What Do (+) Plus Signs Mean in Adwords?

  • 19/06/2017
  • PPC
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Every week one of our travel PPC agency clients will ask us, “What are those plus signs in our Adwords account?” If our clients are confused, there must be thousands of other people out there who are equally confused. Hopefully, this post will help to clear up some of the confusion!

The plus (+) signs are known in AdWords as the ‘Broad Match Modifier’, but it is more widely referred to as just ‘Modified Broad’. People tend to avoid using this match type because they don’t properly understand its purpose.

In essence, whatever keyword you put a plus sign in front of is a “modifier” to the broad match keyword. You can add a plus sign to only one or two words in the keyword string or to all of the words. Google will recognise these as “modifiers” and will make sure that those words are always in the search query which then triggers your advert to be shown.

As an example, if you sell cruises and you are bidding on the keyword “luxury cruises 2018” on phrase match type (meaning, those words in that order must be in the search query), you could be missing out on a lot of relevant traffic from searches with the same intent but using different phrasing.

The reverse is also true. If you are bidding on the same keywords on pure ‘broad match’, you may be bringing in too much irrelevant traffic or too much traffic in general, thereby wasting your valuable budget. This is where modified broad comes in handy.

So let’s assume your travel specialist PPC agency has added the following keyword string to your account:
+luxury +cruises +2018

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In this example, if you put the plus sign in front of luxury, cruises and 2018, you are telling Google not to show your ads unless search queries contain all three words. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter what order those keywords are entered in the search box.

Someone searching for just “luxury cruises” would not see your advert, because “2018” was not in the search query. However, if someone searches for “2018 luxury cruises”, your ads would show up, because all the words with a plus sign in front of them were in the search query.  Once again, the search query does not have to list the keywords in the same order as per phrase match.

But the story doesn’t end there! You also have the option of adding a plus sign in front of certain words instead of all words in the keyword string. This is typically good for those terms you want to make sure are always included in the search query.

Using the example from above, if you are bidding on the keyword “luxury cruises 2018” and you want to make sure that you always show up with search queries containing the words ‘luxury’ and ‘cruises’, but you place less value on the year ‘2018’, you can add a plus sign in front of luxury and cruises and leave 2018 to stand alone without a plus sign.

Bidding on this keyword (+luxury +cruises 2018) will ensure that you show up for those searches for luxury cruises, but you can also show up for searches associated with the year “2018”. Although less relevant, your adverts will also show for ‘modified’ searches for terms like “luxury river cruises” or “luxury cruises in the Caribbean”.

But please be careful when it comes to using the broad match modifier. Managed correctly it could open up lots of new traffic sources for you. Managed poorly and you could find that your budget is quickly wasted.

If you are worried about using modified broad match correctly, we’re here to help.  Onvigil is one of the UK’s leading SEO and PPC agencies in the travel sector / industry. Get in touch today!

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