Bid Stacking in AdWords: How to Pay Less When Using Multiple Match Types


A little while back, my fellow CS specialist Lisa wrote a great post to guide advertisers towards picking the right match types. In her post, Lisa pointed to the benefits of testing the same keyword with different match types to help determine which match type is the right fit for an advertiser’s account.

Now let’s explore a situation where you might want to actually keep running different match types simultaneously. In the below example, we have set a sample keyword (literally titled Keyword) to Broad Match and Phrase Match. Why would you want to want to keep these two particular keywords running simultaneously?

Bid Stacking

Well, let’s say after testing your keyword at different match types you have decided you really like Broad Match. There could be a whole host of reasons why you’ve decided to choose Broad Match. Say you want to cast a wider net to catch more search volume, or say you’ve decided to partake in some keyword discovery. By bidding on Broad Match, a more permissive/inclusive match type, you’ll have access to a wider variety of search queries through the Search Query Reports in AdWords (or QueryStream for our WordStream users!). You can use these queries to add new keyword variations or to discover long-tail keyword ideas.

Now, although you’ve chosen to run with the Broad Match keyword, you know that there are also perks to using more restrictive match types – like increased relevancy. In addition, more restrictive match types like Phrase or Exact generally tend to cost less than less restrictive match types like Broad. Given this information, you certainly do not want to be paying more for the less relevant clicks coming in through Broad.

So how do you avoid spending more than you have to on the queries that actually do come in at Phrase? If you are trying to ensure that you are paying the lowest amount possible per click, you can employ a Tiered Bidding or Stacked Bidding strategy to help ensure you’re not paying more for less. With Bid Stacking, it is possible (in the words of Hannah Montana) to get the best of both worlds!

AdWords Stacked Bidding

Related: How to Use Flexible Bid Strategies in AdWords

So How Does Stacked Bidding Work?

You can see from the aforementioned example that even though you are bidding the same amount on both match types, the Broad Match keyword is being served over 66% of the time. Additionally, the average CPC for the Broad Match keyword is higher ($4.08) than the average CPC of its Phrase Match counterpart ($3.68).

One simple way to ensure that you pay $3.68 per click whenever possible is to keep the keyword at both Broad and Phrase, and bid higher on the more restrictive match type by about 10-15%. In this specific example, we would adjust our Phrase Match bid to $7.70. If our Broad Match and Phrase Match Keyword enters the same auction, our higher bid on Phrase will beat our Broad and win the auction. This in turn will ensure that we pay $3.68 per click whenever possible as opposed to $4.08. Adjusting your bids in such a fashion will make sure that AdWords will serve your Phrase keyword whenever possible, delivering you a lower CPC when queries are matched by Phrase.

Now that you know how to set up Stacked Bidding, you can start benefitting from the higher search volume of Broad Match while still paying lower CPCs whenever possible! Once you “mix it all together, you know that it’s the best … you get the best of both worlds!” (For those who are curious, I babysit a lot..)


Pierre Werner
Aug 27, 2013

Larry,I follow what you are saying, I think. It sure would be nice to see a video of this. The picture does helps. Also are the "keywords" both in the same campaign so that they are competiting against each other? Thank You!

Zina Kayyali
Aug 28, 2013

Hi Pierre, Great question!  I pulled this example from a client account so I wanted to protect their privacy by leaving out campaign/ad group/keyword information but yes, in this particular example, both these keywords were in fact running in the same campaign and ad group, competing against each other.  Setting up those bids so that the phrase match is slightly higher will ensure that the phrase match win out should both keywords enter the same auction.  We do have some webinars in the work so I'll make sure to include bidding strategies as a topic of interest  !Thanks,Zina

Aug 28, 2013

I've been through this site and was wondering if you are going to be writing more on this subject.  I would love to see more.

Zina Kayyali
Aug 28, 2013

Hi Vanessa,Happy to hear you are interested in learning more!  If there are any other specific topics you'd like to learn more about, definitely send them our way!Thanks,Zina

Aug 28, 2013

Good point! But I have one question, why set up more restrictive match type 10% - 15% higher? How do you calculate it should be 10%-15%?   Thank you!

