Selecting The Most Compatible Keyword Match Types

September 18, 2020

What are Keyword Match Types?

Keyword match types are notably used in Google Ads Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign (link to Basics of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing Article). These are different keyword types from the ones used in a search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign. To understand the differences between keywords in an SEO campaign versus keywords used in a PPC campaign, do take a look at our previous article comparing between SEO and PPC.

Keyword match types can be thought of as settings that can be used on the individual keyword terms. This settings will provide Google with more specific information on what types of keywords will trigger your ad to be displayed on their search engine results page (SERP). In other words, you are telling Google how your ads will match with a user’s search query. Precise matching of keyword match types will result in higher return on investment (ROI) on your PPC campaigns as it will allow you to refine your target audience.

In PPC, there are 5 keyword match types that you can use:

  1. Broad Match
  2. Broad Match Modifier
  3. Phrase Match
  4. Exact Match
  5. Negative Match

The image below gives you an overview of the different match types available.


1) Broad Match

The broad match is the keyword type that Google will naturally use as it is the most basic type of keyword. It does not contain any special symbol, and like the name suggests, allows Google to work with a broad spectrum of words that may be related to the keyword. This broad spectrum of words include synonyms, related phrases of words, common misspellings, stemmings (eg. eat and eating), singular and plural variations of the keyword, and other search terms related to the keyword.

For example:

Broad Match Example

As you can see, the broad match keyword will match your keyword to as many related searches as possible. You will be casting a wide net trying to reach the best audience for your business.

But how useful is this keyword match type?

Benefits of Broad Match :  

If the objective of your PPC campaign is to generate traffic, this will be a useful keyword strategy as it matches your keyword to as many related search query as possible. This keyword will help you generate a lot of clicks to your website. If you are only concerned with looking at the number of traffic and not the quality of traffic, this keyword type will be extremely effective.


Downside of Broad Match :  

Probably, the biggest drawback to using this match type is its inadequacy in providing quality traffic. Broad Match keywords do not help in informing Google what types of audience you are targeting. This inability to provide audience targeting will result in high advertising costs with low returns on investment (ROI). There is a high risk of overpaying for ads that are displayed on irrelevant search topics as you are not taking control over what types of search terms your ads should appear on.

To illustrate, let’s look at the example above again.

For the keyword Healthy wedding cake, your ads will also be displayed to a user who is searching for Gluten-free desserts. This is because Google has determined that this is a related search query to your keyword. However, the user will find out that your website is not relevant as you do not sell gluten-free desserts. You only specialise in sugar-free desserts, including wedding cakes.

As you can see, the broad match keyword type may not be useful as there is little control in audience targeting, resulting in low quality traffic that does not convert.

When To Use Broad Match :  

However, there are times when broad match can be beneficial to you. If you are unable to spend time on keyword research, using broad match will be a great time-saver. This is because, broad match types will provide you with relevant keywords and create keyword variations to help you cover more ground.


2) Broad Match Modifier

A broad match modifier is indicated by the special symbol + that is placed in front of the word.

These types of keywords offer more control that the default broad match type. They ensure that your ads will only appear to people who are searching for the words that you have marked with the + sign.

Similar to the broad match, ads may also appear in words that are in close variation to the marked words, such as misspellings, abbreviations, acronyms singular and plural forms, as well as stemmings (eg. eat and eating). Unlike broad match, synonyms and related searches will be excluded.

Broad Match Modifier Example

As you can see, broad match modifiers allow you to be more specific in your reach. It will increase the relevancy of your keywords, but will also decrease your expected click-through rate (CTR) as you are cutting off irrelevant audience sections away.


Benefits of Broad Match Modifier :  

Allows you to be more specific in your keyword targeting strategies, and thus increases the relevancy of your keywords to your audience. If used correctly, broad match modifier can also be considered to be safer keyword option as compared to the broad match as your ads will not be shown to audiences who are looking for something different from what you offer. Thus, the quality of traffic generated are of higher quality than the broad match.


Broad Match Modifier Tip :  

  • Be careful not to leave a space between the + and the keyword
    • Correct : healthy +cake
    • Wrong : healthy + cake
  • Be selective of which words you want to add the + sign to. Be careful when adding + to descriptive words such as +quick. In this case, synonyms such as fast or speedy will be excluded. This synonymous words are still useful for you, so there is not need to add the + sign in front of such words.
  • Eg, instead of +quick healthy +cake, which further narrows your ad reach, quick healthy +cake would be able to serve your advertising needs better.


3) Phrase Match

Phrase matches further narrows down your audience targeting.

Phrase matches are indicated with the “  “ symbol. They allow you to be more precise with your keyword targeting options.

Like the previous match types, close variants of the phrase match keywords are also included. These close variants refer to misspellings, abbreviations, acronyms singular and plural forms, as well as stemmings. For phrase match, the correct order of the words are very important. The ad will only show for the exact word order that you have chosen.

For example, if your phrase match is “wedding cake”, your ad will not show to customers who are searching for healthy wedding cupcakes as the word order in the phrase match does not match the user search query.

Phrase Match Example

Benefits of Phrase Match :

Phrase match allows you to be more targeted than the broad match option. It helps to get rid of irrelevant and unnecessary traffic. Phrase Match is good when you want control over the types of audience you can reach, such as when the meaning of your keyword changes with the order of the words used.


4) Exact Match

Exact Match allows you to be extremely specific and precise in your keyword targeting.

Exact matches are indicated with the [  ] symbol. This type of keywords still allow a little bit of wiggle room in terms of close variants of the keywords. Like the previous match types, close variants of the phrase match keywords are also included.

In this case, close variants may refer to the following:

  • Misspellings
  • Singular or plural forms
  • Stemmings (for example, eat and eating)
  • Abbreviations
  • Reordered words with the same meaning (for example, shoes ladies = ladies shoes)
  • Addition or removal of function words. (for example, for, and)
  • Implied words (for example, gaming vr headset = gaming headset”since “vr” is implied)
  • Synonyms and paraphrases (for example, bathing suits = swimming suits)
  • Same search intent ( images royalty free = free copyright images)

Exact Match Example



Benefits of Exact Match :

Exact match is the most precise keyword type. Exact match keywords have strict restrictions on how your ads will be shown. This match type provides you with the highest level of audience relevancy, which means that the conversion rates are also higher than the other match types. As you are only paying for very few targeting clicks due to the narrow targeting option, exact match can help to reduce the overall advertising costs.

Downside of Exact Match :  

Impressions and traffic to your ad will decrease significantly. Since you are very specific and targeted in your keyword, there is a chance that some valuable keywords may be missing from your keyword list.


Overview on Keyword Matching

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of keyword matching available, we have provided you with an easy illustration to demonstrate the relationship between the match types that you use and your expected targeting reach.

Keyword Match Types and Targeting

Source : how2dodigitalmarketing


5) Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are a great way to inform Google to exclude specific search terms from your ad campaigns. This is a separate type of keyword matching that you can choose to use at your discretion. Adding negative keywords can help you focus only on the keywords that bring value to your advertising efforts.

Negative keywords effectively inform Google of what not to target. This will help you to immediately avoid irrelevant, or unrelated targeting that does not contribute to your advertising goals. Similar to the keyword match types, negative keywords also have match types such as :

  • Negative Broad Match,
  • Negative Phrase Match
  • Negative Exact Match

5.1 Negative Broad Match

This is the default type of negative keywords that Google will use. Your ad will not show if the search term contains all of the negative keyword you have chosen. The order of the words used in the search query does not matter as long as all the negative keywords are present.

Negative Broad Match Example


5.2 Negative Phrase Match

Similar to the phrase match, you will need to add the symbol “   “ to your keyword term. In this type of negative keyword match, your ad will not show if the search term contains the same keyword in the same order.  Additional words may be present in conjunction with the negative keywords, but the ad won’t show as long as all the keyword terms are included in the search in the same order.

Negative Phrase Match Example


5.3 Negative Exact Match

Similar to the phrase match, you will need to add the symbol [  ] to your keyword term. In this type of negative keyword match, your ad will not show if the search term contains the same keywords, in the exact same order, and without any additional words.

Negative Exact Match 

Benefits of Negative Keywords :

Negative keywords allow you to have better targeting by only focusing on customers who already have an interest in your business. When used correctly, you will be able to see an increase in your ROI.

Negative Keywords Tips:

  • Negative keywords can be very useful, but should be used with much care. Too many negative keywords might constraint your audience reach too much.
  • Negative keywords are very specific. Close variations of the keywords will still result in your ads being shown.



The match type that you decide to use is an important aspect of your PPC campaign. Do outline your advertising objective before deciding on the match types you want to use. In one campaign, you have the option to mix the match types you want to use. But try to have one match type per keyword, to avoid over-complicating your campaign. Do not be afraid to experiment, and always go back to reviewing your keywords to further refine your keyword list.


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