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How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

Keywords are at the heart of Paid Search (at least in the current SEM environment).   Therefore, choosing the right keywords along with implementing the right bidding strategy can have a significant impact on your SEM performance.  When developing a keyword targeting strategy, having a solid understanding of your match type options is extremely important, along with how to use those match types effectively.  I think it’s safe to say that most marketers involved with SEM understand the three basic match types, including broad, phrase, and exact match.

Until recently, these were the only match types at your disposal.  That was until last year, when Google launched Modified Broad Match.  It’s a versatile match type that can be a great option for targeting a wider range of queries, without losing a lot of control like with standard broad match.  I’ve used modified broad match extensively since it launched, and I’ve been very pleased with the results.  Note, modified broad match only applies to Google AdWords at this time.

As a quick example, here are the four match type options for the keyword Ping Golf Driver:

  • Broad: ping golf driver
  • Phrase: “ping golf driver”
  • Exact: [ping golf driver]
  • Modified Broad Match: +ping +golf +driver

With broad match, many queries related to ping golf drivers can trigger your ads.  This can yield the most impressions and clicks, but can also be the most dangerous option for you.  If you run broad match keywords, you need to keep a very close eye on raw queries triggering your ads to ensure they aren’t unrelated and untargeted.

Moving forward, phrase match can hone your targeting by matching only the phrase “ping golf driver”.  When using phrase match, you know that the phrase “ping golf driver” will be in the query (in the exact order you specify).  As a search marketer, you at least know that someone had the phrase (all three words in order) in their query.

Exact match is the most restrictive match type.  Your ads will trigger only when someone exactly enters those keywords, without any other words in the query, and in that specific order.  You obviously won’t have as many impressions or clicks, but you know exactly which query was entered.

What is Modified Broad Match in Google AdWords?

Now that I’ve quickly covered the three core match types in AdWords, let’s focus on Modified Broad Match.  With regard to targeting, modified broad match is more restrictive than broad match, but less restrictive than phrase match (or exact match).  By placing plus signs (+) in front of keywords, you tell AdWords that those specific keywords MUST BE PRESENT in the query.

You’re not leaving AdWords in charge of deciding what constitutes a match (like with Broad Match), and you’re also not telling AdWords that the keywords have to be in a specific order (like phrase or exact match).  This enables you to expand your targeting, but in a smart way.  Using our example from above, the modified broad match keyword +ping +golf +driver could match the following queries:

  • ping golf driver
  • how much does a golf driver cost from ping
  • new golf driver ping g15
  • golf beginners best driver ping
  • used golf driver ping

You get the picture. It gives you more control than blindly using broad match, while not being too restrictive.  As long as you analyze the various queries triggering your ads, you can learn a lot about prospective customers and how they search for the products or services you sell.

The problem is that your basic reporting in Google Analytics will only show you the keywords that triggered your ads (the keywords you are bidding on).  The basic reporting will not show the raw queries that triggered your ads.  And it’s important to analyze the raw queries when using modified broad match, as they can help you hone your targeting, keep untargeted clicks away, and increase your ROI.  Yes, raw query analysis is extremely important.

The Basic Reporting in Google Analytics Does Not Show Raw Queries:

modified broad match ga3 How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

The Power of Analyzing Raw Queries

Revisiting our example from earlier, let’s say the last query that triggered your ad, used golf driver ping, isn’t the best match for your business (since you don’t sell used clubs.)  If you caught this raw query, then you could add “used” as a negative.  This would ensure your ads never show when someone includes “used’ in their query.   In addition to finding more negatives, you can also choose to bid more aggressively on highly targeted keywords that you weren’t already bidding on.

If you noticed a modified broad match keyword capturing a query like, buy ping g15 driver 2011, then you might choose to add that keyword and bid more aggressively on it.  Again, this is why analyzing raw search queries is so important.  You can end up finding many negatives to hone your targeting, while also finding more targeted keywords that you can bid on separately.  This can all lead to increased ROI, and that’s the name of the game in SEM.

