4 Tips for Using Google’s Keyword Matching Tool to Spend Your Ad Budget Wisely

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The following excerpt is from Perry Marshall, Mike Rhodes and Bryan Todd’s book Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound

When you’re ready to import your keyword list into Google AdWords, there’s an important step to consider. Skip this step, and you’ll burn through your budget in a matter of days, maybe even hours. Plus, your conversion rates will be pitiful.

The essential thing to remember is, we’re targeting buyers first and foremost. You’ve likely spent considerable time crafting your keyword list to focus on this group. But if you simply import those keywords into your ad groups as they are, you may unintentionally waste all your hard work.

Google provides matching options as a means to match your keywords with genuine, real-world searches. This process is entirely in your hands. Let me explain.

Related: Set up Your Google AdWords Campaign in 9 Steps

1. Broad match

If you don’t tell Google how and when to show your keywords, it will default to this setting and show your ads for any search it considers relevant. This could include searches that use your keywords in any order, or don’t even contain your keywords at all.

So if you enter your keyword into your list as

  • formal shoes

With no punctuation or brackets, then Google could show your ads for any of these searches:

  • What are formal shoes?
  • Will formal shoes get me a better job?
  • Buy shoes online
  • Good work shoes
  • Smart shoes for prom

Can you see the problem here? The first two are by informational searchers who are a long way from spending money. The next three searches are vague and will pull in people looking for products you don’t even stock.

The result? You’ll waste money on tire-kickers, or you’re going to get a very low clickthrough rate. If that happens, Google’s “Quality Score” rules kick in, which could make your PPC campaigns far more costly to operate.

This is one of the biggest pits new PPC operators fall into. It’s Google’s “Stupidity Tax.” Broad-match searches generally get lots of impressions—and it looks as if something good is happening—but their clickthrough rates and conversions are usually abysmal.

The solution is simple. Google lets you input your keywords with some simple punctuation that more specifically indicates what kinds of searches you want to show for.

2. Exact match

This option gives you total control. You’ll get fewer impressions and clicks overall, but you won’t have to worry about wasting clicks on useless searches. Just enter your keyword with square brackets around it:

  • [buy formal shoes]

Ads connected to this keyword will now only show when people type in this keyword phrase verbatim. If a person searching enters a keyword phrase that includes any other words before, after, or in between, your ad won’t show.

In the above instance, your ad will show for this search:

  • buy formal shoes

But it won’t show for any of these:

  • buy formal shoes online
  • formal shoes buy
  • black formal shoes
  • formal black shoes

Your ad also won’t show if the searcher enters “buy formal shoes” with a misspelling—unless you choose the misspelling option.

And that’s why exact match is a two-edged sword: You avoid wasted impressions at the expense of missed opportunities. To put it bluntly, people are weird: For all the effort you put into finding the most logical keywords, someone will use the word “purchase” instead of “buy,” and you’ll miss out on valuable traffic.

Which brings us to . . .

Related: 3 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Ad’s Clickthrough Rate and Lower Your Cost Per Click

3. Phrase match

Enter your keyword in straight quotation marks. People will see your ad when they type in the keyword in that precise order, but your ad will also display if they type in additional words before or after:

  • “formal shoes”

With this keyword, your ad will show for all of the following searches:

  • formal shoes
  • buy formal shoes
  • formal shoes buy
  • purchase formal shoes
  • buy formal shoes online

However, it won’t show for searches that insert anything in between the keywords or use them in a different order. For example:

  • shoes formal
  • formal black shoes
  • buy formal work shoes
  • formal men’s shoes

Phrase match is useful because you get more impressions than with exact match but you still retain a level of accuracy.

You may still miss out on some opportunities, however.

Related: A Quick Guide to Starting a Money-Generating Blog

4. Modified broad match

This option behaves like broad match, but you can specify that one or more of the words in your key phrase must always be present. Add a plus sign immediately before the non-negotiable word, like this:

  • +formal shoes

This keyword will show for any search that Google considers relevant but only if the person searching included the word “formal.” This way your ads will show for all of the following searches:

  • buy formal shoes
  • buy formal footwear
  • affordable formal black shoes
  • what are formal shoes?
  • formal shoe shop

But your ad will not show for:

  • buy work shoes
  • best smart shoes
  • buy black evening footwear
  • smart cheap black shoes

There’s lots of flexibility with modified broad match but you need to think carefully about which words to “anchor” using that “+”; otherwise you could still wind up with irrelevant impressions or miss out on key opportunities.

In this example, you might be better off with:

  • +buy formal shoes

It all comes back to intent. What is the conversation taking place in your ideal customer’s head? Most people who use the word “buy” in a search are looking for websites that sell the product in question and are ready to spend money.

Modified broad match offers a superb balance between flexibility and accuracy and is an important tool to learn to use well. However, when you first start out, it can offer many opportunities for mistakes. The problems we identified with broad match can easily manifest themselves here if you put the “+” in the wrong place!

If you’re feeling confident, give it a try. But if you’re putting together your first campaign, and especially if your budget is tight, start with phrase match and pin down the most targeted searches for your product or service.


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