For a newer article on this topic visit: How We Increased Conversion Rate by 24% Through Campaign Match Type Segmentation


ppc match type debate meme

If you pay any attention to PPCChat, you probably saw a good debate going on over there last Tuesday: Ad Group Creation Strategies.

Debates are healthy because they remind us we don’t have all the answers and that other people have great ways of looking at things. This chat was revealing to me, because I had always thought separating ad groups by match type was more mainstream than it is. It was insightful to get some new thinking on this topic to chew through my own reasoning. The reason blindspots scare me, is because they are blindspots! Where discussions and debate can be invaluable to us is that they help strip away our blindspots. Part of me is terrified to throw my thoughts and analysis out there, but on the other hand I recognize I won’t grow without you smart people picking apart my logic and thought processes. Would you join me in having civil and continued discussion on this topic?

That being said, I think I have a case for why it’s still worth it to break out match types by ad group… BUT… I also admit that I’m limited by the inner workings of my brain. So I would value your input and thoughts in the comments and on twitter: @PPCKirk. I fully admit that the majority of my post rests on heavy use of Adwords Editor. If Editor is not something you are familiar with, I would suggest learning it well since it is a significant source of efficiency for the PPC Manager (read to the end and I will give you insight into how you can use Editor to bulk copy/add separate match type ad groups)!

I’m not a huge fan of the “response” article, but I think this is a time when it can be useful.

Therefore, I will analyze 4 opposition arguments and explain my reasoning for dismissing them. It should be noted that the majority of my arguments relate to new account builds. I acknowledge taking over an existing account can get messy and it would be unwise to always (or even most of the time) blow it up and kill account history by changing all ad groups over to separated match types. This article will primarily present arguments for creating a new account.

4 Arguments Against Breaking Out Ad Groups Into Match Type

  1. Efficiency in Account Creation
  2. Efficiency in Ongoing Account Management
  3. Intent is Same, So Why Separate?
  4. Waste of Time Until Volume is Established

Argument 1: Efficiency in Account Creation

This is an interesting argument since it appears at surface level to hold validity. “In order to create separate Broad Match Modified (BM) and E ad groups, you are in essence DOUBLING the number of ad groups you have to create!”

Makes sense, right?

However, there is faulty reasoning here. Can you spot it? The faulty reasoning is: “Double the ad groups = double the time in account creation.” I was skeptical about this statement because frankly, using Editor, I can blast out multiple ad groups pretty quickly.

So for fun, I timed it. I went into a real client account, and made a test. Using similar keyword modifiers so I was as much as possible comparing apples to apples, I created 1 ad group with both exact and broad modified match types. I then created 2 ad groups, for another similar keyword phrase. 1 ad group was exact match. 1 ad group was broad modified.

These ad groups included:

– 2-8 KWs
– A/B Ad Test set up (copied ads from other ad groups to all AGs)
– mirrored Negative KWs set up in separated MT ad group


1 Ad Group, Both Match Types: 2:15 (135 seconds) From start to account push up to UI.
2 Ad Groups, Separated Match Types: 3:15 (195 seconds) From start to account push up to UI. (actually I ran this twice, one time it took me 3:30 and the other time it took me 3:00 so I averaged this at 3:15).

What I learned was that you actually have to use a similar process to create BM and E keywords, whether in the same ad group or separated so the time saved by grouping them is not as significant as first appears.

Ad group, ads, everything else can be copied over to create the duplicate ad groups. The real time comes from adding the exact KWs as mirrored negatives, and even that is pretty easy with the Editor bulk operation.

adwords editor bulk negative keyword

Now, I understand this isn’t super-duper exact science but you do have to start somewhere, and even if things vary, or some ad groups take you longer/shorter than others, I believe the relationship between the 2 stands. It does not take “double” the time to create an account by separating match types out.

Hourly Estimate For Separating Match Types

Let’s put an estimate on it. Stick with me here because this comes in handy in our next point.

At my numbers, it will take approximately 30% longer to create the Search campaigns in your account. This doesn’t take into account any of the account setup for Shopping, Remarketing, Display, or account creation. For sake of argument, let’s say it takes 20% longer in an account to separate match types. In a 20 hour account build, this will add an additional 4 hours on the beginning. In a 15 hr build, an extra 3 hours, so on. Again, these numbers can get fuzzy but for the sake of this argument, I do want us to make an attempt to get real numbers so we’re not just dealing with gut.

So WHY the heck go to all of this trouble, Kirk??? Because, now your time wasted on separating match types is DONE. Over. Ended. Quantified.

