The ABC’s of Google Ads Mistakes, Part 2: Broad Keywords

ABC's of Google Ads Mistakes

The first time you open up the Google Ads console, you might be left thinking that you’ll need a degree in rocket science to use it. With so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to know where to even start. As with everything else, the best place to start where Google Ads is concerned is at the beginning.

With Google Ads, “the beginning” means the ABCs, which are:

  • A – Automation
  • B – Broad Keywords
  • C – Conversion Tracking

These fundamentals are essential to get right, whether you are a novice or a seasoned expert; get these right, and your marketing campaign has a much better chance of doing well. Get them wrong, however, and it’s likely you will struggle.

If you get the fundamentals wrong, you may struggle to reach the volume of traffic you need. Alternatively, you might end up getting a lot of traffic but nothing else. It’s great having a lot of people come to your website, but your efforts (and budget) are wasted if no one buys anything from you.

Each of these fundamentals is too complex to fit into a single article, so we will cover just one for now: Broad Keywords. Here we take a look at what they are, why it is important to get them right, and how to fix any issues.

What are Broad Keywords?

When setting up a Google Ads campaign, you will have the option of choosing between 3 keyword match types. Which one you choose will have a considerable impact on the volume and quality of the traffic you get from your campaign. And which keyword match type is best for you depends largely on the nature of your campaign.

Below we will we take a look at each match type and the pros and cons of each.

Exact Match

Exact match keywords are just that. Your ads will only be displayed when somebody types in your chosen keywords exactly.


  • Highly relevant traffic
  • High click-through rates
  • High conversion rates


  • Low traffic volume
  • High cost per click

Phrase Match

With phrase match selected, your ads will only be triggered by somebody searching for your chosen keywords, but other keywords can be included in their search. However, the keywords must also appear in the order you selected them in. For example, if you have “PC hardware” as a keyword, then a search for “discount PC hardware” will trigger your ads. A search for “hardware for PC” will not.


  • Targeted traffic, albeit not as targeted as exact match
  • Good click-through rates
  • Good conversion rates


  • Low traffic volume compared to broad search
  • High cost per click compared to broad search

Broad Match

With broad match selected, your ads will be triggered by any search terms that Google considers similar to your selected keywords. So, for example, if you choose “PC hardware” as a keyword term, your ad could be triggered if somebody searches for “discount hardware”.

Not only that, but Google will also sometimes allow synonyms to trigger a search. So, for example, a search for “power tools” might also cause your ad to be displayed.


  • High traffic volumes
  • Low cost per click


  • Poorly targeted traffic
  • Poor click-through rates
  • Poor conversion rates

Modified Broad Match

We say that there are 3 keyword types, and Google Ads does give you 3 main options to choose from, but in reality there are 4 . The fourth type, which a lot of beginners don’t know about, is modified broad match, and it’s somewhere between broad match and phrase match.

To use modified broad match searches, you should put a ‘+’ before a search term. This will then tell Google that synonyms are not wanted, and a search will only trigger your ads if that term is included.

Negative Keywords

Now although these are not exactly a match type, this is another option that can be very valuable – negative keywords.

Negative keywords are those that you don’t want to trigger your ads. It’s not telling Google that certain terms must be included; it’s telling them that specific terms should not be included. Let’s say that people are reaching your site after searching for “install PC hardware”. A lot of these people will not be looking to buy but are instead likely just looking for information on how to install a product they already have.

If you add “install PC hardware” to your negative keyword list, then that exact term will not trigger your ads to be shown, but “PC hardware” still will. It can be used in conjunction with broad match keywords to help limit the poor traffic coming your way – but you’d likely have to spend a lot of time adding negative keywords.

Why Choosing the Correct Match Type is Important

It’s easy to think that choosing the option that gives you the most traffic will give you the best results, but this is usually not the case. While it is, of course, important to have a good volume of traffic, it is also important to have a good QUALITY of traffic. In short, this means people coming to your site with at least some interest in what you are selling.

