Unleash Your Full PPC Potential by Leveraging Google AdWords’ Match Types

by John Lee

Search Marketing Manager, Clix Marketing

So many strategies surround even the most basic of pay-per-click (PPC) principles. One principle that is kicked around the most is the use of match types in Google AdWords.

Some camps preach that exact match is king. Others continue to spread bad advice, asserting that broad match is evil and should be avoided at all costs. Google employees have even recommended that campaigns should be run only with phrase match.

But all three match types can work together harmoniously. To kick things up a notch, we’ll attempt a metaphor, where AdWords match types make up your “keyword team” (pick a sport, it doesn’t really matter)!

{The Anchor}

If you hadn’t guessed already, exact match is the anchor of your keyword team.

With exact match keywords, you know exactly what you’re going to get. The searcher has to type that exact string of characters into Google’s search box in order for your ad to be triggered. That takes most, if not all, guesswork out of the equation.

On top of that, exact match keywords generate higher click-through rates (CTR) and are generally consistent performers. If you’re running a PPC campaign without running exact match keywords, you should take a serious look at your strategy.

“The Star Player”

The star player of your keyword team is phrase match. Phrase match keywords are more adventurous, but still dependable, consistent performers.

With phrase match, the searcher still has to type the exact string of characters into the search box, but Google can match that root phrase to other terms the searcher may have used. This loosens your keyword strategy so that you don’t have to be clairvoyant and predetermine every possible keyword phrase permutation.

Alongside your exact match keywords, phrase match terms create your PPC campaigns’ keyword foundation.

The Talent Scout

So I’ve gone from players to front office management, but for good reason. Broad match keywords are like a team’s talent scout. You send your broad match keywords into the world to find new searches and new customers through keyword variations you had not previously considered.

For years, people have claimed broad match would cause the downfall of Google AdWords PPC, and PPC managers were told they should beware of “keywords gone wild.” OK, so there are legitimate concerns over simply throwing one- and two-word broad match keywords into an account without a plan in place.

But when it comes to the long-term success of a PPC account, broad match is as important — if not more important — as phrase and exact match keywords. The benefits outweigh the potential concerns. Broad match keywords become a slightly higher risk, but much higher reward proposition.

Run your broad match keywords with a short leash. Consistently run search query reports and employ negative keywords to weed out irrelevant traffic. This will serve to replenish your arsenal of phrase and exact match keywords and maintain a healthy PPC campaign.

The +Rookie

Broad match modifiers are the rookie in the world of keyword match types. Google released this feature earlier this summer, ultimately giving advertisers greater control over how wide of a net AdWords could cast for broad match keywords.

By adding a plus sign in front of a term in a keyword string, you ensure that term will actually be a part of the initial search query. Broad match modifiers offer the flexibility of matching to a wide range of queries while remaining directly rooted with a relevant core term. If you already run broad match, broad match modifiers won’t be of much help to you (and you could actually see a drop in impressions, clicks, etc., if you put them to use). But if you’re an advertiser who is only running phrase or exact match and are wary of broad match, this could be a great way for you to broaden your keyword scope.

Weak sports metaphors aside, the goal here was to convince some of you to unleash the full potential of your PPC campaigns with Google’s full array of match types. My colleagues and I run campaigns with all three match types working in concert with each other to great results. It requires some hard work to find success, but what in the world of PPC is really easy, right?

This article was originally posted September 17, 2010 on searchenginewatch.com