How To Use Broad Match, Broad Match Modified, and Negative Keywords for Hotel PPC Advertising

We will never know with 100% certainty the phrasing the people will use when conducting searches on Google. Sometimes searches can totally surprise you! When your hotel is marketing through Google paid ads, understanding user search patterns and behaviors can make a big difference in how affordable (or expensive) your pay-per-click campaigns become.

Here are a few examples of oddly specific, actual searches that have triggered our hotel partners’ Google ads:

Phrase we were bidding on: hotels in tuscon
Actual phrase user typed into Google
tucson hotel search

Phrase we were bidding on: laguna beach best hotels
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
laguna beach search

Phrase we were bidding on: +san+francisco+accommodations
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
san francisco search

Understanding Keyword Match Types

It is important to understand how different keyword match types work, since these match types determine when and how your ads are triggered. Within Google’s Search Network, there are four main keyword match types. The two that we will focus on in this post are broad match and broad match modified.

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Uses for Broad Match Keywords

Advantages of Using Broad Match Keywords

The most widely used keyword match type is broad match. According to Google, when using broad match keywords, ”your ads automatically run on relevant variations of your keywords, even if these terms aren’t in your keyword lists.“ In our experience, one of the best times to bid on broad match keywords is when you are launching a new account or a new campaign. These are instances when you will be testing the waters to see what kind of phrases people are actually searching for, as opposed to what you think they are searching for.

One advantage of using broad match keywords is that your ad can show up for relevant searches that you’d never expect people to type into Google’s search bar. Here’s one example:

BM phrase we were bidding on: family reunion venues orlando FL
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
florida family reunions

Pay-per-click ads can show up on mobile devices, which is a great way to get your hotel in front of travelers who are searching on the go. Many hotels use “local” campaigns to target searchers who are within a certain radius of their hotel and who are actively looking for nearby accommodations. Using broad match keywords in these types of campaigns can drive extra visibility and last minute bookings for the hotel. In the example below, the hotel was targeting their local ads to searchers within 10 miles of their property. This particular searcher was most likely using Google’s voice search.

BM phrase we were bidding on: nearby hotels
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
nearby hotels

Another advantage of using broad match keywords is that Google is so smart these days that it generally understands user intent. In other words, Google can interpret misspellings and can usually determine what the user was most likely trying to search for. Here’s an example:

BM phrase we were bidding on: cottage rentals laguna beach
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
laguna beach rentals

In the example above, Google assumed that this user misspelled the last word in the search query and was actually looking for rentals in laguna beach, which is why Google served our ad. (Granted, if you read the phrase, “rentals in laguna bitch,” in an exaggerated SoCal surfer dude accent, you might be inclined to believe that this wasn’t a misspelling, afterall!)

Disadvantages of Using Broad Match Keywords

One of the gambles you take when using broad match keywords is that your ads have the opportunity to show up for searches that are only loosely connected to your content or that are sometimes irrelevant to your objectives. This can lead to wasted media spend and lower conversion rates. Below are a few examples of broad match keywords gone rogue:

BM phrase we were bidding on: dog friendly hotels in tucson
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
dog friendly hotels Tucson

BM phrase we were bidding on: romantic hotels
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
romantic underwater hotels

In these strange, but real situations, we needed to turn our attention to our negative keywords lists in order to place limitations on when our ads are displayed.

Understanding Negative Keywords

Throughout our years of A/B testing keyword match types for hotel-related PPC searches, Blue Magnet has found that most match types can drive positive results when paired with a strong negative keyword list. Simply put, negative keywords prevent your ads from showing for certain irrelevant words or phrases. For example, if your hotel is located in Orlando, Oklahoma (I checked – there is such a place!), you do not want your ads getting clicked by people hoping to book a hotel in Orlando, Florida. In that case, you should add both the word “Florida” and the abbreviation “FL” to your Adwords account’s negative keyword list. This way, any time someone searches for “hotels in Orlando Florida,” your Oklahoma hotel’s ad will NOT show in the search results. In turn, you won’t be wasting your media spend paying for that click that wouldn’t have converted.

Having a well-maintained negative keyword list is crucial to the success of any paid advertising campaign. A good PPC manager will regularly look at the search terms report to see which phrases are actually triggering your ads, and will add negative keywords as they identify new ways to refine your keyword strategy.

In the examples above, the PPC manager at Blue Magnet added the phrases “marijuana” and “underwater” to the negatives keyword lists so similarly irrelevant searches in the future would not trigger our ads.

Uses for Broad Match Modified Keywords

Once you have identified the top converting keywords in your AdWords account and optimized your negative keyword list, in many instances, a smart next step is to update your keyword match types from broad match to broad match modified. By “modifying” your keywords, you are telling Google that certain words MUST be present in the search query in order for Google to serve your ad.

This match type is very similar to broad match. The main difference is that broad match modified keywords further specify to Google that well-performing words are required elements of the user’s search. This makes it less likely that your ad will show up for searches that are only loosely related and less likely to convert.

Below are a few examples of hotels bidding on highly relevant broad match modified keywords that ultimately resulted in check rate conversions:

BMM phrase we were bidding on: +san +francisco +airport +hotels
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
reasonable hotels in san francisco

In the example below, a Kissimmee, FL hotel that is located near a major highway (Rt. 192) knew that their proximity to this highway was a major selling point. In turn, they decided to bid on the broad match modified term “+hotels +192 +kissimmee” to capture the attention of potential guests without overly limiting the search query. Here is what that broad match modified search looked like in action:

BMM phrase we were bidding on: +hotels +192 +kissimmee
Actual phrase user typed into Google:
hotels near applebees kissimmee

In the above example, the hotel and its marketing team probably would not have guessed that potential guests would think to search for hotels near Applebee’s. Since they ARE a hotel located on Kissimmee Route 192, and they DO happen to be located near an Applebee’s, this broad match modified keyword strategy helped them gain exposure for a very niche search. Had they used a more restrictive keyword match type, they may have missed out on this opportunity.

Wrap It Up

With a solid understanding of how broad match, broad match modified, and negative keywords work, your hotel can create a keyword strategy that gets your ads in front of potential guests you may not have even known existed, ultimately driving incremental revenue for your bottom line.

Need help refining your PPC strategies? Let our team do the dirty work. Learn more about how Blue Magnet can help your hotel drive the best results from paid media campaigns.