Search is often the first campaign type any advertiser comes into contact with when getting started on the Google Ads platform. At a glance, they’re simple text ads with reasonably self explanatory targeting in the form of keywords, a targeting method designed to present ads based on the content of the Google searches made by its users.
However, all is not as it may appear.
Though keywords may target search intent based on the content of a Google search, depending on the kind of keyword you choose to use, you may still be showing ads on searches not relevant to your business. This is the first thing to be mindful of; what kind of keywords you choose to use.
There are three main types of keyword in the Google Ads platform, broad match, “phrase match” and [exact match]; the symbols surrounding phrase and exact being how you must input your keywords in order to use the keyword setting mentioned.
Broad match is the first and likely the most common type of keyword, being in plain text and often containing a shorter search term, this is one of the reasons that broad match can be a poor choice. Due to the nature of the keyword, any search term that remotely contains the content of what you entered into the system may attempt to show your ads, leading to poor relevancy and paying out for clicks that are less likely to turn into business.
“Phrase Match” is a large improvement over broad match, due to the fact that the keyword you input must appear in full and in the correct order. For example, say your phrase match keyword was “carpet cleaning in newcastle”, you would show ads for a search like “professional carpet cleaning in newcastle upon tyne” but will not show up for a search term such as ‘newcastle-upon-tyne carpet cleaning’ as this is not the order that your keyword dictates, meaning that sometimes you may lose out on relevant traffic.
A nice balance between broad match and “phrase match” is +broad +match +modifier, a keyword type not mentioned above as it is not one of the main three types advertised, but instead acts as a more targeted version of broad match. Broad match modifier for the same term as above would look something like this: +carpet +cleaning +newcastle and would show ads on queries containing all the words in the keyword, in any order. For example, +carpet +cleaning +newcastle would trigger ads on a search like ‘carpet cleaning companies in newcastle’ or ‘newcastle based carpet cleaning company’.
All of the above keywords however, leave gaps for irrelevant search terms to get through. Historically, there were only two ways to really lock down your Google Ads Account; negative keywords, which will be covered in a later post, or exact match keywords which have been watered-down in recent months and years (more on that below).
Think you’ve got negative keywords covered? Think again, after reading this post.
Before they were adjusted, [exact match] keywords did exactly what they said on the tin. They would only display your ad for terms that exactly, or nearly exactly, matched your keyword. This meant that it may correct misspellings and adjust plurals, but beyond this your ad would not serve for anything other than our example above. Once again, our keyword being [carpet cleaning in newcastle] would only show up for that search. The ad would not be displayed for any of the other terms mentioned, but while this seems ideal, it may limit your outreach significantly and can limit scale.
In an attempt to improve scale on the more restrictive match types, Google introduced Close Variants: these include misspellings and plurals but also allow exact and phrase match keywords to show ads on searches which don’t match the keyword according to the rules outlined above, but which are deemed to carry the same intent. See this example straight from Google below:
This looks great because the examples here are carefully chosen, but imagine you’re running the keyword [trademark forms] for a legal firm specialising in helping trademark applications and it starts showing ads on ‘forms of trademarks’ which clearly carries totally different intent despite Google’s best intentions. Time to tighten up those negative keywords, and good luck keeping any SKAGs you’re running in order…
As you can see, all of the different types of keywords have their upsides and downsides and the best kinds of strategies for search will contain a mixture of match types with the relevant bidding changes. Some people start with exact terms then expand from there; others start off broad and cut out waste as time goes on. Ultimately, it’s going to depend on your goals, and if you’re not sure then I know some guys that can help with that…