Keyword Match Types: The What and Why

Keyword match types are not a one size fits all kind of deal (like stretchy pants). Instead, all three can be utilized together, or separately, depending on your PPC strategy and/or business type. Each match type has its own set of benefits, as well as drawbacks, but when utilized together effectively, it can give you great results. So, in the following paragraphs, the six keyword match types (broad, phrase, exact, negative, embedded, and modified broad)will be analyzed, as well as how to properly use each one.



Broad match keywords, to start, are the keywords that will get you the most impressions. Basically, it is one keyword or a string of several, that will trigger any time that one of those keywords are searched for. Important to note is that Google uses this as your default keyword variation. So broad match keywords, in the words of Google, will trigger if any of the keywords are in the search term in any form, as well as “…for singular/plural forms, synonyms, and other relevant variations…” (source). So, to summarize, you are casting a large net, and you may or may not get relevant traffic. But, you will get more traffic. This keyword type is good for companies with large budgets, or companies looking to get their brand name out there. If you are going for brand recognition, use broad match. Also, if your marketing campaign is targeted towards customers in the beginning phase of the buying cycle, broad match may be good to utilize in order to target people who are looking for your service, but aren’t entirely sure what to search for. You can reach this demographic, since Google will also trigger your ads for synonyms of your keywords.



Phrase match is the next level of targeting, shown in Adwords as the keyword with quotation marks around it (as shown in the header, “Phrase”) Basically, if you use phrase match, your keyword or keywords will trigger ads if the search query uses the exact order in which your keywords are in. Important to note is that if the search query has additional terms in it, but the keywords are in the order you designate, your ads can still be triggered. So, if your keyword is “blue shoes,” your ads can still show when someone enters as a search query “blue shoes for hiking.” So, this match type will really cut down on irrelevant traffic, but can still get you wasted impressions. Consider this the middle ground between broad and exact (which will be covered next). Consider using this match type if you have a more limited PPC budget, as less impressions will lead to a higher CTR and Quality Score, leading to less cost. Also, if you are advertising for a more specific product (like the above example “blue shoes”) but don’t want to eliminate all traffic that isn’t exactly pertaining to “blue shoes,” utilize this match type.



Exact match is the Monk of keyword match types: if the search query doesn’t match the keyword to a T, then ads will not be triggered. This is signified in Adwords as the keyword with brackets around it (shown above in the header as [Exact]). If you want only relevant traffic and a high conversion rate, this match type is for you. So, if your marketing budget is very small, and you only want converting traffic, use this match type. The obvious downside is that you are limiting the amount of impressions your ads will get. This will help cost and conversion rate, but you may be limiting your ad campaign due to the smaller amount of impressions you will be receiving.



This match type isn’t necessarily a match type, but more of a way to cut down on irrelevant impressions. In Adwords, there is a list of all the negative keywords you have entered, all signified with the minus sign before it (as shown above as                  -Negative). Negative keywords are keywords that disqualify a search from populating an ad. For example, if you sell “blue shoes,” but don’t want to show up for “blue cleats,” you would add the negative keyword “-cleats” to your campaign. Negative keywords can be as simple or as nuanced as you want them to be. But, be careful of how you add them. Many times in accounts, if there is a sudden downturn in impressions, it can be attributed to a negative keyword accidentally blocking relevant traffic. So, keep in mind that a negative keyword that is very broad will block the negative keyword in any form in the search query. Utilize broad terms to disqualify individual qualifiers, as opposed to keywords. And, use Phrase and Exact match Negative keywords if you have identified certain query strings that are deemed irrelevant, based off of search data from Search Query Reports.



Embedded match is a variant of Negative match. Basically, it helps to more specifically narrow down irrelevant traffic. For example, lets say you are advertising a “European vacation,” but already have “European vacation” as an exact term in another ad group with more targeted ads. You don’t want your ad groups to compete, so in order to do so, the other ad groups with Phrase and Broad keywords “European vacation” would add the following embedded keyword match: -[European vacation]. This negative exact match for the other two ad groups using Phrase and Broad match would keep the irrelevant Exact search [European vacations] from triggering ads for the other two ad groups. Or, to use the Google example, lets say you are advertising for Toy Story merchandise, but don’t want to appear for the search term “Toy Story”, which would mean somebody simply looking for information or a copy of the movie itself. You would then add the embedded keyword –[toy story] to ensure that your ads will be triggered for Toy Story themed queries that are more than just the term “Toy Story.” So, anyone searching for the movie “Toy Story” and only includes that in the search query will not see your ads, but a user searching for “Toy Story Merchandise” will possibly be served your ads. So, in short, Embedded match is a more precise form of Negative keyword match, utilized to better filter traffic.


+Modified +Broad

Modified Broad match is another variant that is less understood and often under-utilized. Basically, it allows you to add “modifiers” (or plus symbols, as shown in the header) to keywords you deem important. By adding a + before one of the broad match keywords in your string of keywords, it tells Google that any keyword with a + before it has to be included in some degree in the search query. So, for example, if your shop sells blue shoes (back to the shoes example. We at Hanapin are consistent), and you have the keyword blue shoes as broad match in your account, any search query with blue or shoes in it (or variations of each word) could potentially trigger your ad. But, but adding a + sign to each keyword (making it +blue +shoes), it tells Google how to match your keywords to the search query. So, this tells Google that when matching a search query to the keyword, the search query must have these two terms in them, in any order, even with other words in the search query. You would utilize this match type if you want to keep a high impression count, but also narrow down the irrelevance you typically get from broad match. This offers the exclusivity of Phrase Match without limiting the search query to the specific order in which the keywords are listed.


So, to conclude, these are the match types available in Adwords. Yes, you can set up entire ad campaigns only utilizing one of the match types, but to do so would be missing out on the various opportunities that each gives you the advertiser. So, evaluate your budget and advertising goals, and determine how to best use all of the match types in order to succeed!