How To Analyze Modified Broad Match in Google Analytics

Now that we know how important analyzing raw queries can be, how do you find them in your reporting?  In addition, how do you know which raw queries were mapped to each modified broad match keyword?  You will need both pieces of information in order to effectively analyze performance and implement changes.  If you are using Google Analytics (and many of you are), then you can get to this data pretty easily via Dimensions and Filtering in the new AdWords reporting.

With the latest changes to AdWords reporting in Google Analytics, there were several new features added.  One of the new features is the ability to see matched search queries based on the keywords you were targeting.  This enables you to see the raw search queries that are triggering your ads.  In addition, using Dimensions and Filtering, you can see both the raw search queries that triggered your ads and the modified broad match keywords those queries mapped to.  That’s exactly what we want.  Let’s dig in.

In Search Of, Raw Search Queries

I’m going to walk you through how to find the raw search queries that are triggering your ads (the queries that are mapping to your modified broad match keywords).  Note, you can use this technique to analyze standard broad match keywords as well, although I won’t be covering that below.
1. Access An Ad Group in Google Analytics

The first thing we need to do is to access an ad group that uses modified broad match keywords.  In Google Analytics, click the Traffic Sources tab, then the AdWords tab, click the Campaigns report, click through to a campaign, and then choose an ad group to analyze.

modified broad match campaigns How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

2. Review Your Keywords

Once you are in the ad group’s reporting, you will see the various keywords driving traffic.  At this point, you will see some modified broad match keywords that have driven traffic, but you don’t know the raw queries that triggered those ads yet.  Note, modified broad match keywords will have plus signs associated with them (see screenshot below.)

modified broad match ga31 How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

3. Dimension Your Keywords by Matched Search Query

Use the second dimension dropdown in your reporting and select “Matched Search Query”.  This will display all of the raw keywords that triggered your ads in a new column.  Note, you will still see the modified broad match keywords that those raw queries mapped to (in the first column), and Google Analytics will now present the raw queries in the second column. You’re almost there.

modified broad match dimension How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

modified broad match search queries How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

4. Filter the Results by Modified Broad Match Keyword

If you are trying to analyze a specific modified broad match keyword within an ad group, then you can filter your results for that keyword at the bottom of the reporting.  For example, if you are trying to analyze +ping +golf +driver, then you can enter +ping +golf +driver in the filter box at the bottom of the reporting.  This will enable you to analyze that one keyword and see all of the raw search queries that mapped to that keyword.

This is what you want.  Note, since you can enter regular expressions in the filter box, you need to escape the plus signs.  You can do this by entering a backslash ( \) before each plus sign you are entering.  For example, to filter by +ping +golf +driver, you would enter \+ping \+golf \+driver in the filter box.  Also, you can always click a single keyword in the list to simply view all results for that one keyword.  That said, filtering lets you quickly jump between keywords without leaving one report.

modified broad match filter regex How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

5. Analyze and Export the Results

At this point, you have completed the first part of your mission.  You have all of the raw search queries that mapped to a single modified broad match keyword.  Awesome.   Based on what you find, you may choose to add new keywords to your ad group, include negatives to hone your ads, change your bidding strategy, etc.  You can also export your results to Excel for further analysis.

Identifying Strong and Weak Keywords Based on Performance

Now that you have your reporting set up the way you want it, what will you be looking for when analyzing modified broad match keywords?  As I explained earlier, you will want to identify both high and low performing keywords and queries, based on conversion.  Note, “conversion” can mean different things for different companies.  If you have developed a strong analytics strategy, then you’ll want to review each raw search query to understand if it’s attracting targeted visitors (or not).

For example, if you run an ecommerce website, then you can easily analyze raw queries by transactions, revenue and newsletter signups.  All three are important to your business, so finding keywords that yield high conversion (or no conversion) would be smart to do.  Then you can either add negatives based on the raw queries to weed out untargeted visitors or identify new keywords to run that are driving conversion.  Using our golf example from earlier, you might add “used” or “lost” as a negative while adding new, longer tail keywords like “new ping driver 2011 g15” or “where to buy new ping driver g15”.  Yes, this can be time-consuming, but it can be a powerful way to increase your ROI.  Do this over time and it can pay huge dividends for your company or clients.

