Experiments on Google Ads 

Did you know that Google Ads is literally set up to perform experiments? We had a successful campaign running with all its keywords on “Phrase match”. In general, phrase match is our preferred choice ever since +broad +match +modifier was deprecated. 

After deprecating the keyword match type broad match modifier, Google automatically switched all the broad match modifier keywords to phrase match. With phrase match, “Ads may show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. The meaning of the keyword can be implied, and user searches can be a more specific form of the meaning”.  

Broad match is a keyword match type which allows your ad to show on searches that are related to the meaning of your keyword, which can include searches that don’t contain the keyword terms. This allows you to reach more searches than with exact and phrase matches.

In other words, broad match means “Google take my money and do what you want”. With an unlimited budget, Google’s creativity might be helpful to find some unknown keywords that might be missed by keyword research tools. But with a limited budget, paying for searches/clicks that might be completely left field comes at the cost of losing the searches that have high ROIs.

When In Doubt, Use Phrase Match 

Therefore, in general, we don’t recommend using broad match. We stick with Phrase match, which is much more focused. Exact match, which is literally, “Google show this exact keyword and nothing but this exact keyword” is obviously the most focused. We use it occasionally for very exact keywords specifically when we have very similar keywords but we broke them down into separate ad groups. If Google has creative liberties, the ad groups might start competing against each other which is a big no-no. But generally, we stick with phrase match because we find exact match too limiting.

However, even though we have our methodology based on over 25 years of experience, we constantly test. In this case, we did an Experiment (otherwise known as an A/B test). Google has a setting for doing experiments and we highly recommend using this setting because then Google knows it’s a test.

If you create 2 identical campaigns changing one variable, this can cause wasted budget. If, for example, the same keywords are being bid on from the 2 ad groups, this will cause the CPC to rise. Also, with this technique sometimes one ad group will cannibalize the impressions. Setting up the test as an experiment will cause Google to show both groups evenly.

Colorful test tubes with the Google Ads logo in the bottom right corner

Google Ads Experiment:

We took a successful campaign that was running on phrase
match and set a goal of Maximize Conversion Value. Then, we duplicated the
successful campaign but changed the keywords in the “B” campaign to Broad
Match. Broad match allowed Google to show our ads to more searches. Searches
that wouldn’t have been caught by phrase match. But since the goal was Maximize
Conversion Value, Google had the objective of showing the ads to more relevant
searches. The experiment was successful. Overall, ROAS went up.

Then we tested the same strategy on a different campaign and
set up an experiment, however, we didn’t get the same results. ROAS didn’t
increase. In fact, the CPC only got higher. As soon as the experiment ended, we
went back to the original settings.

Test, Test and Test!

So, the moral of the story is to test everything and don’t
assume that one way will work best always. Even if something has been
working well, a new strategy might be even better. And even when a better
strategy is found for a specific campaign, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best
for the next campaign.

As a side note, we did gain something from the second test.
Broad match triggers a lot more search terms. Seeing what actual people are
searching on in real-time is also extremely useful. We took relevant search
terms that we didn’t have and added them to the campaign causing us to reach
more people searching for us.

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