Keyword Match Types

What are Keyword Match Types?

Keyword match types are a way for you as the advertiser to control which search queries can trigger your ads. You’re able to control which match type is used by using specific characters in the keyword phrase.

Keyword Match Types

Broad Match

A broad match keyword is any string of words without any modifying characters, ex. hiking boots. These types of keywords will trigger your ad for all types of searches. This includes misspellings, variations, synonyms, related searches, and searches with different intents. For example, if you use hiking boots, your ads could be shown for “shop hiking boots online” as well as “what are hiking boots made of”. (Quotes are for demonstrative purposes.) Both queries are “relevant” to your keyword, but have significantly different goals in mind.

In most situations, we don’t recommend the use of this match type due to the broad targeting and high likelihood of wasted ad spend.

Modified Broad Match

This match type is similar to broad match except that a plus sign (+) is used before certain words in the string to ensure their inclusion. Your ad will show for searches that have the word trailing the plus sign in them. For example, +hiking boots would show your ads for queries related to “hiking boots”, but not “boots”.

Phrase Match

A phrase match keyword is any string of 2+ words that is surrounded by quotation marks. For example, “hiking boots” or “hamburger place near me”. This type of keyword is used when you want your ad to be served on search queries with those specific words in that particular order. There can also be additional words before or after, but not in between.

Exact Match

An exact match keyword is any string words that is surrounded by brackets, ex. [hiking boots] or [hamburger place near me]. This keyword should be used when you want ads to be served on searches with only those specific words with no additional words before, between, or after. You should use this keyword type for narrow targeting where you have a specific audience or goal in mind.

Disclaimer: Google has changed this keyword match type to function closer to how phrase match keywords work (link). They are trying to match search intent instead rigidly matching specific keywords.

Negative Match

Negative match, also called negative keywords, are keywords you don’t want to trigger your ads. If you run a clothing store, but you don’t sell hats or shoes, you would add “hats” and “shoes” to your negative keyword list. You can also add them using a minus sign (-) before the keyword, but it’s much simpler to use the negative keyword section in AdWords.

Disclaimer: Be mindful of which words you add as negative keywords. You can prevent other keywords from showing if you aren’t careful.

Usage of Keyword Match Types

There is a lot that goes into which match type should be used in your AdWords campaigns. Realistically, you should make use of as many match types a you can in a single campaign, but the campaign’s goal can give you a good starting point.

Goals of an AdWords Campaign

  • Brand Awareness: Casting a wide net to help potential customers discover your brand.
  • Conversion: Targeting potential customers to turn them into actual customers.
  • Education: Teaching potential customers about your product / services to show them why they need it or how to use it.
  • Traffic: Send targeted traffic to enter the sales funnel on your website.

Start With Broad Targeting

Every decision made in Google AdWords should be supported by hard data and the only way to collect that data is to bid on keywords. We recommend using the broad to narrow strategy. Start your campaign using broad and modified broad keyword match types on your target keywords. This will cast a wide net that guarantees exposure for your ads on any given day. It also collects data on what your potential customers are looking for, how they’re searching for it, and how they’re interacting with your website.

Don’t be afraid to add negative keywords while you’re building out your campaigns. Just remember to cross check them against your targeted keywords so you don’t accidentally prevent them from showing relevant ads.

Drill Down to Narrow Targeting

After keeping a close eye on your broad keywords’ performance, weed out the non-performing and irrelevant keywords. This can be anywhere between 1 week to a month depending on your daily budget. Obviously, the more you spend the more clicks you get and the faster you can start making educated decisions.

You can pare down these keywords by adding negative keywords along the way or just by pausing the non-performing ones. We recommend a good mix of both so you can prevent wasted ad spend in the future. This leaves you with keywords that get traction and, hopefully, generate revenue for your business.

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