February 5, 2020

Guide to Google Ads Keyword Match Types (Updated 2020)

When it comes to Google Ads, the list of decisions you will have to make when setting up your account will be a mile long. While budget, bidding and type of ads might be top of mind, keyword match types may not be.

What are Keyword Match Types?

Keyword match types are parameters that are used in conjunction with your keywords to determine which searches will trigger your ads to appear. There are four different types of keyword match types in Google Ads – Broad Match, Broad Match Modifier, Phrase Match and Exact Match.

Understanding different keyword match types and using them correctly will save you time and money, and allow you to simplify and streamline your campaigns.

Broad Match

Broad Match is the most widely-used keyword match type. Why? Because as a default setting your keywords are automatically placed in Broad Match. While this is convenient if that’s the keyword match type you were planning on using, it may not always be the best choice for your campaign.

The Broad Match keyword match type will allow you to reach the largest and broadest audience. The benefit of Broad Match is your ads will be triggered even if the search query has typos, uses synonymous words or if the words are in the wrong order.

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For example, if your keyword is “mountain bikes” and you have it set with Broad Match, your ad could also be triggered by “discount mountain bikes”, “mountain bike” or “men’s mountain bikes”. This aspect of Broad Match is great because it allows you to pick up these straggling searches.

Where Broad Match can be problematic is your ad can be triggered if a single word in your keyword phrase is searched for. Using the example above, your ad could be served to a user looking for “road bikes” because their search query had “bikes” in it . While hypothetically the user could find what they were looking for on your site, most of the time you will be wasting your money serving ads to these people because the traffic is irrelevant and doesn’t convert highly.

broad match keyword example

Broad Match Modifier

The Broad Match Modifier gives you the best parts of Broad Match (the wide reach), while allowing you to modify what queries your ads will be triggered by. The symbol used with Broad Match Modifier is the ‘+’. The ‘+’ symbol allows you to “lock” words in place. When you lock a word, you’re letting Google know that you only want your ad to be triggered when that specific keyword is in a user’s query. The locked keyword can be present anywhere in the query, but it does have to be there for your ad to be served.

Using our mountain bikes example with a Broad Match Modifier, you could lock the word mountain (“+mountain bikes”) and your ad could be shown to someone who searches for “men’s mountain bikes” but it wouldn’t be shown to someone looking for “road bikes” because the locked word “mountain” isn’t in the query.

broad match modifier keyword example

Phrase Match

Phrase Match builds off of the Broad Match Modifier and takes it a step further. With Phrase Match your ad will only be triggered when a user searches for your keyword phrase, in it’s exact order. With Phrase Match, your ad can also be served if there are additional words before or after the search query. For example, if you use the keyword “mountain bikes” in Phrase Match, a user could see your ad if they searched for “blue mountain bikes” or “mountain bikes for sale”. Phrase Match is represented with parenthesis as seen in the example in the prior sentence.

Similar to the Broad Match Modifier, Phrase Match gives you the opportunity to target relevant traffic, but with Phrase Match you’re locking an entire phrase as opposed to a single word.

phrase match keyword example

Exact Match

Historically, the Exact Match keyword match type was exactly what it sounded like. When you placed a keyword or keyword phrase in an Exact Match group, you’re ad would only be triggered when someone searched for that exact term. While this was great for really specific, long-tail queries, Google noticed that advertisers were missing out on a large piece of the advertising pie because of people misspelling and abbreviating their search queries. This was making Exact Match an extremely unreliable keyword match type for advertisers, so Google released close variant matching.

exact match keyword example

Close Variant Matching Update

Unlike Exact Match keyword types, with close variant matching, your ads will still be triggered by your keywords even if there are small variants (like misspellings or typos). Then, starting in 2017, Google made another change to their close variant matching. Now exact match keyword ads will appear when phrases are reordered and when function words are added, removed or changed. These changes ensure that you’ll keep the high-relevancy of Exact Match keywords, without missing out on any traffic due to typos or other tiny differences. Google claims that advertisers are seeing a 3% increase in clicks from close variant matching.

With close variant matching Google will ignore any words in a query that doesn’t affect it’s intent including prepositions (in, to), conjunctions (for, but), articles (a, the). For example, the “in” in “mountain bikes in Austin” will be ignored because it doesn’t affect the meaning. However, the “to” in “flights to Austin” wouldn’t be ignored, because a “flight from Austin” isn’t the same as a “flight to Austin.” 

Negative Match

Negative Match allows you to choose what keywords your ad should NOT show up for. This allows another dimension of customization and ensures that you weed out totally irrelevant traffic. There are three types of negative keyword match types: Negative Broad Match, Negative Phrase Match and Negative Exact Match.

Negative Broad Match

Negative Broad Match is the default variation of a Negative Match that prevents your ad from appearing anytime all of the negative keywords are searched, no matter the order they appear in the query. If you have the negative keyword “womens mountain bike”, Negative Broad Match will prevent your ad from triggering if someone was to search for “womens mountain bike” or “mountain bike womens”. While sometimes this can be helpful for narrowing traffic for relevance, it is often too constricting.

Negative Phrase Match

The most important thing to note with Negative Phrase Match is that the order of the keywords used matters. If you add “kids mountain bike” to your Negative Phrase Match, your ad would not be triggered by a search for “kids mountain bike for sale”, but it would be triggered by “mountain bike for kids”. Negative Phrase Match might be the best Negative Match option for your ads if the order of your keywords is significant, or their order provides additional context or meaning.

Negative Exact Match

When you add keywords in Negative Exact Match, you will prevent your ads from appearing if a user’s search query is exactly your negative keyword. If extra words or phrases are added in the search query, your ad will still appear – it only applies when the query exactly matches what is in your Negative Exact Match keyword. For example, if you added “trex mountain bikes” to your Negative Exact Match list, your ad wouldn’t appear if someone was to search for “trex mountain bikes”.

negative match keyword example

There are so many variations of Keyword Match Types and Negative Match Types that it can get confusing to setup your Google Ads campaigns, but hopefully the above guide has provided some clarity. If you’re needing additional guidance in setting up your campaigns, or you’re looking for a more hands-off approach in managing your Google Ads, The Kaanen Group will be able to handle any of your Google Ads needs. Contact us today to set up your PPC Consultation!

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Joel Casarez

Joel Casarez | SEO Consultant

Joel is an SEO consultant with over 14 years of experience. He utilizes his experience as a search marketing expert to share tips, tactics, and best practices on SEO and PPC. When not assisting businesses in growing online, he loves to travel, listen to podcasts, and watch stand-up comedy.

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