I know I have preached for years about small businesses being very careful with the Google Ads default keyword targeting setup which is known as “broad match“. I just wanted to point out a few reasons why, as I had a client come across examples of this recently. Here are a couple of things that may happen to you when you are overly reliant on broad match keywords in your Google Ads campaigns. If you are reliant on these, you should keep a close eye on your conversion rates and return on ad spend on a daily basis and maybe even set up alerts if certain thresholds aren’t met.

Google Turning Knobs Behind the Scenes

First of all, when you use broad match, you are letting Google decide to show your ads for anything their computers think is relevant to the keywords you put in. You have no control of this. Below is their wording, which makes it sound great, but it definitely comes with potentially costly drawbacks.

“Ads may show on searches that are related to your keyword, which can include searches that don’t contain the keyword terms. This helps you attract more visitors to your website, spend less time building keyword lists, and focus your spending on keywords that work. Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned as if you don’t specify another match type (exact match, phrase match, or a negative match type).”

Those of you who follow SEO know that Google is constantly adjusting the algorithm and making tweaks. This also seems to happen in Google Ads and a broad match campaign that is running smoothly one day can suddenly go from a great return on ad spend to an atrocious one because a know was changed in the background that allowed a lot of garbage keywords into your campaign that you can’t see. Unfortunately, these changes can happen at any time and they can even be turned back shortly thereafter.  It can be frustrating having a campaign that is just killing it go unprofitable overnight. Then you spend time making adjustments, only to see it happen again. Google is taking more and more control away from the advertiser, and it is sometimes helpful to use broad matches so you can find specific terms that convert very well to then use as more specific match types, but being overly reliant on them can lead to heartache.

Sudden Demand for Keywords in Your Broad Match

Another potential hazard that isn’t even from Google changing things in the background. With a broad match, you are targeting a lot of different terms on the fringe that you may not even realize you are targeting. There can be a sudden spike in search volume for one of those less relevant terms that your ads are showing up for that suddenly eats all of your budget on low converting terms. An example of this would be a client I was brought in to help a few years back. They did what is called “daylighting excavation”. This is a process of exposing underground utility pipes or wires when doing the digging. It is an important service and their ads campaign was actually profitable. Suddenly it wasn’t. The entire budget, which was using the broad match keywords, was eaten up by people searching for “daylight savings time” as that approached. Clearly, they are vastly different things, but since they had a broad match, Google was serving their ads for these searches and there were so many of them it totally ate their budget.  This is just one example of what can happen with sudden demand spikes, but hopefully, you get the picture. Broad match can be a great way to learn new phrases that do work, but it can also potentially eat up your budget on completely irrelevant garbage.