On the other hand, the match type grouping model affects account efficiency for all time and into eternity. How? Keep reading…

Argument 2: Efficiency in Ongoing Account Management

The argument for this generally goes something like this: “Ongoing management needs to be efficient and organized. So many unnecessary ad groups creates account waste and visual confusion. It takes more time to manage an account with double the Search ad groups from match type separation.”

Here again, is another argument that sounds great at face value. Who would argue with decreased efficiency?! “That idiot Kirk, there he goes again wanting more confusion in his accounts. *eyes roll*”

However, I would push back on this one by again trying to dig a little deeper.

First, I’m not sure I understand how this decreases efficiency. – When I analyze an account, I usually sort by my top cost/traffic/profitable/revenue/whatever ad groups, keywords, queries, you name it. In other words, I am focused on those top performing segments of data, not on the aggregate whole. Who cares if there are 500 ad groups now in the account rather than 250, I’m still looking at the same data to make decisions as someone with match types grouped.

ugly llama picture break

Second, I will argue that grouped match types is actually more inefficient when pausing more specific match types in ongoing account management.

You are digging through your SQR and there is an exact match term that has been bugging you for awhile. You have been watching it, and are finally ready to kill it off. The problem is, if you have bundled match types in an ad group, you can’t simply pause the exact match keyword right in the SQR because it will continue to show up for the BM or phrase match terms in that same ad group. So what do you do? Well, now you have to jump out of SQR and into that ad group and then choose to add the exact match as a negative. Additional, ongoing steps from now and into eternity for what should have been a simple task.

If your ad groups were separated by match type with mirrored negatives, you would have already set these two apart from the beginning. Ready to pause thatexact match term in the SQR? Do it and move on with life. Your negative KWs bulk added in the beginning (according to my Adwords Editor step-by-step tips below) will automatically filter this one out.

Third, I will argue that it is actually more inefficient in the long-term to group by match type because of bidding inconsistencies. – When keyword match types are grouped together something called tiered/stacked bidding is necessary to increase account efficiency, and according to this Wordstream post, even profitability: Bid Stacking in Adwords: How to Pay Less When Using Multiple Match Types (see also Justin Fried’s post on Tiered Bidding: How to Implement a Tiered Bidding Strategy).

This, then, is the single biggest issue I see with grouping match types (for those without bid management platforms). When you use the sorting/filtering method to target individual top cost/traffic/converting keywords or search queries you are making decisions pulled out of the context of the Ad Group in which it resides. This almost always results in a failure to keep up with tiered bidding. I have never taken over an account with grouped match types where the bidding was not, frankly, a mess.

So how does this increase inefficiency you may ask? I’m glad you asked. In order to actually keep up with tiered bidding, you must make a choice EVERY TIME you bid up a keyword. You must jump out of your SQR, navigate to that ad group, and spend more time now analyzing what to do about the other match types in that ad group.

Yup, I counted that time as well 🙂

20-45 seconds is what it will take you to do this for each keyword you do an SQR to ensure tiered bidding is being followed.

So, if you spend 1 hour in SQR each week and if you are following the best practices of tiered bidding, you are decreasing your efficiency significantly. In fact, if you do it as well as you could (hoping into the ad group, analyzing how a bid adjustment on a BM term will affect the phrase or exact matches in that ad group), you are spending an extra 15-30 seconds per keyword with this approach. But, that’s minuscule, right?

Let’s take an easy account and be the generous with the overages (so against my case). 25 KW SQRs analyzed weekly at an extra 15 seconds per KW. That’s an extra 6 minutes per week. That’s an extra 26 minutes per month. That’s an extra 5 hours per year (you just passed your 1-time extra build time-overage if you had separated these from the beginning). Have the same client for 3 years? You spend an extra 15 hours just in minimal SQR work on that client and that number never stops rolling.

Are these extra steps for the bundled match type ad groups the end of the world? No, but I do think it negates the “efficiency” argument.

The Bundled Match Type Ad Group Choice: Increase Inefficiency or Reduce Profitability

The funny thing is that from my point of view, this is (probably unconsciously) known by most PPCers because they choose to go with Option B. They just ignore tiered bidding in the account and let whatever keyword get whatever bid they deem necessary in an account. But is that really the best for the account? If there is any truth behind the articles I shared before (which I agree with), than no. It’s not best for the account.

In summary, a grouped match types proponent must choose 1 of 3 less than ideal options:

  1. Keep up with best practices and implement tiered bidding during each SQR decision (thus significantly decreasing ongoing account efficiency).
  2. Ignore tiered bidding & save account efficiency, but mess with SQR as exact/phrase matches get pulled into higher bid broad modified and thus reduce account profitability.
  3. Utilize an automated bidding platform or system to keep up with this. @Mel66 suggested this on Twitter (and it’s a good idea for those tools that work well!). Of course, this adds additional cost into the equation since these are not free.

