Broad Match Modifiers: What They Are & Why You Should Be Using Them

Broad Match Modifiers: What They Are & Why You Should Be Using Them

Keywords are an essential part of AdWords advertising and one can spend hours choosing keywords, estimating traffic and writing ads that will attract the most engagement possible. Equally important, are the changes that you make to your campaign after you’ve collected some data about who has been clicking your ads. In many cases, your ads can garner clicks from people who aren’t looking for a business like yours in the first place!  Using negative keywords is a great way to cut down on unwanted traffic, but equally useful (and the subject matter of this blog post) is the use of the Google AdWords, “Broad Match Modifier.”

Broad Match Modifiers: What They Are & Why You Should Be Using Them

Broad match keywords can suffice to attract relevant clicks to your PPC ads, but in many cases, they can cost you money by matching irrelevant search queries with your broad match keywords. The broad match modifier allows you to specify which of any words in a keyphrase must be included in a user search query to trigger your ads. If the user searches for any of the broad match keywords in your included keywords list, but does not include the keyword that you have modified, then your ads will not show. It’s that simple and it’s an essential part of any successful PPC campaign.

Related Posts:
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Here is an example:

For the purpose of this example, let’s assume that I am a cell phone dealer who only sells Apple iPhones. I have created a pay per click ads campaign in AdWords and have included the broad match keyphrase, apple iPhones for sale.

Because the above keyphrase is broad-matched, users who enter any one of my target keywords in a search query could be shown my ad, regardless of what they were searching for. By default broad match will trigger your ads if any one of your keywords in a keyphrase are searched and if your Max CPC bid is high enough. That means that although ads could be triggered to show if a user were to search for any of the following irrelevant terms (provided that my max CPC is set high enough to outrank other advertisers):

  • apple

  • sale

  • apples for sale

  • for sale

What’s worse is that explicitly unrelated search queries could possibly trigger my ads also. Here is a list of potential Google search queries that could trigger my ads to show:

  • cats for sale

  • apple pie

  • sidewalk sale

None of the above-listed search terms have anything to do with my product, so it follows that any time that my ad is shown for these queries, I have wasted money on less-qualified clicks. By using the Broad-Match Modifier, I can prevent this phenomenon very easily.

To modify a broad match keyword, simply put a ‘+’ (plus sign) in front of any of the words in a keyphrase that you wish to make mandatory. A good way to approach this is to modify any word in the keyphrase that is required for the phrase to remain relevant. In my example, “iPhone” is the word in my keyphrase for any searches to make sense. To correctly modify this keyphrase, I would change it to look like this: apple +iPhones for sale. Now, my ads will only be considered for auction if the user’s search query contains the word, “iPhone.” Here are some sample searches that would trigger my ad -which are all relevant:

  • apple iPhones

  • apple iPhones sale

  • iPhones sale

  • iPhones

  • where to buy iPhones

  • good deals on iPhones

With my keyphrase modified to require the word, “iPhone” I can rest assured that only users who are looking for iPhones will see my ads and any searches for this keyphrase should yield relevant clicks and eliminate wasted ad spend.

With more and more people using AdWords to promote their businesses these days, it is imperative to closely consider every dimension of your campaigns and using modified broad match keywords to qualify your clicks. Thanks for reading!

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  • avatar
    Deborah Frow 


    Hi Darian
    Such a well thought-out and explained article.
    I have not done adwords for several years and alot has changed. I might as well be starting over again so this was very helpful.
    Cheers, Deborah

  • avatar

    Thanks Darian for this valuable information . I appreciate you explaining ways to target
    the keywords better. This is very helpful for me.

  • avatar

    I just got confused when I first started out

  • avatar

    Nice post Darian, I wanted to ask you, what happens if the + is attached to the back of the keyword?
    For Example iPhone+ ??? iPhone+ for sale
    What would trigger the ad?

    • avatar
      Darian Schouten 


      Google states that each modified broad-match should be preceded with the ‘+’. Why would you want to put it at the end anyhow?

  • avatar


    Thank you so much for explaining this! I appreciate the way you really broke it down. I tried figuring out Adwords but it was so confusing, even though I usually do not have trouble understanding these things. I really appreciate the help here!

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