Final Words – Keyword Analysis is Critically Important

As you can see, modified broad match is a great addition to the various match type options available in Google AdWords.  But, the real power comes from analyzing those modified broad match keywords to find negatives and to find more targeted keywords to bid on.  Doing this will enable you to hone your targeting and +increase +your +ROI.  If you’re not using modified broad match, then I recommend testing it out.  I have a feeling you’ll be pleased with the results.  Just make sure you’re analyzing those keywords like I just showed you in this tutorial!   Now what about that new ping driver?  :)

 How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics
Featured SEO Writer for SEJ   Glenn Gabe is a digital marketing consultant at G-Squared Interactive and focuses heavily on SEO, SEM, Social Advertising, Social Media Marketing, and Web Analytics. Glenn has over 18 years of experience and has held leadership positions both in-house and at a global interactive agency. During his career, Glenn has helped clients across a wide range of industries including consumer packaged goods (CPG), ecommerce, startups, pharmaceutical, healthcare, military, education, non-profits, online auctions, real-estate, and publishing. You can follow Glenn on Google+ here.

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19 thoughts on “How To Analyze Modified Broad Match Keywords in Google Analytics

  1. I like this! Too often we just stick with the keywords we’ve been working on for too long without looking for new directions that could bring in more customers/more relevant customers/increase conversion/all of the above. It’s great to see a simple process that can be used to zero in on these keywords.

    1. Absolutely, raw query analysis can be extremely powerful for finding both negatives and new keywords to bid on. If you are using broad match or modified broad match, then it’s a necessity.

  2. It’s a great idea. i had knowledge on keyword research but not in that much depth. Thanks a lot for your posting, i’ll adopt the same method while doing keyword selection for my site.

    1. Excellent, I think you’ll find going through this process enables you to hone your targeting and increase your ROI. And again, that’s the name of the game in SEM. :)

  3. Thanks for this excellent post and information. I never knew that Google has launched a new search match type. I always go with Exact match type as it gives me he exact number of visitors for a particular keyword.

    1. Thanks John. I’m glad you found my post helpful. I know there are a lot of marketers either unfamiliar with modified broad match, or scared to use it, so I decided to write the post. If you decide to implement some MBM keywords in your campaigns, let me know how it goes for you.

  4. I’ve often wondered if it would be cheaper to use broad match with the intention of doing exact match? So basically using negative keywords to rule out all the variations with the hopes of only getting traffic for the exact phrase. This probably sounds crazy, but it’s clear that the broad match clicks are usually way cheaper. Does anyone know how that works?

    1. Yes, mining raw queries when running broad match can help you find more targeted keywords to run. It’s a smart (but time-consuming) way to go. It can really hone your targeting and increase your ROI.

      Your CPC depends on the keyword at hand, and Quality Score has a big impact on your actual CPC. The more targeted you can be, the higher your Quality Score. The higher your Quality Score, the lower your CPC can be. I hope that helps.

  5. I might add too, that it would be nice if there was a way to combine phrase match with broad match… Such as “web stats” software. This is probably not a great example but I can’t think of one at the moment. As I’m adding keywords I find that certain phrases need to be exact but they also should be accompanied but another keyword, etc. Perhaps there is a trick to accomplish this?

  6. Can anyone tell me if keywords in an ad group affect the quality score or cost of other ads in the same ad group? Everyone talks about breaking keywords into their own groups to minimize the cpc. I can see how from an ad writing/targeting perspective this is smart, but doesn’t google treat each keyword on it’s on merit? Do they look at a combination of a keyword with a particular ad, or is each keyword treated on its own merit? It is time consuming to break keywords out into their own ad groups especially when the ad is the same.

    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed my post. If you aren’t running modified broad match keywords yet, then you should test them out. Just mine the raw queries. :)

  7. Thank you for confirming the relevance of the process I use to analyze results and fine tune AW Accounts!
    One thing I would like to add to your awsome post is that using modified broad saves you the hussle of using (and then managing) tens of exact match kaywords. I have managed to reduce the number of KW used in an old account from 95 000 to less than 1 000, no need to tell you how reliefed we are now!

  8. Hi Glenn,

    Thanks mate, I was exactly looking for this . I have setup campaign with BMM and got good results but still i though i can improve it by adding negative keywords and for that I had to find search terms, But you gave me complete details.

    Thanks again.