3.PPC Keyword Match Types

This reading provides an overview of PPC keyword match types and their significance in pay-per-click advertising campaigns. It explains the different match types, including broad match, phrase match, exact match, and modified broad match, and how they influence the targeting and reach of ads. The article discusses the advantages and considerations of each match type, helping advertisers understand how to use them effectively to control ad visibility, reach the right audience, and optimize campaign performance. It also provides practical tips for selecting and implementing the most suitable match types based on campaign goals and budget.

Reading time
30 min

Keywords play a vital role in the digital marketer’s toolkit, determining the success or failure of campaigns. They are the driving force behind clicks, connecting with the right audience and positioning your ads prominently in their searches. However, it’s not just about having the right keywords; it’s about knowing how to use them effectively. This knowledge sets apart a successful ad campaign from one that falls short despite its potential. If you’re here because you’re unsure about keyword usage, you’re not alone – we’ve been there too.

Contrary to popular belief, ad copy is not the most critical aspect of an ad. Fortunately, you now have PPC keyword match types at your disposal, acting as the guiding principles for your keyword strategies. Mastering your keyword match strategy is a crucial skill in online marketing.

In this post, we will delve into:

  • Defining your match type options
  • Understanding the differences between match types
  • Executing a combination of match types effectively
  • Setting up a high-performing Google Ads campaign

Get ready to enhance your keyword game and elevate your marketing efforts to new heights.

What are Google Ads keyword match types?

Keyword match types serve as parameters that allow you to define limits for your ads. By utilizing match types, you gain control over which search terms can trigger your ads. Ideally, your ads should only appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) when your ideal customer enters a search query that matches your targeted keyword.

Implementing different match types helps minimize the chances of your ad triggering due to function words or related search terms. It’s important to remember that while certain terms may be relevant to your keyword, they may not necessarily attract audiences ready for conversion.

Your ultimate goal is to capture bottom-of-the-funnel buyers, those who are actively seeking to make a purchase decision.

What does a Google Ads match type strategy do for your brand?

Are you familiar with Tinder? It’s a dating app where a right swipe signifies acceptance or interest in someone, while a left swipe indicates the opposite. However, there are instances when you unintentionally swipe left on someone you actually wanted to swipe right on.

In a similar way, think of keyword match types as a filtering mechanism, like a swipe filter, for Google Ads. They help refine your ad targeting, ensuring that your ads are triggered for the right search queries and reaching the most relevant audience. Just as you wouldn’t want to miss a potential match on Tinder, utilizing keyword match types helps you optimize your ad performance and connect with the right users.

When it comes to PPC keyword match types, you have the power to specify how you want your ads to align with user searches. By doing so, you eliminate any room for accidental swipes or mismatches.

Using the broad match type can be likened to a right swipe—it allows for a wider reach. However, you need to be cautious not to swipe right too often, as there will be many user searches that may not be relevant to your campaign.

On the other hand, exact match can be too particular, potentially limiting your ad’s exposure.

To strike a balance, it’s best to leverage all available matching options. By utilizing a combination of match types, you can achieve simplicity and precision in your PPC campaigns. This approach ensures a higher return on investment for your pay-per-click advertising endeavors.

How do match types relate to ROI?

PC keyword match types give you the power to fine-tune your ad triggers, which is definitely something to celebrate! Now, let’s explore how these tweaks can translate into a favorable return on investment (ROI) for your advertising efforts.

The key lies in aligning your keywords with your prospects’ buying cycle. By understanding where your potential customers are in their journey, you can strategically choose the appropriate keyword match types. Keyword match types act as valuable tools in ensuring that you target the right audience and minimize the risk of reaching the wrong individuals.

When your keywords align with someone who is ready to make a purchase, you can expect a high conversion rate. Conversely, if your keywords trigger for someone who is at the early stages of their buyer’s journey, your conversion rate may be lower. Since conversions directly impact your revenue, it’s crucial to meet your customers where they are in their decision-making process.

By setting the right keyword match types, you can optimize the value derived from your PPC ad budget, ensuring that your advertising dollars are well-spent.

There are three keyword match types

  1. Broad Match
  2. Phrase Match
  3. Exact Match

The match type decides how wide to throw your net on your search audience.

Note: Google retired Broad Match Modifier as of July 2021

Google’s help file illustrates the different match types:

Why is match type important?

Why should you care about match types? Well, if making money is a priority for you (and let’s be honest, it usually is), then match types become incredibly important.

Implementing the right campaign keyword match types directly impact your return on investment (ROI). As a savvy PPC marketer, you understand the significance of leveraging different match types to drive success in your campaigns. By focusing your ad spend on ROI-focused audiences, you maximize the chances of generating profitable outcomes.

