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5 Things You May Not Know About Paid Search Match Types

Ellen Harvey

Retail marketers spend a huge amount of time conducting keyword research to understand what type of queries drive the most valuable traffic to their paid search ads on Google. Identifying the most relevant keywords for a campaign or ad group will boost retailers’ conversion rates and improve their quality score, both of which will translate to greater revenue.

But often, retail marketers overlook a key aspect of this approach–match type. Match type is not an afterthought, but rather a critical tool in identifying valuable keywords and channeling traffic to top-performing ads. Here are five often overlooked tips retailers can use to get match type right and deliver their ads to the most engaged audiences.

Google Paid Search Match Types

Broad Match Is Much Broader Than You Realize

Many retailers want their ads to appear for the largest number of possible searches. As a result, retail marketers will employ broad match keywords.

To indicate a keyword is broad match, marketers enter the “Keywords” section of their campaign and add the keyword without punctuation. Broad match will deliver an ad to any phrases that include that keyword, similar phrases, misspellings, plural and singular forms, and other related searches. While that seems ideal for a retailer looking to drive traffic without building out every iteration of a keyword, there are some major drawbacks to the approach.

For example, if a furniture retailer wants its ad to appear for outdoor lighting fixtures and uses broad match, ads could also appear for phrases like how to install outdoor lighting fixtures. These types of searches have no purchase intent and may increase clicks without resulting in conversions. On top of that, ads that appear for these broad match terms lack relevance which will hurt a retailer’s quality score and drive up costs even further. Broad match is an easy way for marketers to blow through their budget.

Modifiers Are Critical for Reigning in Broad Match

Google also offers modified broad match, which allows marketers to indicate keywords, or modifiers, that must appear in the search query by adding a + next to the keyword. For example, +quality +lighting will ensure that quality and lighting appear in some variation within the search query. Ads would appear for high quality lighting or indoor lighting quality.

Modified broad match allows retailers to maintain a large reach while increasing the relevance of their ads. This is a significant improvement over broad match, but conversions are still lower for this match type when compared to phrase and exact match.

Phrase Match Is the Key to New Keyword Generation

A better way marketers can expand reach on paid search without hurting budget is through phrase match. With phrase match, marketers use quotation marks to indicate phrases that must appear in the search query. Google will only show ads for queries that include those phrases or close variations of those phrases. For example, “Quality lighting” will deliver ads for the searches buy quality lighting or buy quality lights.

The benefit of phrase match is that it helps marketers create a campaign without identifying every keyword variation a shopper might search for. Unlike broad match, though, it limits the scope to closely related searches.

Marketers can also use phrase match to evaluate new keywords in the search query report. If for example top quality outdoor lighting drives a significant amount of clicks and conversions, it may be worth adding that as an exact match keyword to the campaign. Conversely, if a certain query is driving very little traffic, it may make sense to keep it in phrase match where it’s less likely to hurt the budget.

Exact Match Is for Top-Performers

Exact match is meant for keywords that drive the most traffic and highest conversions in a campaign. To indicate an exact match keyword, marketers place brackets around the keyword, for example [Hinkley wall sconce]. Exact match keywords will deliver ads when those keywords are in the search or close variants of the keywords. For example, Hinkley wall sconces or wall sconces Hinkley.

Marketers most often use exact match in their branded campaigns when they want ads to appear for specific branded products or brand categories.

While this match type has the smallest reach in terms of the searches it will appear for, it will drive the highest relevance, which will benefit retailers’ conversion rates and quality scores.

Bonus: Hack Phrase Match Modifiers for Targeted Reach

Last year, Ian Sherk wrote about a “fifth match type” in Search Engine Journal that he uncovered through trial and error. The hack combines the benefits of broad match modifiers and phrase match to better target ads. Retail marketers can use what Sherk dubs a “phrase match modifier” when they need keywords to appear in a specific order and want to add a modifier. Marketers simply need to place a period in between the phrase keywords instead of a space.

For example, if a retailer wanted the brand name Hinkley to appear in the search, along with lighting fixture, it would add the modifiers +Hinkley +lighting.fixture. In this instance, the ad would show for Hinkley lighting fixture or lighting fixture Hinkley. Lighting fixture will always appear in that order.

Alternatively, marketers can use phrase match modifiers to link two phrases together, such as, +best.lighting.store +new.jersey. Shoppers must include those exact phrases in the search in order to surface the ad.

This is another way for retail marketers to build out keywords more efficiently without having to think of every keyword variation in exact match campaigns while expanding their reach to valuable, long-tail searches.

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