Google Ads Keyword Match Types Explained
Inside a Google Ads campaign, not all keywords are treated the same. There are multiple different match types to choose from. These choices have changed in recent years, so it may be time for a refresher. Understanding the pros and cons of each can help you get the most out of your ad campaign, while keeping things organized, simplified, and easy to maintain.
Broad match is the most lenient match type available. Basically anything even remotely close or related to your keywords is considered a match and include you in the ad auction. No special syntax or markup is required to use broad match keywords. Just type them in a list and you’re done.
The thing to be careful of is matching too broadly and running up a big tab or running out of budget dollars too early. It is best to have longer phrases in broad match to get the best intent matching. Something like hats alone might be too broad as it would match not just on hats, but caps, headgear, fascinators, etc.
The best thing about broad match is that you can do more with fewer keywords. Instead of a list of hundreds of keywords each with their own metrics and performance, you can consolidate it all into a single keyword. It’s easy to evaluate, pause, or edit. You do sacrifice a little bit of granularity but that’s often an acceptable trade-off. Typically broad match pairs with some negative keywords to narrow the focus enough to not be wasteful.
Phrase match is pretty self explanatory. Any phrase surrounded by quotation marks is considered a single term. Rather than matching on each word independently, it will require the full intent of the phrase to match. Something like “women’s hats” may match “women’s fashion”, but not “men’s fedoras.”
These reduce the number of matches, but each match better aligns to your target audience’s intent. You can test using the same phrase with or without quotes to give you broad match and phrase match variants and see which one performs best. Even though the phrase element is more restrictive, it still does not require an exact match. But there is a syntax for that.
Exact match uses square brackets in the keyword syntax. [Dallas Golf Fundraiser] is an example. That requires the searcher included that exact phrase in their keywords keywords before it triggered the ad. This is a very restrictive form of ad and I typically only use it for brand terms, like [Dijon Marketing]. Typically when someone is using your brand they will type it exactly, and close matches may not be relevant. These typically appear sparingly in your account as they will have way fewer matches and may not ever match at all.
Last, you can create lists of negative keywords. If a user’s search contains these words, your ad will NOT show. If you are advertising for a construction company that sells triple-pane windows, you may need to add a negative keyword for Microsoft so you don’t waste your budget on users looking for office software. The best way to find terms you need to negate is to monitor your Searched Terms report. If you see any irrelevant or harmful searches in there, you can pop over to your negative keywords list and make sure that search never triggers your ad again.
The best mix of keywords includes a mix of match types. And every situation is different, but if you’ve only ever explored broad match, try out a few of the other match types and see if your ads perform better than before.