Broad Match on Google: Where did my broad match go?

At the end of May 2012 Google introduced changes to Exact and Phrase match type settings for all advertisers. For those of you not familiar with Google’s long standing match type settings; match types enable advertisers to control which ads get matched to which search queries. Traditionally Exact match would have matched only to Google searches for that exact keyword term and Phrase match would have added words to the front or the back of a specific search phrase but had to contain the exact keyword in the search term. This is no longer the case; after the update the following variations are now allowed to apply to a keyword: Misspellings, Singular/plural forms, Stemming, Accents, Abbreviations and Acronyms.

This leads me to the question: Isn’t that what Broad match was supposed to do?

Traditionally Broad match was defined as: “… broad match means that your ad may show if a search term contains your keyword terms in any order, and possibly along with other terms. Your ads can also show for singular or plural forms, synonyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), related searches, and other relevant variations.”

From this definition the only value that Broad match now offers under the new Google settings are synonyms. To gauge the value of these “synonyms” I accessed the search query logs for a high volume broad keyword “Health Insurance” for the last 60 days (post match type settings change). A quick scan revealed that Google felt like the search term “lice removal service insurance” warranted showing our health insurance ad for so clearly synonym value is debatable.

Google offered advertisers the option to opt out of the new settings before the release, but even if you did, this change would have affected your broad match keywords as no opt out is available.

To see the full impact we look at the impressions high traffic volume broad keyword health insurance running in multiple states.

Broad Match on Google - Health Insurance Florida

Broad Match on Google - Health Insurance Texas

Our bidding strategy of course skews this data somewhat as we would be bidding less on keywords that have worse and worse click through rates, but the downwards trend of CTR is unmistakable.

With CTR playing such a big role in keyword quality score and quality score affecting how much you pay for a click it’s hard to see how advertisers will be able to keep on running advertising for broad keywords as these keywords will become increasingly expensive at very low click through rates.

Google hailed these changes as a simplified way of running campaigns and that it would enable advertisers to use less complicated strategies and get the same results. The data however is showing that it has largely made broad match a tool that should be used sparingly if at all.