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Google AdWords' New Match Types: Great for PPC Results, or Great for Spending Money?

Posted by fusionbox on April 24, 2012

Are you using Google AdWords Pay-Per-Click (PPC) to drive traffic and sales/leads to your website? Then a recent change in AdWords may affect how much you spend, how many leads or purchases it drives, and your PPC account's return on investment.

Here we'll review:
I.) The Current State Of Keywords
II.) The Upcoming State Of Keyword Match Type Targeting
III.) Is It Worth It??? Show Me The Data!
IV.) How To Test Your Account's Incremental Value
V.) The Story Your PPC Data Will Say

This should help you determine if there are changes you need to make to your Pay-Per-Click campaigns to stay accountable, and profitable.

I.) The Current State Of Keywords:

AdWords offers 4 match types (not including negative matches):

1. Exact: Exact is Exact. Someone has to search the exact keyword you are targeting, in the right order, with no variations.

Exact match keywords are represented in AdWords within brackets:

example of an exact match keyword phrase

2. Phrase: Phrase means the query must contain the exact keyword you are targeting, and then may have anything before and/or after. The words themselves must remain in the same order with nothing between them.

Phrase match keywords are represented in quotation marks in AdWords:
example of a phrase matched keyword

3. Broad: Well, they sky's the limit on this one. A user can query the keywords you are targeting, they can be in any order, the query can have any word within your keyword, and it can be anything "related" to what you Google thinks your keyword relates too. Flood gates open up on this match type.

Broad matched keywords don't involve symbols like phrase and exact match types do:

You'll notice there is a pretty broad leap between phrase and broad as far as potential traffic, and the relevancy of who you'll be targeting tends to drop substantially. Fortunately Google released a 4th match type:

4: Modified Broad: By appending any one (or two or all) of the words in your keyword with a "+" you tell Google that the other words in this keyword can be loosely related, but this one has to be highly relevant. So this narrows your net to more strictly related keywords. This is great for slower, more targeted expansions.

Modified broad matched keywords are represented with plus signs immediately before (no space) the most important words in the query:

example of a modified broad match keyword

In addition to match types, you can add "negative" keywords. This insures that common variations of the keywords you are targeting, but aren't associated with your business, can be eliminated. However, it can be hard to ensure that you are eliminating all variations.

II.) The Upcoming State Of Keyword Match Type Targeting:

Now Google is releasing 2 new match types that sound a lot like modified exact match and modified phrase match. These will account for misspellings, singular/plural, stemmings, accents and abbreviations.

5. Modified Exact Match: This will target the regular exact match in addition to misspellings, singular/plural, stemmings, accents and abbreviations.
6. Modified Phrase Match: The same as modified exact match, except anything can come before and/or after your targeted keyword.

While this sounds awesome and certainly could be awesome, it also carries with it the vague language that suggests another avenue for Google to make money. Yes these are like Exact and Phrase matches which are typically your highest converting keywords. They target "Close variations" which suggests you will be targeting even more "Highly Relevant Traffic" and make even more money for your company.

But, you don't really know how "close" these variations will be, and it's doubtful that Google will update their keyword tool and traffic estimator to account for these new match types (even though it would be awesome if it did!) and for you to make strategic data-based decision.

The only thing that's certain is that you will be spending more money, as Google is taking the liberty of adding this to the default setting for all your current and new campaigns. You can disable this Campaign level settings under keyword matching options.

III.) Is It Worth It? Show Me The Data!

Fortunately, for anyone that wants to tread lightly there is a clear cut, simple test you can implement to determine the exact incremental value of this new feature.

This test is best suited for a company that has great exact and phrase match conversion rates and CPAs, but doesn't quite have the budget surplus to back a broad matched targeting expansion. It is also suited to anyone that has money to spend, and either wants get more granular measurements to satisfy their inner nerd and/or to perform more custom optimization for different audiences.

So with no further ado, let's get to the test to help you determine the type of incremental traffic you will be getting, what you will be paying for it and whether or not it's worth it!

IV.) How To Test Your Account's Incremental Value:

This might get a little messy, so you may want to start off testing this on one campaign. All of this should be done via AdWords Editor, as it offers the quickest implementation. Please comment if you have any questions for any step.

Step 1: Change the keyword setting on campaign of your choice to "Do not include close variants."
Step 2: Delete/Pause broad matched keywords from campaign - Sort by match type, delete all broad match terms.
Step 3: Replicate this campaign and change keyword setting to "Include close variants - Copy and paste campaign. Label it as Incremental Value Test Campaign. Enable keyword setting "Include close variants" in campaign settings.
Step 4: Take all exact match keywords and add them as campaign level exact match negative keywords - Sort by match type, copy and paste all exact match keyword into a spreadsheet, upload them as campaign level exact match negative keywords.
Step 5: Take all phrase match keywords and ad them as campaign level phrase match negative keywords - Sort by match type, copy all phrase match keyword into a spreadsheet, upload them as campaign level phrase match negative keywords.

If you decide to keep your broad match keywords, there are a few extra steps you should take:

Step 6: Create a Filter in AdWords that includes only exact and phrase match keywords.
Step 7: Make sure that your bids are higher on all your exact and phrase match variations than their broad match counterpart.

I would highly recommend pausing your broad matched terms for the duration of this test as the more factors you can isolate the better.

Example of keywords in an account using a variety of match types:

adwords match types examples in an account

V.) The Story Your PPC Data Will Tell:

The campaign with the "close variations" will only show result for keyword variations, it will not deliver ads for any of the traditional exact and phrase matches.

The campaign with the "close variations" option turned off will only show results for your traditional exact and phrase match variations.

With campaigns setup this way, all you have to do to determine the benefit/risk of the new match types is look at the bottom line. There are deeper analyses that can be tested, but if all you want to know is the incremental value, just take the bottom line of your regular campaign, add it to the test campaign and, boom, you have your total results for what to expect in performance if your campaigns were running with modified match types (without the negative terms).

Let us know what you think or if you have any questions. We would love to help you test this new feature, so let us know if you need any help. If you decide to test, let us know what your results are!

We'll do the same!