PPC Keyword Match Types & Tips to Remember

By , Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing


The keywords in your paid search accounts are what drive the entire PPC machine. Without the keywords, your ads have no trigger to populate. If it were as easy as adding all the keywords in the world and walking away, said world would be so simple and perfect! Of course we all know keyword selection is crucial, and in PPC, the match type of those keywords adds another layer of critical detail if you want to have a successful PPC campaign. For this post, we’ll not only review the basics of keyword match types by engine; we’ll also review some tips to remember when managing these match types…because they can get tricky!

First and foremost, you have to understand the different match type options and how they function. I made this little chart to show the similarities and differences between the options available in AdWords and Bing Ads (under each engine, you can see what searches will trigger your keyword under the given match type):

keyword match type chart

…so that’s it? Again, it’s not as simple as a chart, but those are the basic rules to keep in mind when determining the match types for each of your keywords that you want to bid on. I was going to put one of those “keyword example” columns in, but then I thought to myself, “Nope, too restricting.” So here’s what I’m thinking! You submit a comment below, with the keyword (with correct match type punctuation, nothing for broad match) and the query you’re curious about, then I’ll tell you if that query would populate your ad if you’re bidding on the given keyword match type. Sound good?!

In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re handling your keyword management (uploads, downloads, bids, and so on) that I’ve picked up along the last couple of years:


  • If you’ve downloaded a keyword report that contains modified broad match keywords, make sure you highlight the keyword column in the spreadsheet, format cells as text, and delete the apostrophe from in front of all the modified broad plus signs (it’ll look like this:  ‘+keyword ). If you re-upload the keywords with changes after that, it will be a bad thing. Just don’t do it.
  • A couple quick ways to remember potential search volume by match type:
    • Broad = Greatest impressions/lowest CTR
    • Phrase = Lower impressions/higher CTR
    • Exact = Lowest impressions/highest CTR
  • Bid accordingly based on the notes in the last bullet! Odds are that broad match keywords are less likely to convert (generally more research based queries, etc.), so you can’t bid them so high that they blow up your CPL without converting.
  • When it comes to phrase match keywords, the matching query can include words before and after your keyword phrase, as long as your keyword phrase appears in order in the query.
  • Be wary of the “close variations” note in the chart above, because sometimes…it can be a close-ish variation. For example, the broad match keyword green flag could match to a search query for emerald flag.
  • Have a solid negative keyword strategy in place to backup your keyword structure to help prevent those broad match terms you do want from wasting budget on those “close variation” searches (search query report time!).
  • Your exact match keywords will ONLY be triggered if the search query contains your keyword term in order and ONLY your keyword term in order. If the query contains any other terms, it will not trigger your exact match keyword.
  • Consider how your assigned ad copy will read if a DKI broad match keyword is triggered with a “close variation.” You certainly want to avoid any situations where the engine makes a decision to match your keyword to a query and you end up with an ad copy that makes you look silly (misspellings are the real trickster on this one!).


Let’s get some more discussion going – what are some of the tips you’ve picked up related to keyword management when it comes to match types? Share them with the PPC Hero team and readers in the comments section below!

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31 thoughts on “PPC Keyword Match Types & Tips to Remember

  1. Christine Johnson

    Keyword: buy purple shoes

    Query: buy green shoes online

    my question is, if the words “buy” and “shoes” are in both, would my ad show up for a green (or black, red, yellow) shoe query?

    I stay away from broad match keywords and stick with +modified +broad, because the ambiguity of broad match makes me nervous. I’m afraid my ad will show up in very wrong searches, and ultimately be a huge waste oh money. Maybe you can also explain more in depth about broad match, and the benefits (besides more impressions and reach, etc)?


    1. Jack Hutchinson

      Hi Christine,

      In short if your keyword is full broadmatch buy green shoes online then you could show for a number of things, including searches like buy purple boots online etc.

      Sometimes full broad can work, but sometimes the search terms Google thinks are relevant just aren’t!! For this reason if I use broad match keywords I tend to put them in their own ad group so I can keep on top of them with loads of negatives.

      Stick with modified broadmatch, or try half and half i.e. green +shoes – these half broad/half modified broad can work really well.

      1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

        FANTASTIC response, Jack! Great method and strategy to handling the situation and allowing yourself to target the traffic for potential buyers, but not waste clicks/budget on those that don’t fit! Thanks for reading (and assisting)!

    2. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      I 100% agree with Jack, Christine! The truth of it is, the variables possible when it comes to broad match could absolutely cause your keyword to trigger for the query you sent over. So Jack’s method of adding negatives to block those possible triggers is going to be crucial in saving budget from those wasted clicks. Thanks for the question and for reading!

  2. Alessio Forte

    Could you please provide a further example of the half and half method?? (“i.e. green +shoes –
    these half broad/half modified broad can work really well”= Thanks

  3. Alessio Forte

    Hi Everybody 😀

    Could you please explain further the “half and half method”?? As u said earlier…” Stick with modified broadmatch, or try half and half i.e. green +shoes –
    these half broad/half modified broad can work really well”

    1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      Thanks for the question, Alessio! I always think of the broad match modifier as an anchor – or in other words, whichever term in the keyword has the + in front of it MUST be in the searcher’s query to trigger your ad. That said, if you anchor the term you perceive to be most likely to trigger synonyms you don’t want, you’re making somewhat of a half broad/half exact match keyword. Does that make sense?

