Setting Realistic SEO Expectations: Broad Match vs. Exact Match

Chris Sams, February 26, 2013

When hiring a professional SEO service provider, it’s important to align yourself with realistic expectations. You can start by becoming familiar with SEO terminology as well as understanding the basic differences between ‘Broad Match’, ‘Phrase Match’ and ‘Exact Match’ keyword research.

Let’s start here.

While I was browsing the web and reading what other SEO companies are telling small business owners, I found this:


To the unsuspecting business owner, the keyword “Lighting Denver” would appear to be a highly desired phrase.  With 97,200 annual searches (8100 searches/month), you could get a lot of business from this keyword right? Wrong.

Broad Search: “Lighting Denver” – 97,200 searches per year

If you’re not in the search marketing industry then you might think, “Wow, that’s a lot of search volume. If I could only get a fraction of that traffic, that would feed my business for many years to come.”

First, lets define the term Broad Match from Google’s official definition:

“Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned if you don’t specify another match type (exact match, phrase match, or negative match). The Google AdWords system automatically runs your ads on relevant variations of your keywords, even if these terms aren’t in your keyword lists.

Keyword variations can include synonyms, singular and plural forms, possible misspellings, and phrases containing your keywords.”

Here’s an example from Google: (ref:

Broad Match Example

Notice how the broad match, “low-carb diet plan” shows results for “carb-free foods,” “low-calorie recipes,” and even a misspelling, “low-crab diets.”  It is likely that dozens, if not hundreds of additional keywords are somewhat related to this particular keyword, but are not relevant to your business.

Where our first example references “Lighting Denver,” as having 97,200 searches per year, it is entirely inaccurate and misleading.  The number 97,200 actually includes searches for the 100+ additional keywords that Google considers related to “Lighting Denver.”

How many searches does the keyword “Lighting Denver” really generate?

Lighting Denver Keyword Research

To find the true search volume of our keyword, I used Google’s free Google AdWords Tool, which is the same tool the above website used to find broad match volume.  When I select “Exact Match,” (which refers to the search volume of that exact phrase) you’ll notice there is substantially less volume;  for “Lighting Denver,” there are 170 monthly searches, or roughly 2,040 searches per year, which is 95,000 searches per year less that what is being advertised. If you are ranked for this keyword, and haven’t noticed a riot of traffic to your business, that’s because even in the #1 position for this keyword you can expect (on a great month) to attract a mere 65 visits per month.

As a small business owner it is important to ask your SEO provider what the “Exact Match” keyword volume is, not broad or phrase match. Setting unrealistic expectations is setting you up for failure and potentially creating negative feedback about the entire SEO industry.

Good luck! If you have any questions related to internet marketing, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 720-545-1555.

Until next time.


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