Case Study: The Effects of Modified Broad Match Keywords

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In July of last year, Google announced the global roll out of modified broad match keywords that had a greater reach than phrase match and more control than broad match. PPC advertisers welcomed this new match type as a way to better target qualified traffic. I slowly began integrating modified broad match keywords into my accounts, but hadn’t taken the time to fully evaluate the effects of this new keyword match type. When I took on a new client in March I decided it would be the perfect time to test how modified broad match keywords can affect account performance.

Account Background

The client had just begun building their PPC account in February. They have a limited budget of just a couple thousand dollars a month, but were competing in an industry with big name players. I immediately thought they would benefit greatly from the use of modified broad match keywords. Before I went through pausing all the current broad keywords and adding in modified broad, I decided to run an experiment to determine if campaigns that use modified broad match perform better than campaigns that use regular broad match.

Strategy

To determine the performance difference between broad and modified broad keywords, I decided to run an experiment in one of the higher traffic campaigns. The control campaign used only broad, phrase, and exact keywords and the experiment campaign used modified broad, phrase, and exact keywords. All keyword bids were left at the default ad group bid level. I made very little changes to the campaign while the experiment was running to get the most accurate data possible.

After the experiment was complete I was hoping to answer the following questions:

  • Would modified broad match keywords reduce impressions and clicks?
  • Would it lower the average CPC?
  • Would it improve my conversion rate and lower cost per conversion?

Results

The experiment ran from April 1st to April 30th. Below are the results for the different metrics. The cells highlighted in yellow are the experiment results Google deemed to be significantly different than the control results.

Modified Broad Match ExperimentSome of the results were more surprising than others. I’ll go through each of the metrics separately.

Clicks and Impressions: As expected, modified broad match keywords significantly reduced the impressions my ads received. What I didn’t expect was that this 4,000 drop in impressions didn’t have a significant impact on clicks. This shows that modified broad keywords were reducing the number of times my ad was shown with irrelevant search queries.

Click -Through Rate: With the drop in impressions and relatively same performance in clicks, the CTR increased significantly with modified broad keywords, from 1.88% to 2.25%. A better CTR is always welcome, but what my client cared most about was cost.

Spend and Cost-Per Click: CPC was exactly the same for both the control and experiment group, at $0.46. Since we maintained the same level of clicks, total spend also remained the same. Although modified broad match didn’t significantly reduce spend, our ads were being shown to more relevant traffic and we were paying the same price for our ads to be shown in higher positions. With modified broad keywords our ads went from an average position of 4.4 to 2.7.

Conversions: Modified broad keywords didn’t have much of an effect on improving any conversion metrics. After looking deeper into the accounts, this was because our conversions were coming from exact or phrase matches of our keywords.

Take Aways

Below are the major take aways I got from running this experiment:

  • Modified broad match will improve click-through rate.
  • Modified broad match keywords won’t significantly reduce spend.
  • Modified broad match won’t significantly improve conversion rates.

I starred the last one for two reasons. First, since this account does have a limited budget, it also limits the amount of data we can accrue. Running this experiment on a larger spend, higher traffic account may give different results.

Second, most of my conversions came from phrase and exact match keywords. For this account, the ad groups are tightly themed and contain about 5-6 different keywords each (not including match type variations). Because each ad group is so targeted, it’s the phrase and exact match keywords that were triggering our ads. What this showed me is that although modified broad match keywords do offer a better way to target your ads, nothing is more beneficial to account performance than an organized, tightly themed account structure.

If you are interested in running your own experiment, Tom Demers wrote a great article on Wordstream that walks you through the process of creating a modified broad match experiment.

Have any of you tried running similar experiments? I’m curious if anyone has seen an improvement in conversions from modified broad keywords. Please comment below!

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  • http://twitter.com/thebigfixer Richard Thomas

    Hi Bethany Great post – the biggest success I have found is in finding more niche terms when evaluating my words within GA – its made a big difference especially in eliminating those negative terms that i just hadnt been able to get to before – just wish we could use advance broadmatch combinations within negative terms too

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

      Thanks Richard,

      I definitely agree with you. Advanced broad match negatives would be very useful. I also saw a substantial decrease in irrelevant search queries when using modified broad keywords, another benefit of the match type!

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  • Dan Robins

    Nice test, with interesting results. My only question is why did you have all match types grouped together? Surely best practice is to break them out so you get the exact searches going through the Exact match terms and then Broad and BMM will pick up new searches you don’t have in the account. Even with low budgets you’d be able to get decent results, just keeping the campaigns capped to the level you can spend to.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

      Hi Dan,

      I always go back and forth on whether or not to separate out match types. Some people have seen success with separating them out here in the office and some get better results keeping them together. It seems to be an industry wide debate as well. 

      I keep my match types grouped together because it’s easier for me to keep my account organized that way. Also, if you have just an ad group for exact match and an ad group for broad match, the broad match keywords will still pull in exact match queries since there is no exact match keyword in the ad group for Google to assign it too. This article does a good job of explaining how grouping all match types in one ad group can be beneficial: http://goo.gl/M11q4

      • Guest

        If you have the exact keywords in another campaign or ad group you can add the exact terms as exact negatives to the broad campaign or ad group.

        • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

          I agree. That’s a way to make sure exact match terms don’t show for broad match types of the keyword. From my experience though, I think it creates unnecessary complexity without adding additional value. 

          If you have had success with separating out match types I’d love to learn more about it!

  • Deanna Hatfield

    Great article!   Thank you

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

      Thanks Deanna!

  • Rachel Schnorr

    Be aware of the keywords that you are turning to broad match modifier because it can significantly reduce traffic on long tail keywords, especially those with more than four phrases in the keyword.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

      Great point Rachel. As I begin to use more broad modifier match types, I find them most helpful with two-word keywords when you want both keywords in the search query but not necessarily in a certain order. 

      Thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/PPCNI Jordan McClements

    Interesting.
    It would be nice to see the results for 10 times that number of clicks – but I take the point that this is not always possible with restricted budgets and/or search volume…
    As always – I guess results vary depending on the situation and the only way to know if it will work for you is to try it.
    I also agree with you that having separate match types in separate ad groups (or campaigns) along with negative exact keywords in your non exact groups/campaigns adds an awful lot of complexity without  any definite returns (though maybe someone can show us a case study which proves this is worth doing?)

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

      I would love to see a case study comparing separating match types vs not. Maybe that’s something we’ll look into here for next month…

      Thanks for reading!

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  • http://www.calculatemarketing.com Alan Mitchell

    Hi Bethany,

    I also did some analysis on modified broad match and similarly found that modified broad keyword keywords had higher CTRs: 

    http://www.calculatemarketing.com/blog/techniques/modified-broad-match-adwords-analysis/ 

    I also found that CPCs were lower for modified broad match keywords, and that results were generally greater for keywords with more broad match modification.

    Guess this makes perfect sense – if you can better control the types of searches which match your ads, you can write better ads, achieve a higher CTR, raise your Quality Score, and lower your CPCs.

    Cheers,
    Alan

  • http://upsmack.com Nate Schubert

    Thanks so much for touching on this, Bethany! In February, I integrated broad match modifier terms into a similar budgeted account, in place of broad match terms.

    I found that it lowered my impressions, thus raising my CTR which was great because since the loss of the old Search Query Report which used to provide me with excellent info in terms of negative term ideas that added to my impressions but not clicks. As you know, the current form of the SQR mostly gives you terms that resulted in clicks to your page which isn’t as helpful for finding good negatives. Anyway…

    I watched my conversions drop like a stone over the past three months, although some of those broad match modifier terms are bringing conversions in. I need to go back to the drawing board, gotta stop the bleeding. =) 

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

      That’s very interesting Nate. As I mentioned in the post, I didn’t see a significant change in conversions. Were broad match terms bringing in a majority of your conversions before you switched to modified broad?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

      That’s very interesting Nate. As I mentioned in the post, I didn’t see a significant change in conversions. Were broad match terms bringing in a majority of your conversions before you switched to modified broad?

      • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

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  • http://upsmack.com Nate Schubert

    Thanks so much for touching on this, Bethany! In February, I integrated broad match modifier terms into a similar budgeted account, in place of broad match terms.

    I found that it lowered my impressions, thus raising my CTR which was great because since the loss of the old Search Query Report which used to provide me with excellent info in terms of negative term ideas that added to my impressions but not clicks. As you know, the current form of the SQR mostly gives you terms that resulted in clicks to your page which isn’t as helpful for finding good negatives. Anyway…

    I watched my conversions drop like a stone over the past three months, although some of those broad match modifier terms are bringing conversions in. I need to go back to the drawing board, gotta stop the bleeding. =) 

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

    That’s a great point. We’ve been talking a lot here about splitting up vs keeping all match types together. Have you found it a lot easier to control account performance that way?

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com Bethany Bey

    That’s a great point. We’ve been talking a lot here about splitting up vs keeping all match types together. Have you found it a lot easier to control account performance that way?

    • Dave

      I personally find it a lot easier to manage this way – I also add the exact KWs as negatives exacts against the broad and phrase, and phrase KWs as negative phrase against the broad KWs too (this can be done at ad group level but i prefer campaign level as I find it easier to manage – just my personal preference.

      The only downside is you need to extend your campaign limit to 100 campaigns per account (from the standard 25?) – this can be an issue as you may need >100 which from my understanding is not possible unless your cousin is called Larry or Sergey.

      Cheers

  • LynnmarIebruno

    Hi Bethany,
    Terrific post–I am reviewing an account now that has made extensive use of modified broad match, and was asking myself the same questions you did with this experiment. If you have a chance to run it with a bigger budget I hope you’ll write about it.

  • Guest

    Unfortunately, this isn’t really a valid study due to the ridiculously small sample size.

  • http://twitter.com/SEMFaculty SEM Faculty


    Modified broad match won’t significantly improve conversion rates.”

    in account i manage – i saw a great improvement on Conversion rates…