Revisiting Modified Broad Match

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The modified broad match type was created last year by Google in order to help advertisers better target a wide audience. While the modified broad match type was introduced nearly a year ago, in July 2010 (May for the UK and Canada), I still find myself answering a lot of questions about it.   If I’m not answering questions about it, I’m answering questions with “Have you tried using modified broad match?” which leads to answering questions about them, thus, I decided a review post might be helpful.

For starters, Google’s three basic match types are as follows:

  • Exact: Matches only the exact query
    • Example: [tennis shoes] ONLY matches tennis shoes
  • Phrase:  Matches queries with additional terms, so long as the exact phrase is intact
    • Example: “tennis shoes” also matches ‘red tennis shoes’ but not ‘tennis match shoes’
  • Broad: Matches any query that contains either one or all terms in the keyword, in any order, along with other terms
    • Example: tennis shoes matches tennis, shoes, buy tennis shoes, tennis shoe photos, tennis match shoes, high heeled shoes, etc.

Because phrase and exact target a narrow audience, advertisers may find that they aren’t receiving the traffic they’d like.  Unfortunately, broad, the default match type, often presents a range of impressions that are not always relevant.  Modified broad serves to increase traffic, without advertising to an audience that is too large.

How Modified Broad Match Works

Modified broad match works like a broad match keyword, except advertisers are able to select which terms within a keyword are important.  For instance, the broad matched keyword ‘scary Halloween masks’ will show for anything from scary movies to spa facial masks or Halloween candy.  However, by adding “modifiers”, otherwise known as the plus symbol (+), you can tell Google which terms are necessary when matching your keywords to search queries.  The term ‘+scary +Halloween +masks’ will match for anything that includes all three terms, no matter their order or what other terms are also included in the query.  This allows for more versatility than phrase match without the lack of control that comes with broad match.  If your store sold all kinds of Halloween masks, including but not limited to scary masks, you may want to try ‘scary +Halloween +masks’, which will match for all queries that include both ‘Halloween’ and ‘masks’ whether they include ‘scary’ or not.

The image below was taken from the Adwords Blog about modified broad match types, which illustrates the targeting reach of each match type.

When to use modified broad match:

  • If your click through rate is low, it may mean that you are showing for an audience that is too broad.  Substitute modified broad match types for broad keywords that have a low click through rate.
  • If your cost per lead is high, substitute high cost broad terms for modified broad terms, this will help narrow down the amount of people that see and click on your add.
  • If total cost is high, you may also want to consider subbing out high cost keywords for modified broad terms as it will better target your audience while also decreasing potential irrelevant clicks and spend.

I’ve personally had a great experience with modified broad match terms.  They don’t always work, nor does any other keyword, but in general modified broad match terms have helped decrease CPL for a wide range of clients.  I’d recommend using this tool to convert several broad keywords to modified broad match terms at once.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about modified broad match terms! 🙂

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13 thoughts on “Revisiting Modified Broad Match

  1. Pingback: Revisiting Modified Broad Match | Iuvo

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  3. Nikki Romero

    This modified broad match actually saves time, instead of creating plural and wrong spelling versions of my keywords I just concentrate in finding other related terms. Great help!

  4. Anonymous

    Broad matched modified keywords are a great way to reach an audience that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture running phrase or exact match only. Arguably the best new feature to hit AdWords in years.

  5. Pingback: Revisiting Modified Broad Match « « Big Engine Media Big Engine Media

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  7. Nate Schubert

    Hey, thanks for the follow-up. So, I understand what happens if you bid on ” +scary +halloween +masks ” but there isn’t much description about what happens in the following scenarios:

    +scary +halloween masks
    +scary halloween +masks
    +scary halloween masks


    Any thoughts on this use of the broad match modifier?

  8. James Svoboda

    Hey Nate,

    From my testing and analysis, words contained in a broad match keyword that is not “Fully Modified”, are treated in the same manner as a normal broad keyword and become… optional/recommended depending on your point of view (yours or Googles).

    See if this pattern makes sense to you:

    +scary +halloween masks  – “masks” is the optional word that you are recommending Google to consider being relative.  This keyword could show up for the search queries “scary halloween”, “sacry halloween mask” or even “sacry halloween face”

    +scary halloween +masks – “halloween” is the optional word. This keyword could show up for the search queries “scary masks”, “scary halloween mask”, or even “scary christmas masks”

    +scary halloween masks – “halloween” and “masks” are both optional words. This keyword could show up for the
    search queries “scary”, “scary halloween”, “scary mask”, or even “scary christmas”

    I always get the best balance in control and exposure by Fully Modifing my Broad Match Keywords such as this: +scary +halloween +masks

    For a little more insight see:

  9. Jean

    I am new at this, so I will try to be concise!  My question is based on the assumption that having the same keyword repeated in broad match types leads to competition within your keywords… (info I got direct from Google team…) 

    I am having trouble wrapping my brain around how to have specific enough keywords but not have them compete.  For example, I have an account which features downtown Vancouver real estate.  So I wouldn’t have ‘vancouver real estate’ and ‘vancouver realtor’ together as they would compete due to the repetition of ‘vancouver’. 

    If I then use a broad match modifier like +vancouver +realtor, I still need to find a way to include keywords like ‘real estate’, ‘downtown’, ‘westside’, all of which require ‘vancouver’ in order to make them relevant.

    Theroretically, I suppose I should be able to add ‘real estate +vancouver’ and then ‘downtown +vancouver’… but does vancouver then compete with itself?

    Any insight would be great!

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