Every PPC keyword search campaign revolves around keywords triggering your ad for the audience you’re targeting. Understanding each keyword match type and when to use them is integral to a successful campaign.

What Are The PPC Keyword Match Types?

AdWords offers four match types, starting off with the broadest option to the most restrictive:

  • Broad Match
  • Modified Broad Match
  • Phrase Match &
  • Exact Match

These match types are differentiated by how restrictive their requirements are for triggering an ad, making each match type appropriate for different business objectives. First, let’s review how keywords affect PPC campaigns to see how match type can change campaign strategy.

What Do Keywords Do?

The keywords you choose for your ad group determine when your ad will show. When a user searches using a query that matches the keywords you’ve chosen, your ad will be entered into auction and, if you win the auction, will ultimately show in the search results in varying positions.

The match type will affect the versions of user queries that are allowed to trigger your ad. The more restrictive the match type the closer the user will have to be to the exact phrasing of your keyword for your ad to show. So, keep this in mind when doing keyword research.

Need help getting started with the research phase? Check out our keyword research step-by-step guide!

Broad Match – Least Restrictive

Syntax: tennis shoes

The broad match type has the broadest rules for query matching – basically no rules. A broad match keyword will trigger your ad for synonyms, misspellings, phrases, stemmings (fish & fishing),  related searches, and other relevant variations of your chosen keyword.

Example of Broad Match

Keyword Possible Query Matches
tennis shoes men’s tennis shoes

tennis sneakers

tennis equipment

tennis shoe

Pro Tip: Broad match is the default match type. If you don’t designate a match type in AdWords, they will all be broad match.

When to Use Broad Match?

Keyword Research
Broad match saves time and energy that would be used to build a keyword list. With broad match, you discover search terms that would be impossible to glean from keyword research alone. But, it’s also a guarantee your ad will trigger for completely irrelevant queries. There’s a way to combat this with negative keywords, but using this method means paying close attention to your search term report and adding negative keywords to your ad group or campaign.

If you’re just starting a campaign and want to use broad match for keyword discovery, set low bids on broad match keywords, then once you find keywords that have positive interaction metrics, set them to phrase or exact match and increase your bid.

Negative Keywords

While negative keywords aren’t a match type, they are still vital for making broad match keywords work for your campaigns. When reviewing the Search Terms report, if you see user queries that are completely irrelevant to your business, add them to your negative keyword list. This will prevent your ad from showing for these keywords.

Negative keywords follow the same match types as their positive counterparts (broad, phrase, exact). The only difference being that you need to add  synonyms, singular or plural versions, misspellings, and other close variations if you want to exclude them.

Broad Match Modifier

Syntax: +tennis +shoes, tennis +shoes, +tennis shoes

The broad match modifier helps control broad match keywords by designating which words must be in the user query in order for the ad to trigger.  You can designate any keyword in the phrase a modifier, but depending on how you chose modifiers your ad will be affected. Let’s take a look.

Keyword: +hotel +Detroit

Will These Queries Trigger an Ad?

hotels in Detroit – YES

visiting Detroit find hotels – YES

Detroit motel – NO

visit Detroit – NO

Explanation: Since both keywords have been designated necessary by the broad match modifier, both must appear for the ad to be triggered.

When to Use Broad Match Modifier?

Capturing Long Tail Keywords

The above description is a great example of why broad match modifiers can be extremely useful in campaigns. Broad match modifiers help you capture traffic from long tail keywords, while still ensuring they’re relevant to your products and services. If you don’t have hyper selective products, use broad match modifiers to allow your ads to show for variations of your products. This is great for ecommerce clients that have varying styles, colors, etc.

Pro Tip: Broad match modifier types don’t take into account synonyms or related words. It only accounts for misspellings, singular and plural forms, abbreviations and acronyms, and stemmings.

Phrase Match

Syntax: “tennis shoes”

Phrase match keywords will trigger your ad when the designated phrase appears in a user query, regardless of words before or after the phrase. This is more restrictive than broad match because if a word is in between your phrase, your ad won’t trigger. Let’s look at scenarios.

Keyword: “Detroit hotels”

Will These Queries Trigger an Ad?

book Detroit hotels online – YES

visiting Detroit find hotels – NO

cheap Detroit hotels – YES

visit Detroit – NO

Explanation: Since two queries have the keyword phrase without any words in between, just before and after, the ad will be triggered. But two queries won’t trigger the ad because the first has “find” in between the phrase and the second is missing part of the phrase.

When to Use Phrase Match?

When You Know Which Keywords Provide the Most Qualified Traffic

Phrase match should be used in conjunction with broad match to ensure you reach your targeted audience, while uncovering new keywords with broad match. Relying solely on broad match will leave you with wasted spend, but phrase match guarantees you will get specific traffic driven by relevant keywords.

Phrase match can also help bring attention to your ad by giving you a better idea of what content should go in your ads. Have a phrase match keyword that is hyper relevant and receiving a high conversion rate? Include it in your ad content or research synonyms for more ideas. When a user’s query matches your phrase match keyword and you include it in your ads, it will be appear bolded the search results.

PPC keyword

Exact Match – Most Restrictive

Syntax – [tennis shoes]

Exact match type is what it’s name suggests – a user’s query must match your keyword exactly for your ad to be triggered. But it does leave a little bit of wiggle room by including:

  • Misspellings
  • Singular or plural forms
  • Stemmings
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents
  • Reordered words with the same meaning (for example, [shoes tennis] and [tennis shoes])
  • Addition or removal of function words (for example, [shoes for tennis] and [tennis shoes])

Let’s see how exact match works.

Keyword: [Detroit hotels]

Will These Queries Trigger an Ad?

book Detroit hotels online – NO

visiting Detroit find hotels – NO

cheap Detroit hotels – NO

visit Detroit – NO

So when will your ad show?

hotels in detroit

hotel detroit

detroit hotel

When to Use Exact Match?

Niche Products and Capturing Buyer’s Intent

Even though exact match is the most restrictive, it can have high conversions rates. That’s because it matches users’ search intentions closely when they are in the buying stage. A safe hierarchy for keyword bidding is low bids for broad match in the discovery phase, higher bids for phrase match keywords that show closer alignment to purchase intent and high bids on exact match keywords since they are hyper relevant.

Contact us if you need help with your AdWords campaigns!

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