About Keyword “Match Types” in AdWords

by | Featured Posts

Keyword Match Types

One of the most brilliant aspects of AdWords is the system of match types that can be used for keywords. Match types give you a greater degree of control to determine which searches should trigger the appearance of your ad. For example, if you designate the keyword blue flannel pajamas to trigger your ad, do you want your ad to be displayed if the searcher adds another word in the phrase, like cheap blue flannel pajamas? Or what if they search your keywords in a different order, like flannel pajamas blue? By setting various match types, you can control issues like these. It takes time and practice to learn the techniques that fully utilize the power of the match types, but it is a crucial aspect of AdWords. Here is a brief description of each match type:

Broad Match

As its name suggests, broad match allows for the broadest interpretation of search queries. To use a keyword in this match type, simply type the keyword without any formatting around it.

Warning: Avoid using broad match. It is too broad and can run up your costs very quickly. A great many of the clicks you receive will likely be off-target for your business. For example, setting the keyword dancing shoes to broad match might trigger your ad for the search dancing cruise. If you are going to use broad match, consider it a temporary experiment to educate yourself on the different ways people search your keywords. You can use that information to get ideas for new keywords and approaches.

Modified Broad Match

The next most broadly interpreted match type is modified broad match. This is a very handy and important match type that has only been around for a couple of years. It gives you much more control than broad match, but allows flexibility as well. To use this match type, simply put a plus (+) sign before each keyword that must be part of a search query. For example, the keyword +valentines roses +bouquet indicates that the searcher must use the words valentines and bouquet in the search query. The word roses is not as mandatory. Also, the words can be in any order. If someone searches for bouquet for valentines day, it would still most likely trigger the ad.

Phrase Match

Phrase match is a more rigidly controlled match type because it requires that the entire keyword phrase appears in the proper order. To use phrase match, simply put quotation marks around the whole keyword phrase. The keyword “vegetarian cooking classes” indicates that the searcher must use that phrase in order to trigger the ad. Although this match type is more rigid, it does allow the searcher to use additional words before and after the keyword phrase. For example, the search query vegetarian cooking classes springfield il would still trigger the ad.

Exact Match

The most precise and rigid keyword match type is exact match. Exact match gives you complete control over what searches will trigger your ad because it requires that the search query matches your keyword exactly. It requires that it be those exact words, in that exact order, and without any words before or after. If you want to use AdWords in a very frugal and conservative way, consider having several different keywords in exact match. You could even have several hundred keywords in exact match if you want to laser-target your approach this way. I would not recommend this in most cases, but it is an option. To use exact match, simply put brackets around the keyword phrase like this [keyword phrase].


As I mentioned above, negative keywords are a crucial cost-saving component of AdWords. By designating words as negative keywords, you can prevent the showing of your ad. For example, if a photographer does studio portraits but not outdoor portraits, they can set “outdoor” and “nature” to be negative keywords. This way, their ad can be displayed for the search “portraits” but not for the search “outdoor portraits.” It is important to have an ever-expanding list of negative keywords. By looking at the Search Terms Report in AdWords, you can see the actual searches people make that lead to clicks on your ad. This is usually a goldmine for finding new negatives to use. But just to get you started, consider using the words free, cheap, discount, and reviews as negative keywords for your account. To add keywords as negatives, simply put a negative (-) sign before the keyword. (Also, there is a designated place where negative keywords can be added without the need for any formatting.)

Match type strategies

If your goal is to experiment (which is a good goal at first), use the less-rigidly controlled modified broad match. This will lead to more impressions of your ad than phrase or exact match. More impressions allow you to glean more about what’s happening and how to proceed. You can then consider these questions:  Are your ads getting clicks? If so, what are the search terms people use that lead to a click? If they are not getting many clicks, is it because your ad is showing too low on the results page? (Raising your bid can help in this situation.)  Or perhaps the wording of your ad is not appealing to the searchers? The broader your keywords are, the more impressions you will get. The more impressions you get, the more data you will have for making judgments. It is still a good idea to avoid broad match, however. If you’re going to use it, do so with a low daily budget and a careful watch. If your goal is to make every penny count, lean more toward phrase and exact match. This means your ad won’t show as much for irrelevant searches.

Using the same keywords in multiple match types

Can you use the same keywords in multiple match types at once? Yes, you can and you should. Seems weird, right? After all, won’t they be competing against each other within the same ad group? Yes, they will compete against each other sometimes, but you can predetermine who the winner will be by setting different bids for each (I told you this takes time and practice!)  Here’s how it works…  If you add these keywords to your ad group +cowboy +boots, “cowboy boots” and [cowboy boots], and then someone searches the words cowboy boots, AdWords must determine which keyword is going to trigger the ad. It will weigh different variables, including the bids for each keyword. As the advertiser, it is advantageous to bid highest for the exact match version, then lower for the phrase match version, and then lower still for the modified broad match version. This is because the more rigid the match type is, the more we can closely discern what the searcher is looking for. After all, there is a big difference between the query cowboy boots and the query cowboy boots for pets. Bidding highest for exact match is safer because it doesn’t allow for additional words that change the meaning. And bidding higher for phrase match over modified broad match is safer because it requires a particular phrase to appear in the search query and not a variation that changes the order of the words, or adds others within. (To use these strategies, you must choose “manual bidding” in the campaign settings.)

Barry--BW Profile Photo--qual. 80%Hello. My name is Barry, and I love Google AdWords! Would you like to connect with me? If so, send me an email at this address: