Understanding Keyword Match Types

Google introduced match types to make it easier for advertisers to bid on a wider range of keywords. Instead of showing your ad just when someone searches for exactly the phrase you bid on, Google will show your ad for a variety of other keywords depending on the keyword match settings you choose.

Currently there are four match types you can use in Google AdWords. Understanding match types well is key to having an efficient AdWords campaign.

 

Broad Match (default)

This is the default option you get if you don’t choose a different match type. With broad matching Google will modify and expand your keywords to potentially a large range of search terms.

Broad Match – How It Works


Keyword Modification Allowed in Broad Match?
misspellings
plural and singular forms
additional words
change of word order
synonyms
closely related words

In practice you can expect a keyword like “car hire” to be broad matched to a range of different phrases like the ones below.

 

Broad Match – Example

car hire


Your Keyword Search Terms That Might Trigger Your Ads
car hire car hire
hire car
car hier
rental cars
car hire melbourne
rent a car in melbourne
wedding car hire melbourne
car hire sydney
hire car tasmania hobart
how do I save on a hire car
hire a vintage car route 66
truck hire gold coast
car hire paris
free rental car relocation
car hire under 21 las vegas to los angeles

As you can see bidding broad match can expand your target keywords significantly! This has its pros but can also cause big problems.

 

Phrase Match

A keyword is set to phrase match by wrapping it in double quotes. Google will show your ads only for search terms that contain your exact keyword. Misspellings, plural and and singular forms, and additional words before or after the phrase will still be allowed though.

Phrase Match – How It Works


Keyword Modification Allowed in Phrase Match?
misspellings
plural and singular forms
additional words
change of word order
synonyms
closely related words

 

Phrase Match – Example

“car hire”


Your Keyword Search Terms That Might Trigger Your Ads
“car hire” car hire
car hier
car hire melbourne
wedding car hire melbourne
car hire sydney
car hire paris
car hire under 21 las vegas to los angeles

 

Exact Match

A keyword is set to exact match by wrapping it in square brackets. Google will show your ads only for your exact search term. By default however misspellings, plural and and singular forms will still be allowed, unless you explicitly disallow them in the campaign’s main settings (for most campaigns not recommended).

Exact Match – How It Works


Keyword Modification Allowed in Exact Match?
misspellings
plural and singular forms
additional words
change of word order
synonyms
closely related words

 

Exact Match – Example

[car hire]


Your Keyword Search Terms That Might Trigger Your Ads
[car hire] car hire
car hier
cars hire

 

Broad Match Modifier

The broad match modifier is created with a + sign and allows an advertiser to specify which words cannot be dropped out of the search query or substituted with synonyms. All the other rules for broad matching apply.

Broad Match Modifier – How It Works


Keyword Modification Allowed in Exact Match?
misspellings
plural and singular forms
additional words
change of word order
synonyms
closely related words

 

Broad Match Modifier – Example

+car hire


Your Keyword Search Terms That Might Trigger Your Ads
“car hire” car hire
hire car
car hier
rental cars
car hire melbourne
rent a car in melbourne
wedding car hire melbourne
car hire sydney
hire car tasmania hobart
how do I save on a hire car
hire a vintage car route 66
car hire paris
free rental car relocation
car hire under 21 las vegas to los angeles

In the above case the word car cannot be substituted with another word (such as vehicle or truck) however the word hire can be replaced with synonyms as it doesn’t have the broad match modifier + sign immediately in front of it.
 

Summary

If you’re starting with AdWords – familiarise yourself well with match types. Used smartly they can help you avoid wasted clicks and improve the ROI of your whole campaign.

Find out more about using match types in our article How to Stop Wasteful Adwords Clicks.

Nemek

Nemek has been professionally managing Google AdWords campaigns since 2009 and is AdWords certified through the Google Partners program.