What Is Modified Broad Match? Using the Broad Match Modifier in PPC


Google recently introduced a new AdWords feature that lets you create keywords that are more targeted than broad match, yet have a greater reach than phrase or exact match.

With modified broad match, you put a plus sign (+) in front of one or more words in a broad match keyword. The words that are preceded by a (+) sign must appear in the user’s keyword phrase exactly or as a close variation. 

The words that are not following a (+) sign will trigger ads on more significant query variations.

This feature can drive more traffic than phrase or exact match, and attract more qualified traffic than broad match.

What are examples of modified broad match phrases?

Say your broad match phrase was “red purses.” That phrase could prompt ads on relevant query variations like “red bags,” “colorful purses,” “women’s clutches,” etc.

But if your modified broad match was “+red purses,” the word red or some close variant would have to appear in the keyword phrase.

Close variants include misspellings, singular/plural forms, abbreviations and acronyms and stemming.

So the query “redd purses” or “reddish bags,” for example, could trigger your ad.

If you made your modified broad match “red +purses,” the word purse or some close variant would have to appear in the keyword phrase. Examples include “colorful purses,” “colorful purse,” or “women’s purrses.”

Hasn’t AdWords had a feature like this before?

AdWords hasn’t had a feature quite like this one, though years ago Google’s broad match was more targeted than its current broad match.

Broad match meant that words in a keyphrase could appear in any order in a query. Eventually Google switched over to its current version of broad match, and many people complained (including people in this High Rankings forum).

They felt that Google prompted ads for terms that weren’t necessarily relevant, requiring them to draw up long negative keyword lists.

One WebmasterWorld forum user complained, for example, that he saw queries as exotic as “zebras near chicago” for “widgets near chicago.”

How do I enable modified broad match?

Go into your AdWords account, click on the Keywords tab, and select the keyword phrase you want to edit. Click on the current match type in the Type column and choose modified broad match from the drop-down menu. Add the necessary (+) signs to the keyword phrase.

How do I know if modified broad match is a good idea for my campaign?

If you decide to give it a try, make sure you track how your campaign performance evolves. See, for example, how your clicks, CPCs, conversions, return on investment, and so on change. Google notes in its broad match modifier overview that you can produce a performance report that just details information about modified broad match keywords.

If modified broad match keywords seem to be improving your ROI, then stick with them. If not, stay with broad match, phrase match, or exact match.

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Michael - TrafficExplosion
Aug 18, 2010

That modified search is really fantastic. I have really found it useful when I used it sometime ago. I pray it continues to work well.

Chad Summerhill
Aug 18, 2010

Hi Christine, good info! Thought I would share the results of my first Modified Broad Match Keyword test:


And here is a FREE Excel download for creating the different Modified Broad Match variations with video instructions:


Country Side Homes
Aug 20, 2010

Nice post. I ran into the broad match flytrap when I first started using Adwords. The really shady thing about it is that Google defaults all of your search phrases to broad match and hides this fact during the setup process under an "advanced options" tab. They must rake in millions in worthless clicks from setting up their ad service that way.

I'm actually kinda surprised there isn't already a class action lawsuit on this, since it's dangerously close to a scam. At the very least, it's a deceptive business practice. The clever thing about it, from Google's perspective, is that it's a self-administered service, so any deception on their part can be put back on the user for not reading such-and-such tutorial about that feature.

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 20, 2010

Good point. And many advertisers have no idea what queries are triggering their ads, and how insanely irrelevant they are.

Calculate Marketing
Oct 19, 2010

Hi Christine,

I recently did some analysis on the performance of modified broad match keywords, which you may find interesting:


Not only did modified broad match keywords generally exhibit higher CTRs (largely due to their increased relevancy and focus), but modified broad match keywords also tended to have lower CPCs.

Like everyone else, I welcome the new modified broad match and am confident of its use to improve campaign performance.


Chad Walls - Calgary Adwords
Jan 02, 2011

This is quite interesting. Just when you think you are closing in on being an Adwords expert things change and something new is thrown into the mix. I do like the sound of this modified broad match phrase and will be trying it out. I am wondering when I do if it is possible to include the plus sign multiple times for long tail keywords. For example, “+cheap +red +purses +calgary”

Sep 28, 2011

hi,as you said above, whether a key word like +hotel +promo is the same as +hotel +promotion ? please adviseMany thanksTien  

Jun 22, 2013

Your first post is wronghow can the word women’s clutches be shown for things like red purse - where is red and where is purse in that sentenceAfter reading that slight yet huge mistake i cant take your site serious

Elisa Gabbert
Jun 24, 2013

It's not a mistake -- "clutch" is a synonym for purse, Google uses synonyms to match ads to search queries all the time.

Mar 04, 2017

great point here," and its quite helpful and can be confusing at times / im here like everyone else trying to motivate my experience with broad modifier.

the point made here - advertisers have no idea what queries are triggering their ads," in conjunction of this" does it effect in positioning as well? i spoke to google employee and got confused ...

Dr Shara Cohen
Dec 05, 2017

i am using broad and modified broad for the same keyword how do I stop broad form poaching the mod broad ads. I cant ad the mod broad keyword as a negative as adwords says there is a conflict

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