Moreover, utilizing match types allows you to avoid similar keywords that aren’t relevant to your ads, ensuring that your budget is allocated effectively. You can eliminate irrelevant matches, preventing your budget from going up in smoke.

Ultimately, match types play a key role in boosting your conversion rates, leading to higher profitability. So, let’s ignite the fire of success by strategically playing with these match types.

Harness the power of various match types to elevate the performance of your campaigns and maximize success. By doing so, you can strategically allocate your ad spend towards ROI-focused audiences, enhancing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

An added benefit of utilizing match types is the ability to steer clear of similar keywords that lack relevance to your ads. This ensures that your message reaches the right audience, improving the overall quality of your campaign.

By eliminating irrelevant matches, you safeguard your budget from unnecessary burn, allowing you to allocate your resources wisely and avoid wasteful spending.

In addition to these advantages, match types can also contribute to achieving higher conversion rates. By fine-tuning your targeting, you increase the likelihood of attracting qualified leads who are more likely to convert into customers.

So, embrace the potential of match types and unlock the pathway to campaign success, focusing on ROI-driven audiences, avoiding irrelevant keywords, protecting your budget, and driving higher conversion rates.

1. Broad Match

When you don’t specify a match type, the default option is the broad match type. Think of it as casting a wide net; your ad will have the highest chance of triggering with this setting. Search engines will display your ads for search terms that include misspellings, synonyms, singular/plural forms, related searches, and relevant variations.

With broad match, your selected keywords are matched with the broadest possible range of searches. However, this can potentially result in your ad being displayed for irrelevant variations of your keyword, leading to a waste of valuable PPC budget. (Gasp!)

Opting for broad match means sacrificing some control in exchange for reaching a broader audience. It offers less granularity but provides a higher level of exposure.

Say you own a Tacos Restaurant that sells a wonderful variety of shrimp tacos in Miami Dade County. If your selected keyword is “Shrimp Tacos Miami Dade County,” Google may show your ad for these search queries with broad match:

“Miami Dade County flour Juanito Tacos”

“Shrimp Tacos Miami County”

“Miami Dade Tacos Shrimp County”

“Shrimp Burrito Miami Dade County”

These search terms won’t convert at the same rate as the keyword you bid on: “Shrimp Tacos Miami Dade County.” They are irrelevant to your campaign but you’ll pay for them if someone clicks on them. 

This can happen with broad match. It’s something we call the Iceberg Effect.

The Iceberg Effect

Selecting a broad match type can lead to what we call the Iceberg Effect: paying more for search terms that don’t align with the keywords you bid on. And trust me, that’s not a good thing.

Your objective isn’t to have a massive iceberg lurking beneath the surface in the form of irrelevant search terms. Instead, you want to create smaller, contextually-relevant icebergs to achieve consistent and predictable performance. This can be accomplished through a combination of single keyword ad groups (SKAGs), strategic keyword match types, the Bottom Feeding Approach, and Keyword Tapering (which we’ll touch on later).

But you might be wondering, wouldn’t you want to catch a ton of fish with a large net? Nope. In the world of marketing, more fish doesn’t always equate to better results. If you’re targeting a specific fish off the California coast, your focus should be on spearfishing—utilizing exact match (more on this shortly).

Having a surplus of fish can lead to high-risk spending on irrelevant search topics. It’s crucial to have control over which search terms trigger your ads because, for every keyword you bid on, there could be numerous hidden search terms that “match” it beneath the surface.

What happens beneath the surface is beyond your control. Your focus should be on minimizing the disparity between the keyword you bid on and the search term that triggers your ad. The closer the match, the higher the ad relevance, and that’s a winning situation.

Ad relevance brings about a wonderful side effect: an increase in click-through rate (CTR). CTR is a crucial metric used by ad platforms like Google and Facebook to calculate your cost per click (CPC). When your CTR is high, your CPC decreases.

Achieving high CTR and low CPC is a reason to celebrate. These metrics contribute to the success and cost-effectiveness of your campaigns, ensuring you get the most out of your advertising budget.

Under what circumstances is broad match beneficial?

Broad match offers the widest reach, and reaching a large audience can indeed be advantageous. If your PPC campaign aims to generate maximum traffic to your landing page, using broad match may be suitable. However, it’s essential to monitor your search term report for any excess of irrelevant terms. If you encounter such issues, adjustments need to be made.

The challenge with broad match is that you don’t want to spend money on advertising to users who aren’t relevant to your business. Your goal is to invest in engaging potential customers and convert them into valuable leads or sales. By refining your keyword targeting and eliminating irrelevant matches, you can ensure that your advertising budget is allocated wisely and focused on the right audience.

Customers who are engaged are more likely to make purchases from your business. However, with broad match, although it can generate a high number of clicks to your website, the audience reached may not be as targeted, resulting in a lower conversion rate. This can lead to increased advertising costs with a lower return on investment (ROI).

However, it’s important not to dismiss a broad match strategy entirely. It can be a valuable time-saving approach when researching relevant keywords within your pool. Considering the vast number of daily searches on Google, including a significant percentage of previously unseen search terms, broad match can help identify the most relevant keywords for your campaigns in this ever-changing landscape.

Derek Hooker, a contributor to the Conversion Sciences blog, suggests creating keyword variations using different match types to cover a broader range of possibilities. Broad match is particularly useful when you don’t have an extensive keyword list.

Keep in mind that if an ad receives no clicks on a specific keyword variation, Google will stop displaying your ad for that particular search term. This allows you to optimize your spending by focusing on keywords that yield positive results while reducing costs associated with underperforming variations.

The use of negative keywords with broad match

Negative keywords serve as a filter to exclude unwanted search results, ensuring that specific words or phrases do not trigger your ads. Think of it like a big net with cherry bombs attached—negative keywords paired with broad match and phrase match keywords improve targeting and ultimately boost your return on investment (ROI).

To use negative keywords, simply add a minus sign before the keyword, like this: -negative keyword. According to Kayrooya, a tool for Google Ads & Bing ads, broad match negative keywords effectively block a significant amount of irrelevant traffic, addressing the concern of broad match keywords attracting too many irrelevant hits. This helps minimize irrelevance and makes sense strategically.

However, it’s important to consider the impact on reach when using broad match negative keywords compared to phrase or exact match. Before deciding on a broad match + negative keywords strategy, analyze your search query data. Is there a different match type, such as phrase match, that might work better for your specific needs without restricting your reach too much?

Choosing the right strategy involves balancing visibility and control over your ad budget. As a marketer, you have the flexibility to adjust your approach based on the results you’re seeing. If you’re getting a high impression count with broad match but not enough clicks, try incorporating negative keywords to narrow down irrelevance. This way, you can still capture search queries with your targeted terms in any order (broad match) while excluding specific search queries that are not relevant to your goals.

2. “Phrase Match”

Phrase match is like throwing a net that’s smaller than broad match but larger than exact match. It includes your keyword and close variations of it. With phrase match, your ad will only be triggered when the search queries contain your keyword phrase in the correct order. It will also display your ad for searches that have additional words before or after your keyword.

This is a key distinction between phrase match and broad match: Phrase match won’t trigger your ad if the search query contains words in the middle of your keyword phrase, while broad match is more inclusive and doesn’t discriminate based on word order.

To use the phrase match option in Google Ads, enclose your keyword phrase in quotation marks, like this: “phrase match”. This helps ensure that the meaning of your keyword is preserved based on the specific order of the terms.

Phrase match is particularly useful when the intended meaning of your keyword relies on the order of the terms, such as in the examples of “shrimp tacos Miami Dade” and “Dade Tacos Shrimp County”. In these cases, your keyword must appear in the order you specify with phrase match for your ad to be triggered.


If your phrase match keyword is “shrimp tacos,” your ad will trigger for these queries:

  • flour shrimp tacos
  • grilled shrimp tacos
  • price of Mexican Shrimp Tacos
  • where to buy shrimp tacos in Miami Dade County

But your ad won’t trigger with phrase match if the query is 

  • tacos grilled shrimp
  • shrimp spicy tacos
  • where to buy shrimp Mexican tacos in Miami Dade County

Benefits of Phrase match

Phrase match is a popular choice among advertisers because it helps filter out risky and potentially irrelevant traffic that broad match can attract. It offers more flexibility compared to exact match, allowing for a wider audience reach while still maintaining some level of specificity.

By using phrase match, you give Google more context to discern the intent of the search queries, especially when combined with negative keywords. This can help improve the quality of the traffic driven to your ad and increase the likelihood of conversions. Although phrase match may not generate the same search volume as broad match, the traffic it does drive tends to be more relevant and targeted to your niche, resulting in a better return on investment.

However, it’s important to note that phrase match doesn’t guarantee complete elimination of ad irrelevance. There is still a possibility that your ad may appear to traffic that is not relevant to your campaign goals. Regular monitoring and optimization are necessary to ensure your ad is reaching the desired audience effectively.

3. [Exact Match]

Exact match is like throwing a spear instead of a net. It has a narrow targeting focus, as your ad will only be triggered when the search query precisely matches a keyword in your Google Ads account. This match type provides the highest level of relevance, ensuring that your ad reaches the most specific and targeted audience.

With exact match, you have strict control over when your ad is displayed, but the trade-off is a lower reach compared to broader match types. While you may not attract a large volume of traffic, the traffic you do receive is highly likely to be the audience you’re looking for.

Choose exact match when you want to serve your ad specifically for a particular keyword. Your ad will only be shown to customers who search for your exact keyword or a close variant that closely matches your specified keyword. This match type ensures precision in targeting and can be effective when you want to focus on a specific niche or have a precise campaign objective.

Similar variations of your target keyword encompass:

  • singular or plural forms (shrimp taco, shrimp tacos)
  • misspellings (srimp tacos)
  • abbreviations
  • accents
  • stemmings (e.g. shrimp tacoed) 
  • additional prepositions (eat on tacos)
  • conjunctions
  • reordered words with an identical meaning (tacos shrimp)

A critical consideration here is that close variants do not include synonyms (tacos can’t be replaced by prawns for example).

To set an exact match type, add brackets around your keyword like this: [shrimp tacos].

Exact match benefits

Exact match provides the most precise targeting, resulting in a significant reduction in ad traffic volume. However, this match type ensures that the traffic received is highly relevant and more likely to convert, maximizing the effectiveness of your budget. According to Semrush, even low traffic volumes from exact match keywords can have a positive impact on sales due to the high conversion potential. Additionally, using exact match keywords can indirectly improve your Quality Score by reducing the search term-to-keyword ratio. While exact match generates the highest click-through rates, it also tends to have a higher cost-per-click. This match type allows you to connect with your target audience on a more specific psychological level.

Risks of exact match

Exact match allows you to minimize your overall costs by paying only for targeted clicks, even though the cost per click may be higher. However, it’s important to note that you may miss out on valuable keyword-related traffic since exact match generates fewer impressions and reaches a smaller audience. Additionally, you won’t be able to capture long-tail data, which could provide valuable insights and opportunities.

In addition to keyword match types

Maximizing Your Google Ads with Advanced PPC Keyword Strategies

Discovering the right PPC keyword match types requires experimentation and analysis. Test different options, discard underperforming ones, and continuously refine your keyword list and match types.

The advertising landscape is dynamic, with Google regularly updating its algorithms to adapt to changing consumer behavior. Match type options also evolve over time. For example, Google phased out the broad match modifier in 2021, expanding the capabilities of phrase match.

As an advertiser, embrace the ever-changing rules of the game and enjoy the process.

Now that you understand how PPC keyword match types can enhance impressions, clicks, CPC reduction, and sales, there are other keyword-related strategies to explore.

Start with single keyword ad groups (SKAGs), a segmentation approach that simplifies campaign management and optimization. Then, delve into the Bottom Feed Approach and Keyword Tapering to gain further insights into which match types yield successful outcomes and optimize your return on ad spend (ROAS).

And as a bonus, get ready for an exciting sneak peek into the thrilling world of advanced keyword techniques. Strap on your helmet—it’s about to get wild in the keyword playground.

Success with the Bottom Feeding Approach

The Bottom Feeding Approach combines broad match targeting with precise audience targeting to maximize the potential of residual search traffic filtered out by SKAG match type layering.

Keyword Tapering

On the flip side, Keyword Tapering adjusts SKAGs to accommodate the evolving landscape of Exact Match, Phrase Match, and Close Variants. In essence, you create twin campaigns with equal budgets. The broad match campaign is utilized to discover high-quality search terms to target in the Exact Match campaign. As the winning terms are transitioned to Exact Match, the budget is also reallocated accordingly.

Major takeaways for PPC keyword match types

  • Match type determines the level of precision in matching search queries to keywords.
  • Broad match matches keywords to a wide range of searches, but the audience may be less targeted and have lower conversion rates.
  • Negative keywords exclude specific search terms to minimize irrelevance, but it can restrict impressions.
  • Phrase match triggers ads for searches with the keyword phrase in the correct order, allowing for additional words before or after. It targets more specific terms and improves relevance.
  • Exact match only shows ads for exact keywords or close variants, providing high relevance but limited reach. It generates high click-through rates and cost-per-click

What is the best match type that works for you?

Google’s algorithms and machine learning are constantly evolving, requiring advertisers to stay sophisticated in their campaigns. Smart Bidding and automated keyword optimization are advancing, potentially targeting the exact keywords used by searchers in the future. The focus may shift from finding the smallest, most focused audience to reaching a wider audience with precise targeting. In any case, the underlying logic remains the same: utilize keyword match types to position your ads at the center of the winner’s circle

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