What are keyword match types in Google Adwords?

When setting up your Adwords campaign and selecting your keywords, you need to specify the ‘keyword match type’.

Keyword matching is one of the more difficult aspects of managing an Adwords campaign but once you understand the different match types, they can be very powerful. It’s important to get the keyword match types right, or you could be wasting valuable budget in targeting the wrong keyword phrases.

There are 5 types of keyword matches; broad match, modified broad match, phrase match, exact match and negative match.

Keyword matching options and what they mean.

#1. Broad match.

Broad match is the default match type and the one that reaches the widest audience. Your ads will display on searches that include any word in your key phrase including misspellings, synonyms and related searches.

#2. Example.

Keyword: engineering companies
Searches that your advert will be displayed for:

> Engineering jobs
> Engineering for a company
> Engineering courses
> IT Companies
> Companies in….[any country, any sector!]

Be very careful when using broad match. The broad match offers more traffic potential but this traffic may not be relevant to your business and will cost you a lot of on money in low quality traffic.

#3. Broad match modifier.

This offers more control over who sees you ad, and is not quite as restrictive as some of the other keyword match types. By adding the symbol + in front of a keyword, that word must appear in the search phrase for your advert to display.

#4. Example: + Engineering companies.

Example searches that your advert will be displayed for:

> Engineering companies in the UK
> Engineering jobs
> Engineering courses

So because the + sign is front of ‘engineering’ this word must be included in the search phrase for your advert to appear. In the example shown below, the + is inserted before ‘companies’ meaning that ‘companies’ must appear in the search phrase. And because a broad match includes misspellings, synonyms and related searches, your ad will show up for search phrases including ‘company’ and ‘companys’ as well.

#5. Example: Engineering + Companies.

> Companies in UK
> Find a company that provides [insert any service]

As you can see, the broad match modifier is still very broad and can result in a lot of low quality traffic and wasted budget.

#6. Phrase match.

The difference between broad match modifier and phrase match is all about whether or not the order of those words in your keyword matters. If the order of keywords in a search query is important for intent, then consider phrase match. If order of words doesn’t matter, then consider broad modifier.

By adding speech marks around the keyword, your advert will display on that phrase in the exact order you enter them but there might be other words either before or after that phrase.

#7. Example: “Engineering companies”.

> UK engineering companies
> Engineering companies in the UK
> Engineering companies jobs in Sussex

Phrase match offers more control, but as you can see, there is still potential for your ad to be displayed on unwanted searches. If you’re a retailer selling a certain brand of skinny jeans and you bid on “skinny jeans”, your advert will display on searches for all brands, such as Zara skinny jeans, Warehouse skinny jeans and D&G skinny jeans.

#8. Exact match.

You guessed it, exact match displays your advert on that exact keyword phrase by itself, so in our example, your ad will only display on ‘engineering companies’. It’s for those that want complete control over where their advert displays with absolutely no wastage.
So if you create an exact match, using [keyword], as shown below your advert will not display for ‘engineering company jobs’ and ‘engineering company’.

Users who click on your ad when searching for that exact phrase are more likely to be interested in your product or service, so using exact match can reduce unwanted costs and keep conversion rates high. But, there will be far less searches for those terms, so you are reducing how many impressions and clicks you can achieve on your ads.

#9. Negative match.

Negative keywords are not a stand-alone match type; rather they are used in conjunction with the broad and phrase match options.

Negative match keywords are probably the most overlooked match type, even though they can be extremely useful. If you’re selling luxury goods online, you would certainly want to specify ‘cheap’, ‘free’ and ‘discount’ as negative keywords.

In our example, an engineering company that wants to be found only by people requiring their services and not people looking for jobs or training courses may have a phrase match on “Engineering companies” with negative keywords specified using a minus sign in front of the words like this: Training, Jobs

Google Adwords advertisers often add words like “free” to their negative keyword lists, since they indicate non-commercial traffic that won’t convert. However, it’s impossible to think up all the possible terms that are irrelevant to your goals. To find negative keywords, try using a negative keyword tool as well as regularly reviewing your search query reports in AdWords to see what your ads are matching against.

Understanding how matching options work is core to a successful search campaign and the first step to increasing your ad ROI.