Keyword Match Types for Google AdWords

For this post, let’s turn our attention back over to Pay-per-click (PPC) and Google AdWords. As a Search Marketing professional, it is important to understand all angles of search. That means you can’t just focus blindly on SEO in the long run.

Sure, SEO is “free” and should be addressed for any website. But once you have optimized the on page and started driving backlinks, you really need to have patience as it all starts to pick up momentum.

Most businesses don’t have time to simply sit and wait. That’s when PPC needs to be taken more seriously.

Keyword Match Types: What Are They?

Google allows you to set the targeting you prefer for your keywords. Targeting is managed using match types. These designate the keywords you want to go after and how tightly you want to focus your ads within the SERPs. Here are the four top-level match types they offer:

Broad Match

Broad match is set by simply entering the keyword into the AdWords interface as a target keyword. If you do not add any modifiers to indicate it should be Phrase or Exact, it defaults to Broad.

Broad allows you to not only show up for verbatim searches of a keyword, but to also show up for variants, misspellings, and terms with similar meanings. While this sounds great in terms of ad impressions to those of us who were brought up in the mass advertising age, it is often the wrong choice.

Since you pay for every click, relevance is crucial. If you show up on a badly targeted SERP, you are guaranteed to pay for bad clicks. And to make matters worse, Google charges more for the same ranking on pages with high competition (meaning a lot of other people are bidding on the same terms), so a broad click is typically the most expensive of all.

Broad is useful for researching new variants of a keyword, but proceed with caution. I recommend you partition off a test budget of maybe 10% of your overall spend to find those new variants. Then go after those keywords using one of the below better targeted match types.

Phrase Match

Phrase Match looks for searches that include a pre-specified phrase, but also include other words around the phrase. You can set a keyword to phrase by putting quotation symbols around it.

For example, if you use “SEO services” as the keyword, your ad would appear on SERPs for “SEO Services in Memphis”, “Best SEO Services in Texas”, or “What to expect from SEO services firms”. As you may have noticed, the order of the words in the phrase must be the same, so “what services should an SEO offer” would not match.

This is useful for tighter targeting overall, perhaps based on location as shown above. Phrase match tends to be less expensive on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, as compared to broad match. At the same time, it also delivers significantly reduced impressions but is more likely to be relevant to a larger percent of the results on which the ad will appear.

Exact Match

Exact Match, designated by using brackets such as [SEO Services], will only serve up your ad on SERPs for verbatim searches of that term. No other words can appear in the search, which is why it is called exact match.

This is the tightest targeting, most likely to be relevant, and least expensive bidding option. If you know for a fact that a keyword has a lot of volume, is relevant as an exact match, and has low competition (based on number of advertisers bidding for the term), you’ve found yourself a bargain.

The best way to find what terms to target with exact is to start with broad or phrase match and see what searches drive results. You may have a very relevant keyword that never drives conversions or quality visits to your site. On the other hand, you will sometimes be surprised to see what words drive the best results. Target those with exact match to get more clicks with higher potential for success.

Negative Match

Another match type you need to know about is Negative Match. This is how you specify all the words you DO NOT want to match for.

At a previous company, we sold a product that attached to a device called a Network TAP (Test Access Point). Unfortunately, the IT community rarely included the word “Network” when searching.

We started out on broad match and found that a huge portion of our spend was on irrelevant terms! There are kitchen taps, beer taps, tap dance shoes, the song “Taps”, the list goes on and on. So we used negative match types on our TAPs ad group to remove any search including the words kitchen, beer, dance, shoes, song, etc.

More on Match Types

This is just a brief introduction. There is much more to figure out when working with PPC advertising.You can use modified broad match, which allows for more wide variants and misspellings to match. You can now use modified exact or phrase match, which allows for close synonyms to match. And once you get all that down, it will be time to learn about bid stacking to optimize your spend across the various keywords and match types.

Even after managing PPC for nearly10 years, I still learn something new almost every week. Just be creative and willing to learn, and you’ll see the massive potential of PPC to drive results for your business or cause.

Read more about Google’s take on these Match Types.


tommy landry sem ppc

Tommy offers over 25 years of business experience and a deep understanding of modern internet marketing techniques.
Tommy spends his time providing hands-on consulting, insightful content and engaging public speaking appearances to Online Marketers of all skill levels.



Tommy Landry

Tommy is an Internet marketing consultant, certified master life coach, e-book author, and entrepreneur with over 30 years of business and marketing experience.

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