On the other hand, as demonstrated above, I believe the only true additional time a separate match typer will add on is the brief setup time (roughly 3-5 hours). Ongoing SQR optimization can be managed happily and quickly since there is no danger of BM cannibalizing the exact queries.

Argument 3: Intent is Same, So Why Separate?

I’ve not heard this argument as much, but I wanted to address it briefly since it has been brought up before. Basically the argument is that if you choose your keywords well, the user intent will be the same so there is no need to segment out into separate ad groups.

I don’t have intense verbal arguments here so I will revert to an intelligent, timely, and compelling meme:

britta perry logical argument

I’ve found that broad match modified nearly always sneak crazy intent queries into the mix. This is the main reason the SQR is so valuable. It helps us identify keywords so far off that we need to exclude them, or keywords separate enough that we need to build out new ad groups.

Frankly, I go the opposite on this one. I think user intent is so separate between BM and exact terms that it aids the argument to break them into separate ad groups.

Argument 4: It is a Waste of Time Until Volume is Established

This argument is similar to the “efficiency” arguments, but I wanted to pull it out and analyze the volume aspect further. Of all the arguments, I think this has the most merit. Basically, the proponents of this argument are agreeing. “Yes, splitting match types out by ad group is the way to go, but wait until you know which keywords/AGs to focus on so you aren’t wasting time.

I completely agree that I don’t want to spend time copying/pasting that I don’t need to spend. However, I don’t think this argument is as simple as that upon closer examination.

I think the 2 key problems with this argument are:

  1. It is less efficient. It takes more steps & touches to analyze (identify, open editor, copy/paste for every individual ad group you want to change from now until forevermore) & then create a new ad group off of existing grouped match types then to simply bulk create all separated ad groups in the beginning.
  2. It causes all historical data to be lost for whatever match type is being moved. This kind of speaks for itself, if you have a high volume ad group you want to break out you have to choose which of those match types to sacrifice your historical data on the altar on optimization.

Perhaps this will reveal different account building strategies, but I’m not doing a full analysis on every keyword I’m putting into my accounts in account creation. Honestly, I think THAT is a waste of time since there is no negative to this strategy (not getting volume after a month, just pause it and move on). I analyze the main keyword groupings and develop keyword modifiers and themes based upon them so I can rapidly bulk-create ad groups off of those originals. We’ve all been surprised by keywords that demonstrate more/less volume or conversions than we expected. So going off of the presupposition that adding the additional match type breakouts in Search campaigns adds minimal hours of extra work to the creation, why would we want to create a full account 1 way, and then “optimize” it by completely changing it around in an ongoing capacity in the future?


So, have I convinced you? Am I full of it? Have I merely hardened you by demonstrating my lack of knowledge in one of these areas? I want to hear your thoughts below and on Twitter! Debate and discussion is how we learn. PPC is an evolving and complicated game so I will be the first to admit I have room to grow. Help keep the conversation going by sharing your ideas on this as well.

BONUS: Adwords Editor Step-by-Step

Let me close by sharing a trick I like to use in Adwords Editor for bulk creating separate Ad Groups (no spreadsheet exporting required). Perhaps there is an easier way to do all this, and if so please share but this is as easy a way as I’ve found so far!

Step By Step Bulk Edit Separation of Match Types in Adwords Editor

Step 1 > Create All Exact Match Type Ad Groups (with keywords & ads), make sure to include an identifier in each. I use (E).
Step 2 > Copy All Ad Groups & Paste.
Step 3 > Highlight New Ad Groups. Find/Replace (E) with (BM).
Step 4 > Filter for all keywords in Ad Groups With (BM). Now only keywords in your BM ad groups are showing.
Step 5 > Highlight all KWs in your view and bulk change from exact to broad. (You can also bulk adjust bids slightly lower now if you want).
Step 6 > Still highlighted, Find/Replace again. Find all spaces ” ” and Replace With ” +”. Note, there is a space in front of that +. This will add the + Modifier before all unique words in these KWs except the first word of every KW.
Step 7 > Still highlighted, Find/replace again. Append “+” to the front of every KW.
Step 8 > Filter for all keywords in Ad Groups With (E). Now only keywords in your E ad groups are showing.
Step 9 > Highlight all Exact Kws. Copy.
Step 10 > Go to the Negative KWs tab, select “Make Multiple Changes”, Paste all the E KWs you copied here. Select All BM Ad Groups. Apply.
Step 11 > Check & Upload changes to UI.