Broad keywords will give you the highest traffic volume. The cost per click is also very low, making it easy for you to afford to send a lot of people to your website. Because broad keywords are not as selective as the others, fewer of your visitors likely to have any interest in your products.

Broad keywords tend to give poor results in terms of conversions. But this does not mean broad match should never be used. Whether you should use broad match or any other match type depends on the specifics of your campaign and what you are hoping to achieve.

Which to Use?

Despite the obvious negatives of broad keywords, it does not mean they don’t have their uses. Indeed, Google themselves recommend starting with broad match and then refining your keyword strategy as time goes by.

It’s not just traffic that broad keywords will send your way – it will also send lots of data. That data will include what people are searching for to find your products, making it a very effective keyword research tool. Of course, however, what you really need is conversions. So when you do start finding good search terms from broad keyword results, you can add them as phrase or even exact match searches.

This is a strategy that tends to be used by agencies that have the time and resources. Other people will likely need faster results, and this will mean cutting out broad search and getting straight to phrase or exact match – with phrase match providing a good balance between traffic volume and quantity.

Don’t forget to check the conversion rates in the Google Ads control panel, if you have conversion tracking set up that is. Those keywords are converting well should be kept, and the others discarded.

When looking for new keywords and deciding on match types, the Google Ads keyword planner tool is very useful. It’s best to use relevant keywords that have a high search volume and low/medium competition. Google wants your campaigns to do well. If your campaigns are doing well then you are likely to continue using Google Ads, and this means more money for Google. They have given you the tools you need to make your campaign a success and it is a good idea to make the most of those tools.


Last but not least, we come to what is the main issue for a lot of people – how much does it cost? There is no single answer to the question but Google Ads is, generally speaking, very affordable. What’s more is that you get to set your own budget and you are not tied in if things are not going as you expected.

Different businesses will compete with each other to have their ads displayed. Which ads are displayed is decided by an auction with the highest bidders winning. Having said that, cost is not entirely down to whom bids the highest; there are other factors to take into account also, such as Click-Through Rate (CTR).

A high CTR basically means your ads are clicked on more often when shown, and the higher the CTR, the less you pay per click. It is worth experimenting with your ads to find the best CTR (and conversions) to help reduce your costs and maximize profits.

You obviously don’t have to manually bid for every single impression; that would be ridiculous. Instead, you let Google Ads know what you are willing to pay overall and the rest will be done automatically. There are different types of bid to choose from, which include:

Manual CPC Bidding:

  • With this option, you set bids yourself manually. This option helps you to prioritize the keywords that have been performing well for you.
  • Setting a maximum budget will limit your spend.

Maximize Clicks:

  • With this option, you set your average daily budget and Google Ads will automate bidding to maximize the number of clicks you get.
  • This option is good for convenience and for getting good traffic volumes, but some quality may be sacrificed.

Smart Bidding:

  • Smart bidding will help you to maximize conversions. You set which budget you want to spend and Google Ads will use machine learning to help you get the best results.
  • There are 5 main goals you can ask smart bidding to aim for, these are Enhanced Cost Per Click (ECPC), Maximize Conversion Value, Maximize Conversions, Target Cost per Action (CPA), and Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).


Setting the match type for your keywords is one of the most fundamental factors when it comes to setting up your account. Yet, it is also one of the most common errors that people make, which might partly be due to the fact that Google Ads sets broad keywords as default.

If you don’t have the right match type specified, then you can end up with a lot of traffic that has little value to you. Alternatively, you might end up paying a lot for highly targeted traffic but insufficient volume. Which is best for you depends on a number of factors, including what you want to achieve and how familiar you are with the Google Ads platform. As you get to know the platform and its functions better, you can enhance your keyword strategies to get more good quality traffic at a lower cost.


More in:

Lior Krolewicz Lior Krolewicz is the CEO of Yael Consulting, an online marketing consultancy. An ex-Special Ops turned Google Ads expert, he helps eCommerce and lead generation businesses grow profitably. With experience managing budgets of $1 million per month, Lior applies his proven Fortune-500 marketing techniques to small businesses worldwide.