Jonathan Saipe

Expanded Match: The Big Unknown

26 April 2008, Jonathan Saipe

When setting up a list of keywords in Google AdWords, we are prompted by the Google AdWords system to choose from “broad match”, “phrase match”, “exact match” or “negative match”.

But what about “expanded match”? What is it and when does it apply?

Expanded match applies only to broad matched keyword and implies that Google may publish your ad(s) with search terms that are similar to your broad matched keywords even if they aren’t exactly the same.

For example, if your keyword list contains “internet marketing”, Google may well publish your ad for searches such as “writing for the web” even if the latter is not included in your keyword list.

You might immediately conclude that the concept of expanded match contradicts the targeted nature of PPC marketing, but Google argues that it not only helps Google AdWords novices, but it also offers searchers a more well-rounded series of targeted ads.

Whilst we can appreciate Google’s point of view, the secretive nature of expanded match has certainly not helped education, particularly at the novice level.

The easiest ways to avoid the expanded match algorithm are:

  1. use exact or phrase matching rather than broad matching (but of course this might not suit your keyword matching strategy)
  2. build a list of negative keywords either within your ad group or as a global list.

If you want to see if your ad has been the victim of the expanded match algorithm, run a search query report and you will soon see whether the search term that resulted in your ad being published was contained in your keyword list.


Sign-up to receive course updates, offers and news every month