Understanding The Difference Between Exact And Broad Match

This week I discovered something very interesting through my post about buying a domain name from one of my readers. In the post I asked for people to submit domains with over 1,000 exact-match local searches, most people clearly had no clue what I meant. What I discovered is that many (and by many I mean most) Domainers don’t seem to know the difference between broad and exact-match. This is incredibly dangerous for investors who think they are buying domains with lots of search volume, when really there is little or in many cases, none.

So what’s the big deal? I’ll tell you.

First let’s talk about the tool that you need to use if you want to understand search volume, there’s only one and it’s the gold standard, it’s called the Google Adwords Keyword Tool and it uses real data from Google. This is the only tool you should be using to get this data, many other tools on the web claim to estimate this but often they are just using Bing data and applying a random multiplier which doesn’t quite work.

Okay, now that you know the tool you should be using, what the heck is the difference between exact-match and broad-match, and why does it matter so much?

Exact-match search volume will show you how many people are searching for the keywords you enter. So if I input “buy insurance” it will show me how many people are searching for the words “buy insurance” on Google. Simple enough right?

Broad-match search volume does something completely different. It shows how many people are searching for the keywords I enter, and other “relevant variations”. So if I enter “buy insurance” it’s going to show me the aggregate search volume for “buy car insurance” “best insurance to buy” and the list goes on, and on, and on. This is why broad match is so much higher than exact match in so many cases because it is a zillion different combinations of words, only one of which is the exact keyword phrase you entered.

When it comes to Domain Development broad match doesn’t give you the slightest clue as to how much traffic you would get if you ranked well for the keywords in your domain. Instead broad match tells you how you’d rank for hundreds or thousands of other terms, all aggregated together. Getting on the first page of Google for all the gazillion different terms that broad-match takes into account really is impossible, you might be able to get on the first page for a handful of them, but that means you’re only getting a small percentage of that traffic.

So why is broad match checked by default?

The Google Adwords Keyword Tool was built for advertisers, and advertisers want to see big numbers because they want their campaigns to reach a larger audience. If I’m a big car insurance company I don’t just want to appear on the first page for “buy insurance” I want to be on the first page for anything slightly related to the concept of buying car insurance, and thus broad match is a great fit.

Sadly, what I found from my post this week as that so many new Domainers have names that match keywords with absolutely no search volume at all, but think they have names with tons of search volume. Chances are they’re trying to sell these names and not finding any buyers and then scratching their heads because they think the search volume is high…when it’s not.

You can get a domain that has a broad search volume of 100,000 on the first page of Google, heck let’s say the #1 spot and only get 10 visitors/month. This could happen because the exact match is only 20.

I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I know that I probably am. Better to learn this now rather than later when you’ve acquired an entire portfolio of junk right? So next time you go to buy a domain and you’re basing your decision on search volume, make sure you’re looking at exact-match otherwise you could be growing your collection, rather than your investments.

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton