AdWords Keyword Match Types: What They Are and How to Use Them

Creating a campaign on Google AdWords isn’t easy.

You’ll need to choose keywords, write the text of your ads, create landing pages and perform constant optimisation to ensure that your conversion rates remain high.

If your campaign is successful, you’ll enjoy a steady stream of new customers. If you make the wrong decisions, though, your cost to acquire new customers will exceed what your business is likely to earn from them.

Choosing keyword match types is one of the most challenging aspects of setting up an AdWords campaign.

Keyword match types give you some control over the types of searches that will cause your ads to appear.

Your goal is to use a match type that allows as many people as possible to see your ads — but only if those people are likely to buy a product or service like yours.

This overview will help you select the best keyword match type for your AdWords campaign.

Why Are AdWords Keyword Match Types Important?

Keyword Match Types Control Your Advertising Costs

When your advertisement and landing page match a user’s intent, you’ll likely earn a conversion.

If you select a keyword match type that’s too inclusive, though, you may pay for clicks from people who are looking for something different from what you offer.

With the wrong match type, you may pay for traffic that has little chance of converting.

Keyword Match Types Affect Your AdWords Quality Score

Google assigns Quality Scores to AdWords campaigns based on several factors.

One factor is the percentage of people who click an ad after seeing it. Your campaign’s Quality Score may increase if many of the people who see your advertisement click it.

A high Quality Score decreases your cost per click and reduces the cost of acquiring a new customer.

If your match type is so broad that your advertisement appears on irrelevant search results pages, though, your Quality Score may go down.

The Four AdWords Keyword Match Type

Broad Match

Usage: dog food

The broad match is the most inclusive AdWords match type. With a broad match keyword phrase, AdWords may show your advertisement on results pages for:

  • Exact keywords
  • Misspellings of keywords
  • Synonyms of keywords
  • Terms related to keywords

With the broad match keyword phrase dog food, AdWords may show your advertisement on the results pages for searches such as “pet food,” “cat food,” “animal supplements” and “dog nutrition.”

Although using broad match keywords will increase the number of people who see your ads, it also increases the chance that you’ll receive irrelevant traffic.

If a person who searches for “cat food” clicks your ad and ends up on your landing page for dog food, you’ll pay for the click — but you probably won’t make a sale.

Modified Broad Match

Usage: +dog +food

The modified broad match type tells AdWords which words in a keyword phrase are most important to your campaign.

You’ll identify important words by putting the + symbol in front of them.

The search terms do not need to be in the same order in which you entered them. The search terms can also include other words, but they must include the words you marked as important. When you mark a word as important, AdWords will show your advertisement on the results pages for searches containing:

  • The exact word
  • Misspellings of the word
  • The plural, singular or possessive version of the word

With the modified broad match keyword phrase +dog +food, AdWords may show your advertisement on the results pages for searches such as “organic dog food,” “food for dogs” and “dog fod.”

The searches “cat food” and “dog nutrition” do not contain both words marked as important and would not trigger your ad.

The modified broad match type works well for many types of campaigns because it allows for variations and misspellings of your keywords.

Since you identify the words most important to your campaign, this match type excludes a lot of potentially irrelevant traffic.

Phrase Match

Usage: “dog food”

The phrase match type tells AdWords to display advertisements only on results pages for search terms containing the exact phrase that you entered.

The order of the keywords must match, but additional words before or after your keyword phrase are permitted.

With the phrase match keyword phrase “dog food, AdWords may show your advertisement on the results pages for searches such as “organic dog food,” “dog food for weight loss” and “buy dog food online.”

AdWords would not show your advertisement on the results pages for the searches “food for dogs” or “dog vegetarian food” because they do not contain the same words in the same order as your keyword phrase.

The phrase match type works well for a variety of search terms because it keeps your traffic as relevant as possible while allowing for the qualifying words that people often use when they search for commercial terms.

People often include words such as “cheap,” “buy,” “best” and “online” when searching for products.

Exact Match

Usage: [dog food]

The exact match type is the most narrow match type that you can use on AdWords.

If you use the exact match type, your ad will only appear if a user searches for the exact phrase that you entered.

With the exact match keyword phrase [dog food], AdWords will only show your ad if “dog food” is the exact phrase that the user enters.

The exact match type does not allow for additional words before, after or between the words in your keyword phrase.

It’s unlikely that you could identify all of the potential keyword phrases that someone might use when searching for a company like yours.

It is therefore unwise to rely solely on the exact match type for your online advertising because it may exclude people who would otherwise have become new customers.

If you’ve identified a keyword phrase that converts at a high rate, though, the exact match type allows you to maximise your bid for that keyword phrase and get the most possible traffic from it.