  4. HS

    Hi Kayla
    Thanks for a great post.
    Do you feel it is necessary to split keywords into Adgroups based on match type if I am bidding on a CPA basis?
    Thanks for your thoughts.
    kind regards
    Harley Storey

    1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      Thanks for the great question! I am actually not a fan of CPA bidding, so I can’t give you a direct or experiential answer of combining match type-based ad groups with CPA bidding. I think what makes the match type separation most helpful is when it’s for the purpose of funneling queries to the least-expensive keyword option in your account, so it doesn’t seem like this method would be as crucial using CPA bidding.

      Great question and thanks for reading!

      1. HS

        Thanks Kayla but your generous reply begs the question! …

        Why do you not like CPA bidding?
        kind regards
        Harley S

        1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

          I’ve never had CPA bidding work out beyond the honeymoon phase. So I think the initial results are good, because the initial changes made to your bidding based on conversion data is accurate. However after that point, every change it makes to your bidding is based on changes made on the last batch. My very humble professional opinion is to steer clear of CPA bidding, unless your vertical is pretty steady and non-seasonal.

          Great question, Harley! And again, just been my experience!

          1. HS

            Thanks for your reply Kalya.
            Based on that I will try splitting up my Search campaigns by match type and go back to CPC.
            Does your skepticism towards CPA bidding extend to the Display network also?
            kind regards

          2. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

            My CPA bidding experience was Search network only as a test, and then when I wasn’t impressed I didn’t really dive further in to trying it for Display. Given the somewhat undesirable value of Display conversions (for the most part, and excluding topics/ICM/remarketing targeted), I would stick to CPC bidding for both networks.

  5. ssu119@gmail.com

    Can you elaborate how the half and half method will work? I would like to try this approach for some of my PPC campaigns.

    1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      I assume you’re referring to how modified broad match keywords function when you say the half and half method?

      If so – modified broad match basically gives you the ability to allow for a portion of your keyword string to be variable to different queries, but the non-modified portion would have to match.

      Does that make sense? Thanks for the question!

  6. Nick Jenkins

    I recently switched a bunch of keywords over in a campaign to BMM.

    When I came back to check the stats the next day, all of the modified search terms showed 0 impressions. Other BM keywords showed lots of impressions.

    Thinking that I had implemented BMM wrongly, I removed the “+” from the front of the terms.

    The stats for the keyword then immediately updated to show impressions and
    clicks from the previous day for the modified keywords!

    (NB: I implemented BMM by inserting a + in front of a word that I wanted only variants on, e.g. Sailing Lesson became Sailing +Lesson)

    Am I implenting BMM wrongly? Is there a known bug in the keyword stats? Has anyone seen this before?

    1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      I’m going to be honest, Nick….this is super confusing and nothing I’ve ever seen before. That said – I’ve had a lot of trouble if I upload keywords with match type punctuation in the keyword itself via the Editor. Did you upload those modified broad match terms in the AdWords interface itself or from the Editor? Huge going out on a limb, but I might try the interface if you used the Editor.

      1. Nick Jenkins

        Nope – did it in the interface.

        I was (and am) puzzled by it. I suspect it might be a keyword I had before with stats, I deleted and then reinstated as a BMM. When I deleted the BMM modifier I think I was seeing previous stats from the keyword.

        But why the BMM got zero impressions I still don’t understand but will experiment more and report back if I can.

        1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

          Hmmmm…yea…I’ll admit, you’ve got me stumped! Even if you’re correct that you were seeing data from a previously deleted keyword when you removed the modifier punctuation, then this could be interesting on a couple of levels. Maybe a way to trick AdWords in to letting you re-add keywords you’ve previously deleted?

          Definitely keep me posted!!

          1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

            Assuming you were adding the broad match modified version of the keyword to the same ad group as the one you had deleted the non-modified one from previously.

          2. Nick Jenkins

            Yes, correct. Also I have some modified broad match keywords returning impressions now, so either it was a temporary glitch or my BMM keywords were so narrow they weren’t triggering at all.

          3. Nick Jenkins

            I was a little more selective/cautious in which ones I made BMM. I think it’s also possible that I had some BM keywords that were stepping on the BMM keywords.

            It’s very tough to decide between making a keyword BMM or turning it into a subset of exact matches. My gut says that BMM is extremely flexible/powerful but it’s more difficult to monitor.

          4. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

            I agree completely. I think BMM requires you to renegotiate your negative keyword strategy, on top of additional monitoring of the keywords themselves!

    1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      DKI should input the query typed in by the searcher wherever the placeholder is, not the keyword itself. The only way that wouldn’t be the case is if the query was too long character-wise.

      In that situation, I believe the ad will populate with the keyword sans plus signs (you don’t see the ” or [ in phrase or exact match when those are input in place of actual DKI).

      Make sense? Great question!

  7. james

    Hi Kayla, Great info above on keyword types. I have a
    (slightly related) question regarding negative keyword lists. We’ve recently
    taken over an account that is structured in a way that we’ve never seen before.
    The ad groups are split by match type with negative keyword lists, for the
    broad and phrase ad groups, consisting of the same keywords as the ad groups. i.e.
    Broad ad group = Phrase negative keywords, Phrase ad group = Exact negative
    keywords, Exact ad group = no negative keywords. Is this account structure used


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