Matching for Success: Using Match Types to Optimize Performance

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As Paid Search professionals, we pay attention to a lot of factors when optimizing our accounts – Ad copy, landing page creative, bid strategy, and keyword selection, to name just a few of the variables that we need to keep on our radar. While we tend to sweat over choosing the right keyword phrases for our accounts (justifiably slow – keywords are the backbone of any SEM campaign), it’s equally important to consider the match types of those keywords.

The concept of using keyword match types isn’t new at all, but it is often overlooked. While I won’t deep dive into the particular definitions of each match type here (see this guide from Google for that), I do want to review the basics, and talk about how aligning your bid strategy to your match type strategy could improve your ROI. I’ll cover each of the different match types below.

  • Phrase Match – I like to use phrase match as my base bid, as the match type generally strikes a good balance between unforeseen variations of keywords and very targeted queries.

  • Broad Match – As the name suggests, broad match is the loosest match type at our disposal. While it’s useful to have some broad matched variations of 2-4 word queries in your campaigns, your ads could get matched up to some very irrelevant queries… So you need to be diligent about adding in negative keywords. I typically start my broad match bids at 75% of my base phrase match bid. Once you’ve collected some data (and have added in new variations based on your search query report, as well as negatives), you can bid this up or down, or even pause off the broad match term altogether based on performance.

  • Broad Match Modifier – While I don’t add in BMM variations of all keywords, I do like to use the match type on high volume keywords, in an effort to discover new variations that might be profitable. I’ll actually set the base bid on BMM to be 10% higher than my base phrase match bid, so that the BMM keywords get a chance to run freely. Again, you’ll want to monitor your search query reports carefully to add in negatives, and to pick out new queries to add in to your campaign that convert well.

  • Exact Match – Everybody loves a good exact match keyword, right? Because exact match keywords are the most targeted, it’s usually a best practice to bid them up once you know they convert. I like to set a 25-30% premium over the base phrase match bid to start, and then use Acquisio’s bid rules and algorithms to adjust up and down as needed based on your goals. Remember, as you find variations of broad, phrase, and BMM versions that convert well and that are profitable, you should add them in as exact match variations with bid premiums to maximize your impression share.

It’s important to note that your bid strategy must not exist in a vacuum, and that your starting bids will look very different from your bids over time as you collect performance data. As you see which match type variations work the best, don’t be afraid to pause off or severely bid down the laggards. But by staggering your opening bids as described above, you can really find some keyword gems that can increase conversions at a very high ROI.



Lee Goldberg is the Co-Founder and President of Vector Media Group, a NYC-based digital agency focused on Search Engine Marketing and Website Development. Having worked with firms ranging from local startups to Fortune 100 companies, Lee specializes in Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Analytics consulting, Conversion Rate Optimization, and Paid Search Management, with a particular focus on campaign attribution.

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