Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new content and fresh links for our readers. 🙂
Original Publication Date: February 20, 2018
How does one choose between the various PPC keyword match types?
The right keyword match strategy is one of the most important considerations for an online marketer.
What Are Keyword Match Types?
Keyword match types are the parameters that can be set on keywords. These limits control which search terms trigger your ads to appear on a search engine results page (SERP). Using different match types can help eliminate unnecessary function words and search terms that may sound relevant to your keyword but aren’t conversion-ready audiences in reality.
What Does A Keyword Match Type Strategy Do For Your Brand?
Have you ever been on Tinder and accidentally swiped left on a person you wished you swiped right on? Think of keyword match types as your Tinder swipe filter for Google Ads!
By choosing a PPC keyword match type, you’re essentially telling Google how you want your ads to match user searches. For example, broad match is going to swipe right on a lot of user searches that you may not be interested in. Exact match, though, can be just a bit too picky.
With this overview of PPC keyword match types, you’ll be able to use all of the available matching options. This mastery can generate a higher return on investment for your pay-per-click advertising campaigns.
Simple enough, right?
Well, Lauren Conrad’s intuition isn’t too far off on evaluating the complexity of PPC keyword match types. Understanding the differences in match types and how to execute a combination of match types will help contribute to an effective Google Ads campaign.
How Do Match Types Relate To ROI?
Now that you understand the purpose of PPC keyword match types, how does it relate to your ROI?
“PPC Keyword match types help you mitigate possibilities of an unsuccessful campaign and discover valuable information about your target audience, which will allow you to craft better campaigns over time … Part of building a successful PPC campaign relies on the correlation of your target keywords with where your prospect is within their buying cycle. If these two pieces of information don’t match up, the conversion rate within your campaign is likely to be low. ”
— Mat Bojerski from Hotleads
This will ensure that you’re getting the most value out of your PPC ad budget.
If you’ve dabbled into setting up your own Google Ads marketing campaign, you have most likely come across the four PPC keyword match types: Broad Match, Broad Match Modifier, Phrase Match, and Exact Match.
The match type determines how narrow or broad a search query will match to a keyword in your Google Ads account.
Google’s help file provides a decent description of the different match types:
Why Is Match Type Important?
Choosing a PPC keyword match type is an essential detail to consider when forming your keyword selection. As a savvy PPC marketer, you can leverage the different uses of each match type to improve the success of your campaigns.
This can help you avoid similar keywords that aren’t necessarily relevant to your ads. And eliminating these irrelevant matches will help stave off budget burn and focus your ad spend on more ROI-focused audiences for higher conversion rates.
Let’s dive into the four PPC keyword matching types.
PPC Match Type #1: Broad Match
Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned to. Broad match allows search engines to display your ads for terms that are variations of the keywords in your account.
Your ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, singular/plural forms, related searches, and other relevant variations. By definition, broad match is going to match your selected keywords with the broadest possible searches.
It is important to note that broad match can waste valuable PPC budget by displaying your ad on irrelevant variations of your keyword.
For example, imagine that you own a clothing boutique that sells a wonderful variety of blue jeans at a shop in Orange County. If your selected keyword is “Blue Jeans Orange County,” Google may interpret your keyword for these potential search matches:
“Orange County Ripped Levi Blue Jeans”
“Blue Jeans LA County”
“Orange Jeans Blue County”
“Blue Shirt Orange County”
“Will people in Orange County laugh at me if I wear blue jeans?”
(The answer to the last question is yes.)
Do you think all these search terms convert at the same level as the keyword “Blue Jeans Orange County” that was being bid on?
The Iceberg Effect
Applying a broad match type can induce the phenomenon referred to as the Iceberg Effect. This is when the keywords you’re bidding on are not the end result of what you’re paying for (the search terms).
There is a high risk of overpaying for ads that displayed on irrelevant search topics, with limited control over what search terms your ad is displayed against.
In other words, you may be able to catch the most fish with a large net. But that’s pretty useless if you’re trying to catch a very specific fish off the California coast. (In which case, you’ll be better off spearfishing.)
You’re going to want to use exact match type compared to broad match if you’re only hunting for a very specific fish. I’ll refer back to this silly analogy when discussing exact match type.
In other words, broad match may be beneficial to utilize if the goal of the campaign is to bring in the maximum amount of traffic to your landing page. But you could very easily be caught up by a surplus of irrelevant terms within your search term report. And you aren’t paying to advertise to irrelevant search engine users, you’re paying to engage potential customers.
Broad match will likely generate a lot of clicks to your website, it’s true. However, the audience is not as targeted and will have a significantly reduced chance of converting. This could lead to high advertising costs with a low return on ROI.
This isn’t to imply that utilizing a broad match strategy is complete garbage.
Benefits of Broad Match Types
Broad match strategy can also be a great time saver when researching relevant keywords, considering that roughly 20 percent of searches Google receives each day are ones that have not appeared in at least 90 days.
Broad match may also be the right option for your campaign if you don’t have time to invest in creating in-depth keyword lists.
If an ad receives no clicks on a particular keyword variation, Google’s system will stop showing your ad for that particular search term. This will decrease your click charges for poor performing keyword variations and allow you to focus your spending on keywords that work.
Using Negative Keywords With Broad Match
You don’t have to act like a “negative Nelly” to utilize negative keywords to block out unwanted search results.
Negative keywords can be used in conjunction with broad and phrase match keywords. Adding negative keywords will help improve your targeting, which can increase your ROI high when using broad match.
Designating a negative keyword prevents Google from ever displaying your ad in response to that keyword. You can easily create a negative keyword by places a minus sign in front of any term.
According to the blog of Kayrooya, a negative keywords tool for Google Ads & Bing ads, broad match negative keywords are a great way to block a large amount of irrelevant traffic. However, they warn that adding broad match negative keywords will limit your reach: “a broad match negative keyword restricts your reach more than phrase or exact match.
So, before adding a keyword as broad match you might want to reconfirm from your search query data, whether assigning a different match type would make a difference.”
PPC Keyword Match Type #2: +Broad +Match +Modifiers
A broad match modifier is the big brother of the broad match type, which is a more responsible, cautious version of the broad match. And in our case, an older brother you can trust a bit more than broad match with your Google Ads budget.
As suggested by the name, a broad match modifier can be viewed as a middle ground between broad match and the other more restrictive match types.
This match type is relatively new to Google Ads and gives you more control than broad match targeting but more freedom than phrase match bidding.
Broad match modifiers allow you to specify certain search terms that must be included in order for your ad to be displayed.
Simply add the “+” sign in front of one or more words to modify your broad match keywords. We recommend that you only put the “+” sign in front of the words that are most closely define your product. Your keywords will appear in a user’s search in any order.
|Match Type||Symbol||Keyword||Example Searches|
|Jeans Orange County Macy’s, Where to Buy Jeans in Orange County|
Although broad match modifiers are similar to broad match, broad match modifiers can give you more visibility and control over how your ad budget is spent.
Broad match modifiers can be a much safer option than broad matches and even provide a higher click-through rate (CTR). This is because your ad will not be triggered on synonyms to your keyword or related searches.
Pros And Cons Of Modified Broad Match
Modified broad match also offers a wide variety of searches, which can provide you with valuable keywords you may have not considered before, will still trigger your ad.
If you add the modifier (+) to your broad match keywords, the relevancy of your ad traffic will increase because modified broad match generates better-targeted traffic.
However, self-proclaimed PPC-a-holic Susan Wenograd from Moz.com warns that modified broad match may still produce irrelevant searches. And since the search query can still include other words, you really have to stay on top of what you’re showing up for.
Bryan Watson from PPC Hero, a blog that offers paid search advertising tips from industry experts, offers the advice that you should utilize this match types if you want to keep a high impression count, but also narrow down the irrelevance you typically get from broad match. This offers the exclusivity of phrase match keywords without limiting the search query to the specific order in which the keywords are listed.
PPC Keyword Match Type #3: “Phrase Match”
Phrase match helps eliminate the risky, and potentially unnecessary traffic than broad match and broad match modifiers produce.
When you use the phrase match type, your ad will appear in search results when a person searches your keyword phrase in the correct order. It can still display for searches that include additional words also.
An important distinction between phrase match and broad match (or modified broad match) is that phrase match will not include search terms that contain words in the middle of your phrase.
Phrase match can also be a great choice when the meaning of your keyword changes based on the order of the terms (such as “blue jeans Orange County” and “orange jeans Blue County”). Your keyword must appear in the order that you specify.
Enter your keyword phrase in quotation marks to use the phrase match option in Google Ads.
|Match Type||Symbol||Keyword||Example Searches|
|“keyword”||“Blue Jeans”||Men’s Blue Jeans
Price of Blue Jeans
This match type is essential because phrase match is more flexible than exact match and it allows Google to exercise more discretion than broad match or broad match modifiers.
Because you don’t have to rely on exact matches, you can benefit from the wide audience that phrase match attracts. However, the opportunity still presents itself that your ad may be served to irrelevant traffic.
Certified Knowledge, a PPC marketing blog, explains that phrase match can be “incredibly useful when the word order matters. Word ordering doesn’t always matter–but when it does, phrase match is an indispensable match type to employ to make sure you’re reaching the correct searchers.”
There will be an increase in traffic for the specific keyword that you choose, which means that your ad budget is paying for more relevant traffic.
Phrase match will typically not drive the same volume of traffic that broad match does. However, phrase match will drive more quality traffic with a higher chance of converting since the ad is more targeted to your niche.
PPC Keyword Match Type #4: [Exact Match]
Remember my silly fishing analogy about trying to catch a specific fish versus casting a large net to get the most amount of fish? Well, now it is time to spearfish with exact match!
Exact match is the most restrictive out of the four PPC keyword. It puts strict limits on when your ad will be displayed. This match type will give you the highest relevance, but the lowest reach.
Exact match should be used if you want your ad to be served for a specific keyword.
When you choose exact match, your ad will only show to customers who are searching for your exact keyword, or a close variant.
Close variants of your keyword may include singular or plural forms, misspellings, abbreviations, accents, stemmings (e.g. walk and walking), additional prepositions and conjunctions, and reordered words with an identical meaning. What’s important to note here is that close variants do not include synonyms.
To set an exact match type, all you need to do is put brackets around your keyword.
|Match Type||Symbol||Keyword||Example Searches|
|Exact Match||[keyword]||[Blue Jeans]||Blue Jeans, Blue Jean, Jeans Blue|
This match type will significantly decrease the amount of traffic your ad produces. It’s also unlikely that it will generate as many impressions or clicks as the other match types.
However, the traffic that exact match produces is extremely targeted and has the highest chance of converting, since users are searching for the exact term related to what you’re offering.
SEMrush, a world-leading competitive research service for online marketing, offers the advice that “if you want to increase the volume of traffic, you will have to add more keywords to your campaign. Still, the fact that the chances of conversion are highest means that even low traffic could boost your sales.”
High intent, exact match keywords may also help indirectly improve your Quality Score, since exact match lowers the search term-to-keyword ratio.
Alex Carel, from digital marketing firm Pyxl, adds that “this ad group generates the highest click-through rates, but also the highest cost-per-click. At this point of your keyword development, you’re no longer looking for campaign ideas, and have reached the most particular psychological ground for connecting to your persona.”
Exact Match Risks
Since you’re only paying for a very few, targeting clicks, exact match may contribute to reducing your overall costs. However, it is important to keep in mind that you’re also risking missing valuable keyword-related traffic and you will not be able to capture long-tail data.
Chief Marketer says you should “try different keyword phrases, try different PPC keyword match type options, and test! Definitely fiddle around with your campaigns, try new things and always keep trying to improve your keyword lists.”
The Next Step(s) For Keyword Match Types
Now, as search engine users evolve and Google evolves its algorithms to adapt for their purchasing habits, our match types as advertisers have to do the same. So we haven’t just been resting on our laurels after creating the innovative SKAG structure using the above mentioned match types.
We took it to the next level.
And the next level is where the Bottom Feed Approach and Keyword Tapering come into play.
The Bottom Feeding Approach
The Bottom Feeding Approach leverages Broad Match targeting and exact audience targeting to capitalize on all the leftover search traffic that ordinary match type layering (SKAGs) filters out.
On the other hand, Keyword Tapering takes SKAGs to the next level in order to adapt to the changing landscape of [Exact Match], “Phrase Match”, and Close Variants.
By creating twin campaigns of both +Broad +Match +Modified and [Exact Match] with equal budgets, you get to rely on the first campaign to mine for high quality search terms to target directly in the secondary [Exact Match] campaign.
And as you shift the winning terms over to [Exact Match], you’ll also shift over your budget towards your more conversion likely campaigns. As said before, the more advanced Google’s algorithms and machine learning become, the more sophisticated our campaigns need to be.
Who knows – it might not be too long before Smart Bidding and automated keyword optimization stat targeting the exact keywords our searchers are using.
Sooner or later the battle for finding the smallest, most focused search audience isn’t going to be the goal. Finding the widest audience and targeting them with lethal precision will be.
Either way the logic stays the same: use keyword match types to place your ads directly in the middle of the winners circle.
Key Takeaways When Considering PPC Keyword Match Types
Choosing the correct PPC keyword match type is an important aspect of your PPC strategy. Now that you have an outline of the pros and cons of each match type, you can decide which is the best fit at the campaign level. Here are the key points to consider for each match type:
- The match type determines how narrow or broad a search query will match to a keyword in your Google Ads account.
- Broad match is the default match type and it is going to match your selected keywords with the broadest possible searches. The audience for broad match is not as targeted and will have a significantly reduced chance of converting. However, it may be a good option for those who don’t have time to invest in creating in-depth keyword lists.
- Broad match modifiers allow you to specify certain search terms that must be included in order for your ad to be displayed. These match types are useful for keeping a high impression count, but also narrow down the irrelevance you typically get from broad match.
- Phrase match type will trigger your ad when a person searches your keyword phrase in the correct order. However, it can still display for searches that include additional words. Phrase match is a great option when you’ve already narrowed in on a specific term you want to target or bid on so that you can utilize your ad budget for more relevant traffic
- Exact match will only show your ad to customers who are searching for your exact keyword, or a close variant. This match type will give you the highest relevance, but the lowest reach. This ad group generates the highest click-through rates, but also the highest cost-per-click.
Which Match Types Are Working For You?
We would love to hear your feedback on which match type you have had the most success within your Google Ads campaigns. Leave a comment below about your experience. We’re excited to read your opinion on PPC keyword match types.