What to do when broad match is out-performing exact match

A reader asked a great question about broad match vs exact match, so I’m going to answer it here on my blog.

Hi Joel..thanks for the great reports.
I have a question for you if you don’t mind… How do I raise my ad position? 
I’m currently running 2 campaigns with the same keywords and same ads.
 One uses broad match (Let’s say it’s “blue widgets”.) The other – exact [blue widgets].

blue widgets gets 26 clicks/day av pos 5-6

[blue widgets] gets 3-4 clicks/day av pos 9-10

How do I increase the ad position of [blue widgets] to get more clicks?

Great Question!

First off, the best way to increase ad positions without raising bids is to make sure you’re picking the right keywords, and always testing ad copy to continually improve your CTR, which in turn raises your ad position.

  1. I’m assuming the obvious answer of simply raising bids on exact match isn’t an option, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind. You really need to get in the top 6 if you want a respectable volume of clicks.
  2. Are you sure your ads in both campaigns are identical? You may have an ad in your broad match campaign that is out-performing your exact match campaign.  (Even if your ads are identical, one set of ads may be set to “rotate” and another could be set to “optimize”, and if the difference between ads is large, that could be impacting your performance. (BTW: I cover ad rotation in more detail if you’re reading the reports I send via email.)
  3. Lastly, I’d bet dollars to donuts that your broad match is robbing exact match of impressions, clicks (& therefore – conversions).  The good news is that since you’re already advertising in separate campaigns, it’ll be easy to fix this issue with a little strategy called “embedded match“. In a nutshell, all you have to do is add a negative match term for the broad match version of “blue widgets”.  I know that’s complicated, but in your broad match campaign, where you’re bidding on blue widgets, simply add “-[blue widgets]” (without the quotes). This will make sure that your broad match campaign doesn’t get credit for what should be exact match traffic. (While you’re at it, add in a negative match for phrase match too.)  Essentially, your campaign structure will look like this:

Campaign: Blue Widgets EXACT
[blue widgets]

Campaign: Blue Widgets PHRASE
“blue widgets”
-blue widgets

Campaign: Blue Widgets BROAD
blue widgets
-“blue widgets”
-[blue widgets]

*Note that you don’t need to have your keywords in separate campaigns to put embedded match to work for you… Separate adgroups will do the trick too.

One other thought is that your exact match term is a highly competitive (and not-so-relevant) term, it might have a lower quality score than broad match because of all the more relevant long-tail phrases broad match is finding. Try re-writing ad copy to boost your quality score for [blue widgets].

There are plenty of other things you can do that come to mind, but since they have to do with adding/reorganizing keywords & don’t have to do with increasing the rank of [blue widgets], I’ll leave it at that.

Good luck!


PS – Using embedded match seems like a pain to set up (and it is, but it’s worth it.)  All I can say is “Welcome to the big leagues.”  That’s the only way to get exact match terms to behave as you want them to if you want to use broad & phrase match too. Thanks to Dan Thies for sharing this invaluable tip with me a couple years ago!

Want more sales for your company? Schedule a free consultation with Joel by emailing [email protected], or calling 303-906-8790.