As the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) continues to get clouded with advertisers, it is Google’s primary goal to deliver quality content to the searcher. Google wants to see strategy and intent behind advertisers’ campaigns. +Broad +Match +Modified, “Phrase Match” and [Exact Match].

First, let’s cover the different keyword match types.

The 4 Keyword Match Types Explained

#1 Broad Match Keywords

Broad match keywords will trigger results for any terms or meanings of the keywords in a query. For example, if your keyword is engine degreaser – a search query for either the term engine or degreaser – even similar words or meanings could trigger an impression.

Examples of additional broad match keywords that would trigger the same results are:

engine degreaser
automotive degreaser
engine cleaner
kitchen degreaser
engine repair

As you can see by solely using broad match keywords in your campaign, you’re casting a very wide net which may or may not return relevant results. Not to mention, this approach doesn’t give you much control over qualified impressions (and clicks!).

Google is very good at knowing the intent of the user and will usually match queries accurately. However, you should proceed at your own risk as there is always going to be a large number of impressions and a low conversion rate/click-through-rate (CTR).

This match type is best for a brand recognition campaign.

#2 Modified Broad Match Keywords

Modified broad match keywords are similar to broad match, but all words in the phrase are prefixed with a “+” symbol. All of the words that have the + symbol must be included in the search users query to trigger an impression.

With modified broad, you’re able to customize your keywords by prefixing all words, or just select words in your modified broad keyword phrase. Here are some examples of how modified broad match keywords work:

+engine +degreaser

Since both keywords are modified with a prefix, both terms would have to be included in the users query to trigger an ad impression. Queries that would result in impressions include:

where to buy engine degreaser
engine cleaner & degreaser
how does engine degreaser work
top 10 engine degreasers

Similarly, if we were only to modify some (or one) of the words in a modified broad keyword phrase such as:

cheap +engine +degreaser

This should match search queries like:

cheap professional engine degreaser
affordable engine degreaser
all-natural degreaser for engines

As you can see, when using modified broad match keywords in your campaign, unless you’re prefixing all keywords in your phrase, you’re risking irrelevant queries.

This is why it’s very important to be selective and use caution when prefixing your keywords and targeting your queries. It’s also worth noting that keywords that are modified broad can appear in any order in the query, so unlike phrase match (see below) there is limited control over matching the user’s search query.

#3 Phrase Match Keywords

Phrase match is my personal favorite match type to use in an effective and properly optimized campaign that has had time to mature and enough data collected from the search queries to target select keyword phrases that your potential customers are searching for.

Phrase match keyword queries must match the exact phrase or sequence of words in your keyword. Phrase match keywords begin and end in quotation marks. For example:

“engine degreaser”

When users search for the keyword engine degreaser, you should receive an impression. Additional words can be added before or after the phrase match keyword to trigger an impression. Potential keyword matches include:

cheap engine degreaser
what is the best engine degreaser
how to use engine degreaser
engine degreaser uses
what else can I clean with engine degreaser

Phrase match keywords are vital to successful pay-per-click management for many reasons, but as you can see in the examples above you should usually expect to see more relevant impressions and in-turn an increase in conversions and happy users – as long as your product and/or content is relevant to what the user is searching for.

#4 Exact Match Keywords

This one pretty much explains itself. When using exact match keywords in your campaign, users’ search terms must match exactly to a keyword in your ad group in order to show an ad impression. Exact match keywords begin and end with brackets. Here’s another example:

[engine degreaser]

To show your ad, users must type engine degreaser exactly. The query cannot contain any additional or similar words. Like this:

This particular match type can be very powerful for common search queries, specifically long tail keyword searches with little to no competition. Keep in mind that exact match can also pick up queries for misspellings, close variants and plurals. You can disable this loose filter by switching to “Do not include close variants” in campaign settings in Google AdWords.

Unfortunately, exact match keywords may limit the number of impressions your ads may potentially receive compared to the other more “less-aggressive” match types, however, exact match will reward you with a better conversion rate/click-through-rate (CTR) and will likely lower your spend.

TIP: Start broad and tighten your keyword match types gradually

It’s always best to start any campaign with a bit of a wide net (like broad match or modified broad match) to begin collecting search data so that you can review and properly optimize your keyword match types to suit your campaign’s needs. Monitor your campaign for new search queries regularly.

For best results, convert high impression relevant search queries to phrase and exact match first, and allow your data to grow to optimize additional keywords with fewer data over time. Oh, and don’t forget about adding your negatives as well.

What match types should I use?

What is important to understand about choosing the correct match types is that this single element of your campaign can affect almost every metric on the board. But, most importantly, using the correct types of match phrasing can have a HUGE impact on CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) and ad-relevance.

For instance, if an advertiser was a photographer specializing in wedding photography and they were looking to solely drive leads, odds are that they are not going to want to waste their ad-spend on “family photography” search queries in the auction. In order to get the best results, in this case, we would want to exclusively use exact match keywords that were related to [wedding photography].

By implementing other types of match types such as phrase match, our ads could serve to someone searching DIY terms such as “how to be a wedding photographer”. When choosing match types, think, “How can I best optimize my keywords with specific intent?”.

Is it ever okay to use broad match?

The short answer is 90% of the time, no. The reason for this is because, with broad match, you are welcoming many irrelevant search terms into your campaign. This is only going to lead to a frustrated advertiser who is receiving many unqualified leads.

Now, what does the other 10% mean? Well, in short, the only circumstances where broad match can make sense is if your intent with the campaign is either:

  1. You are looking to create strong brand awareness or
  2. If search volume is so low that the only way to filter through traffic and to actually get customers is going to be through adding a couple of broad match terms

Which modifiers do you recommend?

We recommend +Broad +Match +Modified and [Exact Match].

Utilizing broad match modifiers allows you to widen your traffic volume, but still keep your keyword intent in-tactic. Implementing exact match keywords will give you the exclusive search query that you are bidding on in the auction. This way, you can rest assured that your ads are being placed in front of your specific prospective audience.

Now that you have learned which modifiers to emphasize in your Google Ads campaign, it’s time to implement this into your PPC marketing strategy!

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