We all know that in AdWords there are three main match types: broad, phrase, and exact. Broad can be further narrowed down to regular broad match and modified broad – signified by “+” markers. When we analyze our accounts we often look at match type performance and search query reports, but one thing is often overlooked – queries can “exact match” to broad match keywords. What does this mean? Let me explain.

Say you have a modified broad match keyword “+shiny +blue +cars.” If you look at the search query report for this keyword, under match type you’ll see something like this:

Match types to which the search term is triggering

Even though the keyword itself is a broad match term, here we see that queries are exactly matching the keyword, thus triggering an ad. Now the question becomes why is this happening? Aren’t broad match keywords only supposed to capture broad queries? The initial reaction to this question is “broad can match to anything!” Well, yes, but why does it matter? The answer lies in the control that exact match keywords provide, but we’ll dive into this a bit later.

There are a few things that could be happening here.

  • There isn’t an exact match version of this keyword
  • There was an exact match version, but it has been paused
  • There is an active exact match, but there are no embedded negatives and/or the broad match has a higher ad rank

Now you might be asking yourself, “okay, why do I care?” Let’s take a look at performance from a few different accounts.

If you’d like to follow along, download a search term report with the keyword column enabled. Then add in a column for keyword match type (that you can VLOOKUP from a keyword report). From here create a pivot table with keyword match type and query match type as the rows, with the relevant metrics as the columns.

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Keyword match type data

For this particular account, which mostly segments ad groups by match type, we make a few observations:

  • Exact match keywords bring in the most revenue and cost
  • Exact queries often match to broad keywords and convert at a higher rate, with a higher ROAS

Based on the data above, our next step is to examine our exact match keyword coverage, as well as taking a look at our current bidding methodology.

Here is the breakdown for another account, which doesn’t segment ad groups or campaigns by match type:

Another example of keyword match type data

This one is interesting, because with no match type segmentation at the ad group or campaign level, if an exact match keyword is paused, that exact match traffic is simply funneled to the broad match keyword.

Here’s an example of two variations of one keyword, one exact match and one modified broad:

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Performance by match type

During this date range, both keywords were active. Now let’s look at what happened after the exact match was paused.

Exact match performance data

The exact match queries were responsible for 80% of impressions and 54.5% of conversions!

This isn’t to say that exact matches on broad keywords don’t perform well – it’s to bring attention to the fact that when you pause an exact match keyword, that traffic isn’t going away.

You might look at the number of keywords by match type in your account, and think that your coverage should be just fine. However, those exact match keywords could be “low search volume” and get no traffic at all. Simply create a filter in the interface to take a look at how many essentially inactive exact match keywords you have. For example, exact match makes up 25% of the keywords, the low volume means it only makes up 5% of clicks. Despite having potential coverage, you are missing out on actual coverage.

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Low search volume filter

Landing Pages

Directing users to the most relevant landing page is a crucial aspect of any digital marketing campaign. This is yet another reason why it may be important to take a look at how your keywords are matching to search queries. For example, you have a regular broad match keyword “coolest cars” that leads to your homepage. The high bid assigned to this keyword along with regular broad match type attracts a lot of traffic. When someone searches “2016 Subaru Forester” they match with this keyword, and thus get directed to the homepage. However, you have a [2016 Subaru Forester] keyword in another campaign that has a much more relevant landing page, but it’s missing out on traffic that’s being sent to the broad match, “coolest cars”, keyword – possibly due to a lower bid on the exact match term.

Finding Gaps In Exact Match Keyword Coverage

If you suspect you should be adding more exact match keywords, you should first double check that you don’t already have these keywords lurking somewhere in the depths of your account. To do this, download a search query report and filter for converting queries. Then download a keyword report and copy and paste it into the same workbook as your search query report.

Now, copy this to another sheet and concatenate brackets around the queries:

Concatenate brackets around the queries

Then do a VLOOKUP to find any matching existing keywords:

Find existing keywords

Continue to find the status of said keyword:

Continue the process

If the keyword is not in your account, the formula will return #N/A

Keyword isn’t in account

Closing Thoughts

While the instances described above might not be applicable to your account, it’s good to be aware so that you can check in every once in a while to make sure things are running as efficiently as possible. Broad match keywords are an effective tool to find new keywords, but we shouldn’t forget to take a look at the type of queries as well. If exact match contributes a significant amount of the traffic, it’s worthwhile to add it as an exact keyword (and possibly add an embedded negative). As we’ve seen, match types perform very differently, and the control that exact match provides is very valuable to your efficiency of your account.

Key Action Items:

  • Download a search query report & a keyword report to analyze query match type performance
  • Check your exact match keyword coverage
  • Check applicable bidding strategies and embedded negatives