The Basics of Google Adwords – An Introduction to Keyword Match Types


The Building Blocks

As anyone who is familiar with Google Adwords will know (and even some who aren’t!) keywords are the fundamental building blocks of any successful PPC campaign. Without the ability to filter searches how are we to know who to advertise to and when? With that said, using the appropriate keyword match type can yield differing amounts and relevance of ad traffic.

The five keyword varieties allow businesses to tailor and specify the conditions requisite for their ad to appear when a search is made. Using this it is possible to manipulate the scale of a campaign from broadly relevant to hyper specific.

the Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Keeping it Broad

The first and most general of the keyword varieties is broad match. This is generally considered the default matching option and means an ad may show if a search term contains the keyword terms in any order, possibly in addition to other terms. Ads may also show for close variations or synonyms of the keywords. Given its generous search conditions, broad match is best suited to scenarios when the volume of traffic is the primary concern, irrespective of whether the ad is particularly relevant to the person’s search criteria.

Modified broad matches are a variation that allows for slightly more control over the search criteria to trigger ads. Modified broad matches mean ads will only show when someone’s search contains those modified terms or close variations of them in any order. Modified broad match keywords will not however show ads for synonyms or related searches like broad matches will. This adds an additional level of control and specificity and means that whilst add traffic may decrease; the traffic that does filter through will be more relevant.

a typical response to a broad match search

Matching to Type

The phrase match type grants even greater specificity and control. Ads will only show when someone searches for the exact keyword or the exact keyword with additional words before or after it. Ads will also be shown if someone searches for close variations of the exact keyword. Whilst not markedly different to the previous two match types, phrase match is useful for minimising the chance of ads being shown for customers searching for terms that aren’t relevant to what specifically a business might be offering.

Exact match is the Ronseal of the keyword match types – it does exactly what it says on the tin! Exact match keywords will only return ads when someone searches using those exact terms or very similar variations of it. Any additional words; both before or after the keyword, will exclude ads from appearing. Naturally using exact match might greatly limit the amount of ad traffic that filters through, but instances where it does ensure that customers are searching for precisely what the chosen ad will be offering.

the handy tool for selecting the keyword match type

The final match type is the negative match and allows selective control over when an ad will appear, even if it meets other match type criteria. Negative matches allows blacklisting of terms which businesses know will never be relevant to their service or product and thus block traffic that is guaranteed to have no interest in their ads. In this way negative match terms can complement any of the other match types, excluding irrelevant search terms and offering another way of gaining control and relevance over ad campaigns.

the equally handy tool for implementing negative keywords

Example of Keyword Match Types

Broad Match - Nike Trainers - will show for nike tracksuit, adidas trainers etc
Modified Broad - +Nike +Trainers - will show for Nike Air Trainers, Nike Trainers
Phrase Match - “Nike Trainers” will show for Buy “Nike Trainers Online” Cheap Nike Trainers Online
Exact - [Nike Trainers] - will show for just Nike Trainers

The Final Word

By utilising keywords effectively it is possible to vary the scope and relevance of a PPC campaign and by using the different match types in combination it is entirely feasible that an optimal level of ad traffic and relevance can be maintained.


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