I have always known the risks involved with using broad match terms in Google AdWords. Before there were search query reports, I would use the raw log files to see what people were actually searching for, and was often shocked at what I would find.
An example of this outrageous irrelevance would be if I were to have bid on something like remote desktop monitoring software I would sometimes get searches for just the word software. I also recall bidding on something related to shareware and getting searches for share market or market share.
Well lately, I have been really put off using broad match, as it seems as though there are a lot more irrelevant hits coming from broad matched terms. Another interesting item that I have noticed is that it seems as though Google try to make you ‘feel safe’ with broad match by way of conversion tracking. I have noticed situations where I bid on a number of very targeted phrase and exact match terms and a few broad match terms. The broad match terms sometimes receive far more conversions than the more targeted non-broad keywords.
You’re probably thinking that those phrase and exact match terms are most likely not what people are searching for, however this is not the case. When you run a search query report specifically on those broad match terms, you find that you are already bidding on the terms that are receiving the conversions.
It’s almost as if Google are saying, “Don’t worry that it is broad match and you get a few irrelevant searches mixed in. You can see that you are getting some conversions”. The problem is that if you leave this unchecked, the broadness craziness goes wild.
Note that I am not saying that you should never use broad match terms in your AdWords campaigns. My own rule is that I do not use broad match in campaigns which only target the content network. This is because you have absolutely no way to tell what Google are doing with your keywords, as there is no keyword data on the content network. I do use broad match in search campaigns but with great caution. I begin with phrase and exact match, then once I have data as to what people are searching for, I sprinkle in some broad match and closely monitor their performance.