The Benefits & Drawbacks of Modified Broad Match

When it comes to traffic control for your paid search ads, AdWords offers a variety of tools to help us increase, maintain or even restrict the flow of traffic to your website. Perhaps the most obvious way to manipulate this flow would be to utilize the three basic keyword match types (broad, phrase, exact). For example, an advertiser with a limited budget might consider including exact and phrase matches to cut back on unnecessary clicks/costs. On the other hand, an advertiser with an unlimited budget may consider running broad, phrase and exact to generate the most traffic possible. But what about those advertisers who fall somewhere in the middle?

Fortunately, AdWords offers somewhat of a hybrid keyword match type referred to as modified broad. You might think of this as the match type that falls between broad and phrase match types because it provides more control than broad match, but is also less restrictive than phrase match. To create a modified broad match keyword, simply add a “+” symbol in front of one or more terms in your broad match keyword (+adopt +kittens +chicago). Here’s a table that demonstrates how modified broad functions in relation to broad and phrase match types according to Google:

Unlike broad or phrase match types, modified broad match keywords allow you to specify certain search terms that must be included in someone’s search query in order for your ad to trigger. In this way, using modified broad match can be beneficial for any campaign since it adds more control. However, there are also a few drawbacks as well. Here are some noteworthy benefits and drawbacks that advertisers should be aware of:


Benefits of Modified Broad Match

  • Increase traffic relevancy – Adding the modifier (+) to your broad match keywords is a great way to increase the relevancy of your ad traffic. As is the case with phrase and exact matching, modified broad match generates better-targeted traffic and therefore improves click-through and conversion rates as a result. In this way, modified broad match can improve overall traffic quality without completely eliminating the liberty of broad matching.
  • Save time on negative keywords – When using broad match, robust negative keyword lists are crucial since it matches synonyms, related searches and other relevant variations. As a result, cost and relevancy can get out of hand quickly if they aren’t kept in check. However, adding the broad match modifier can save you time on your negative keyword management since the matching is more stringent. Unlike broad match, modified broad allows your ads to trigger for close variations, while excluding synonyms or related searches that oftentimes end up as negative keywords anyway.
  • Flexibility to choose which terms include the modifier – One of the cool parts about modified broad matching is the ability to choose which terms receive the modifier in a keyword strand. Here’s how it would look for someone bidding on mens athletic wear: +mens athletic wear, +mens +athletic wear, etc. Therefore, you get to choose which terms must be included in user search queries for your ad to trigger. In this way, modified broad can improve relevancy without hindering too much traffic volume.


Drawbacks of Modified Broad Match

  • Less impression volume – You may have heard the phrase “give a little, take a little”, which certainly applies here. Although modified broad match can improve traffic relevancy, it also works at the expense of cutting into your traffic numbers. Since synonyms and related searches are excluded from this match type, you can expect to see decreases in impression volume, which may or may not be the right move for an advertiser. Regardless, this is something to keep in mind before opting into modified broad matching.
  • Formatting issues with MS Excel – If you’ve moved modified broad match keywords from AdWords/Editor into an MS Excel document, you may have also noticed that your keywords appear something like this ‘+mens +shoes. This becomes problematic when trying to re-upload the changes you’ve made because AdWords recognizes the apostrophe-version as a new keyword. By formatting your keyword column as “Text” and doing a “Find & Replace” for ‘+ fixes this issue, but this step can be easily overlooked. This is another aspect to keep in mind when using modified broad match keywords.


To wrap things up, modified broad match keywords can be beneficial for any account if utilized to their full extent. I’ve found that they have been very helpful for improving overall traffic quality for my clients; particularly those with smaller budgets who want both reach and control. So what are your thoughts on modified broad matching? How have they worked for you?

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