Google PPC is through dynamic search ads

Strive For 80%+ Quality Search Terms

A great exercise to see whether or not broad match is working is to analyze the search terms to see if over 80% of them are high quality and relevant to your business. 

If you achieve over 80%, you will likely get beautiful, long-tailed searches from your ads and generate a high conversion rate.

In my example from earlier, less than 50% of my search terms were quality, meaning there’s room to improve. 

Monitor Cost Per Click and Conversions

According to Search Engine Land, broad match has the lowest cost per click compared to phrase and exact match. Since broad match can strum up some low-quality searches, monitoring the cost per click is essential. I wouldn’t want to pay as much for broad as I do for phrase or exact. You should get a lower cost per click with broad, so be cognizant of this. 

Of course, monitor conversions and cost per conversion. Even if you get the highest quality search terms, if they aren’t converting, this will not be profitable for your business.

In Closing

  • Succeeding with broad match keywords takes time and effort.
  • Just because Google recommends broad-match keywords doesn’t mean it fits your business best.
  • Monitoring search terms, adding negative keywords, optimizing for conversions, and selecting longer-tailed keywords will give you a better chance of succeeding.

Hopefully, you feel more confident about tackling broad match keywords more successfully! If you have any questions on match types or paid advertising, contact The Media Captain!

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