Keyword Match Types Explained

Most wasted money & opportunities in AdWords comes from paying for clicks (users) who aren’t your real prospects.

Keywords, together with the correct match type, are how you pick out searchers who are interested from those ones who aren’t.

You can have the exact same word or phrase listed 5x with a different prefix. Depending on its prefix Google will match the keyword to users search query.

There are 5 keyword match types in AdWords

  • +broad match +modified
  • broad
  • “phrase”
  • [exact]
  • -negative

I will start with Broad Match Modified, because the risk of losing the reader increases with every sentence, so if you read nothing else, at least you will read about the broad match modified.

Broad Match Modified

+wedding +photographer
Putting a + in front of a word signals to Google that this specific word must appear in the search query in order to trigger your ad. User can type words in any order and can include any additional keywords in the search. As long as the word with + in front is present, you will be eligible to bid. It is important when using this match type not to just put a + in front of every word. This will restrict your audience. Choose the words that truly convey the users intention and put + there only. Adjectives, pronouns, suburbs, prefixes should not have a + as they aren’t really essential in determining users intentions.

If you wish to further filter out your audience do this using negative keywords, not by putting a plus in front of every word. This is the biggest mistake I see Account Managers make with broad match modified. They don’t understand that + should only be used for critical words only. Putting it in front of pronouns and adjectives will unduly restrict the wide reach of this match type.

In my opinion, broad match modified used together with extensive negative keyword lists is the sweet spot of Google AdWords keywords. This is the most optimum combination of reach and relevancy.

Phrase Match Keywords

“wedding photography”
Phrase match type as the name suggests is the phrase that must appear in the search in order to trigger your ad. Phrase must appear in that exact wording order. If someone changes the words around in their query to say “photography for weddings” that will not trigger your ad. If someone types in a word or two before or after your phrase, that will still trigger the ad, as long as the phrase itself is present in that same format.

This match type in contrast to broad match, gives you a lot of control over who visits your website. Bad news is that its limiting the users to only those people who typed in the phrase you listed. It also eliminates all the users who used a different wording for the same purpose. Which isn’t what you want. In order to make it targeted without filtering out wanted queries, you need to list as many possible variations of phrases as you can think of.

One problem you could face with this match type is the “low search volume” warning. This means that the keyword you listed is not getting searched for enough, so Google is basically ignoring it altogether. How much is ‘enough’ Google won’t say. Benchmark could be twice a day or 10 x day, we don’t know. The thing to remember is that this keywords is essentially rendered ‘not to be used’ and is useless.

One thing to remember with phrase match is that you are narrowing down your audience to people who typed in the phrase that’s in the same order as your keyword. They move order of words and they won’t be seeing your ad. You are in danger of narrowing down your audience too much. To reduce impact of that, try to list all combinations of the phrase you can think of. This would be a smart solution except you will end up getting “low search volume” error on a good chunk of your phrases.

Exact match

[wedding photography]
Exact match will only trigger your ad when that exact word combination is searched for and nothing else.If someone changes the words around in their query to say photography weddings, that will not trigger your ad. If someone types in a word or two before or after your phrase, that will NOT trigger the ad. It must be just these words and nothing else.

Exact match is the most specific match type. It is the bulls-eye. Google will give it priority as it is a perfect match to the users query and therefore deems this word to be more relevant that the keyword in another match type. This is within the confounds of your account as well as in bidding against competitors.

Problem with it is that you can’t think of every possible combination people will search for. Also you will get a lot of ‘low search volume’ errors with this match type. This type is best used for the most common general queries (plumber auckland, website hosting, ). Visitors will all be highly qualified but their quantity will be restricted to the people who typed in the exact phrase you listed. All others will get excluded.

Broad match Keywords

wedding photography
Broad match is a match type that has the capacity to capture everyone who uses any one of the words (or its variations) in their search query. Broad match is giving away control over who comes to your website. It is one match type you should avoid (unless your goal is to spend as much budget as possible without a need to show ROI/conversions). Broad match is very good at doing that, spending your budget that is. ROI its not so good at.

Negative Keywords

-free -ideas
Negative keywords are used to filter out unwanted users.
If someone uses word free and you don’t provide a free product, you wouldn’t want to be paying for this visitor. This is why negative keywords are like your weed killers. The broader your match type is, the more essential negatives become. With exact match keywords its not necessary to also have negative keywords as exact match is limited to only being shown for exact query. For all other match types its essential.

Ask yourself, what could someone who types in ‘wedding photography’ be looking for? It could be for a photographer (you) which is a good match. But he could also be looking for lessons, courses, job, setup a wedding photography business, ideas, free photos, locations etc. This is irrelevant to what you sell so all these should be your negative keywords. Any word that indicated that the user is looking for something you aren’t selling needs to be listed in your negative keywords list. Also words that indicate that user doesn’t have commercial intent should also be added as negatives. Examples: how to, diy, ideas, jobs etc.

Author: Natasha Popovich

I have been in Digital Marketing since 2003. My focus over the past decade has been Google AdWords, Analytics and Conversion Rate Optimization. I spent in access of $30m on Google and worked with companies of all sizes in NZ, AU, Asia & Europe, directly and through advertising agencies. I now provide consulting services to agencies and businesses directly.

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