Zina Kayyali
Aug 28, 2013

Hi Sabrina,Great question, you want to set your bids by just enough so that your more restrictive match type safely wins the auction. 10-15% is a good starting point but if you're not seeing the desired effects, you can always increase incrementally :)! Thanks,Zina

John Crenshaw
Nov 22, 2013

Hi Zina, all things being equal, for a given search query, won't a more restrictive match type will always win the auction? From here:"If you have multiple keywords that are the same, the system will prefer to use the keyword with the more restrictive keyword match type. For example, if the search term is plumber, and your ad group includes both the broad match keyword plumber and exact match keyword plumber, then the system will prefer to use the exact match keyword."

Jan 02, 2014

I would like to know more of the answer to John's question above because I have the same understanding like him. Can you please enlightened our minds here Zina? Thank you very much for your patience. :) 

Aug 28, 2013

Nice post! Thank you!  You did not mention the quality score. Maybe the phrase-keywords has a better quality score than the broad keyword. If you are bidding the equal cpc, the phrase-keyword will win the auction. So it is not necessary to bid 10% more?Greetings from Germany!

Zina Kayyali
Aug 28, 2013

Hi Daniel,You are absolutely right ! Winning an ad auction is dependent on both your Max CPC and Quality Score.  In the example I pulled, both these keywords had the same Quality Score but I should mention that this strategy should be employed keeping Quality Score constant.Thanks,Zina

Aug 28, 2013

Hello Zina...Could i apply this within a Campaign with:One Keyword at Phrase Match and other at Exact Match???Thanks Andres M.

Zina Kayyali
Aug 29, 2013

Hi Andres,Absolutely!  You could even apply this concept to broad, phrase, exact simultaneously :).Zina

Randall Magwood
Aug 30, 2013

Nice Hannah Montana graphic... i wonder what changed old "Smiley Miley" lol.I hear marketers say to ONLY use exact match keywords. Are these really better than phrase match? I won't even ask about broad match.

Sep 12, 2013

This is the best way to know which match type is best with which keywords.

Aaron carpenter
Sep 12, 2013

If using the same keywords but different match types. Consider using negative phrase and exact match on your broad match campaigns and negative exact on your phrase campaigns. This will ensure that your better match keywords win the bid. The more relevant keyword match will lower CPC and improve quality score of your campaigns.

VIP Realty Platinum
Sep 26, 2013

I have never heard of this stategy before. Interesting and probably money saving. I will check back in with the results in a few days.

Ed Leake
Nov 13, 2013

Great article - do you know how to automate this within AdWords itself, perhaps via scripting?Changing bids on 1,000's of keywords is ... slow!

sandeep dubey
Dec 16, 2013

Very informational post.I am new to the PPC stuff. I am currently handling PPC campaign for one of my client.The ads are running good we are getting clicks as well.But client reported he is not getting any calls for bookings .Can you guide me how I can improve on tht also is there any way to track this conversion.I don't think there is any.

Jan 14, 2014

How would this work for CPA bidding campaigns?

Apr 20, 2014

I'm afraid the logic behind this theory is a bit flawed. If the query is say "red roses" and you have both broad match and phrase match keywords for that phrase, then the CPC will always be the same for the query "red roses". The reason why you see different average CPC-s, is that the broad match keyword matched for all sorts of other queries that most probably are less relevant (eg "white roses", "yellow roses" etc when your LP and ad is about red roses) and your CPC will be higher for those less-relevant queries. The average CPC for red roses in broad match means it's an average of red roses, white roses etc etc so it's likely to be higher than the phrase match average CPC. That being said, it might still make sense to bid higher for phrase match versions because that's the keyword you're most interested in. Broad match also triggers queries that might not be as relevant for you. 

Jun 20, 2014

Just what I was thinking Karl. I couldn't undersatnd why we were assuming that the broad CPC was actually paid for the same KW. I also bid higher for the more restrictive match types, but only because I want to monitor and control the performance of these KWs more closely. For me, broad and phrase match are only for getting more KW ideas.

Jul 22, 2015

thank you for this share,the best!

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