Adwords keyword match types explained

keyword match types

Keywords are the building blocks of most Adwords campaigns. However the topic of keyword match types can often cause confusion – especially for those new to the world Adwords Management. So in this article, I’m going to explain exactly how each match type works, and examples of them in action.

What are the keyword match types in Adwords

There are 4 different keyword match types in Google Adwords. They are as follows:

  • Exact Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Broad Match
  • Broad Match Modifier

Exact match keywords

As the name suggests, an exact match keyword will only trigger your ad to show if someone’s Google search matches your keyword exactly.

For example, if my keyword is PPC Agency London, and you search for PPC Agency London, my ad will show.

Phrase match keywords

Next up we get slightly more complex with phrase match keywords. But once you get it, you get it!

Phrase match will trigger your ad to show if the keyword appears as part of the searches query. But the words have to be in the same order as they are in your keyword.

For example, if my keyword is PPC Agency, and you search for best PPC agency in London, my ad will show.

However, if you search for best PPC ad agency in London, my ad won’t show. The word ‘ad’ sits in between up the words ‘PPC’ and ‘agency’, and therefore the phrase is broken.

Broad match keywords

Third up are broad match keywords. These will trigger your ad for searches that are closely related, misspelled, or even synonyms.

For example, if my keyword is PPC Management, and you search for adwords manager, my ad will show.

Broad match modifier keywords

Lastly, we have broad match modifier keywords. On the scale of keyword reach, they actually sit between Phrase and Broad. These keywords will trigger your ad if they appear in the search, but most importantly – in any order.

Important point – To use Broad match modifier, you have to put a + sign before one or each word in the keyword string.

For example, if my keyword is PPC Agency in London, I would insert the + signs like this: +PPC +Agency in +London. By not putting it before the ‘in’ we’re saying to Google that it’s not essential for this word to be in the searcher’s query.

So, this keyword would trigger searches such as:

  • London based PPC Agency
  • PPC Adwords Agency London
  • PPC Agency near London

A good analogy for keyword match types

Whenever I’m asked to explain my approach to keyword match types, I use the following analogy:

Keyword match types are like are bit like a fishing net. Exact match uses a small net, and is cast nearby. It will be bring a small number of fish, but providing you’re looking in the right place – these will be the right fish.

Phrase match uses a slightly bigger net, which is cast a bit wider. You’re able to bring in more fish, but there are perhaps some you don’t want, that need to be tossed back in.

Broad match modifier casts a bigger net wider still, and Broad will cover the whole lake!  The potential for more fish is greater, but equally you’ll catch a lot you don’t want, and probably a load of junk too. 

Keyword match types enable you to make the trade off between precision and volume. How far you cast your net will depends on you.