It follows, then, broad match could drive a higher conversion rate than exact by tapping into streams of search traffic that you either don’t have built out or are unable to bid into.
It’s also likely that phrase match delivers lower CPC than exact due to competition. Everyone knows what their killer keywords are and will optimise the absolute hell out of them, pushing traffic into exact match (because that’s what the narrative says you should do), but this leaves space in phrase match to pick up cheaper click traffic that the major players aren’t actively hunting after. This is further illustrated by the fact that phrase match exhibits the lowest conversion rate of the lot, even including brand.
The key takeaway here is that you can only trust the data you have, and pay little mind to ‘conventional wisdom’. The fairy-tale of exact match may be true as far as quality score is concerned, but there’s so much more going on that you can’t stop here.
So the canny marketer is invited to ask themselves what they want to get out of their traffic?
If I want to drive cost-effective conversions, then I probably want to push spend into exact match for high-relevancy traffic with strong CTR and respectable conversion rate, accepting that I may have to bid hard to get into this market. I also probably want to build out my broad match modified keywords to hoover up the converting traffic I haven’t built into my account and use SQRs and negative keywords to optimise efficiency moving forward.
If I want to play for airtime dominance, maybe I should pull back on exacts and push spend into phrase match for low CPC traffic, accepting that conversion rate will decrease as a result but traffic may ultimately go up.
If I want to be a jerk and bid on competitor terms I should go home and rethink my life might want to consider how my product compares with the competitor I’m going to war on as it could have huge implications for bidding strategy.
Right – Here’s one advertiser’s competitor campaign that’s outperforming their own brand in search:
This one’s a pretty mature account, hence the majority of click traffic going into exact match due to tightly controlled negatives and 2 years of search query expansions. Still, broad match manages to drive a 50% conversion rate at a lower CPC than exact match. Note also that phrase match CPC, CTR and conversion rate are by far the lowest of all types.
In this case, if the goal were to drive cost effective conversions we would be bidding differently, however, this campaign is designed to go to war on a specific set of competitors in the same market as our client such that conversion rate & volume is not the ultimate measure of success.
Maybe it’s time to rewrite the narrative. Once the champion of PPC conversions, exact match probably needs to share its accolades with much-maligned broad match, while gentle, overlooked phrase match with it’s cheap traffic and a mouthful of glue quietly waits for the day it can show them.
Show them all.