Keyword Match Types – Why They Matter

As an advertising agency that offers free adwords account audits, we have seen our fair share of messy accounts throwing away budget daily. Aside from some really important settings throughout the account, keywords and their organization (ad groups) are a huge focus of our audit. If you are reading this, I assume you are already familiar with what keywords are, but let’s do a quick refresher to make sure we are on the same page. 

PPC campaigns are made up of keywords, ad groups, and ads. A keyword is a search term used by consumers to find information online. The keywords you bid on will display your ads in search results pages once triggered by a search that includes that keyword. They are arguably the most important part of the back-end equation to converting new customers. (The back end of the equation is everything in play to get traffic to your website, the front end is everything in place to convert them once they get there). They are also a very large source of wasted ad budget due to improper use and lack of negative keywords. This is where your keyword match types come into play. There are four keyword match types: broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, and exact match. Let’s break down each type with examples, pros, and cons to each. 

Exact Match

Exact Match keywords are the most conservative match type. The searcher must type in your keyword exactly as you have it in order for your ad to be triggered. For example, if your keyword is “red shoes”, your ad would not show for “red shoes for sale” or “red shoes near me”, it would only display if the user types in “red shoes”. Over the years, Google has incorporated some exceptions into their algorithms to help their advertisers such as plurals, implied, or other same intent keywords. So with the example above, Google may still show your ad if someone types in “Red shoe”. Although this is the most restrictive keyword type, it ensures you are not getting unnecessary clicks and your ad is only showing when you want it to. We always recommend you start off with this match type and open it up if there is not enough search volume associated with it.

Phrase Match

Phrase Match Keywords allow for a bit more flexible searches to trigger your ads. You still have a great deal of control over when your ad is triggered but are not depending on people to type in exactly what you are hoping they will. When using phrase match keywords, your ads will only show when using the exact order your keywords are in but might include other words before or after that phrase. Sticking with the “red shoes” example, your ad would show up for a “red shoes near me” search query. It would also show up for “kim kardashian red shoes grammys”…. So you can see where you start to allow for unnecessary impressions and possible unnecessary clicks. When using phrase or broad match keywords, it is very important to have a strong negative keyword list to protect your budget. 

Broad Match Modifier

Modified broad match is your middle ground between full broad match and more conservative match types like phrase and exact. Unlike phrase match where your keyword must be in the exact order you have it, broad match modifier allows you to pinpoint certain words in your keyword phrase that must be included and others that are more variable/flexible. By placing a “+” in front of a term, you are telling google that word MUST be included in a search to trigger your ad. For example, “red +shoes” would allow you to show up for any search that includes the word “shoes” but will not necessarily include the word red, and can show up with other words in the query. 

Broad Match

Broad match terms are what we run across the most during our account audits. A surprising amount of companies who do ads in house and advertisers who have managed those accounts neglect to specify a match type, which in return is a broad match type. As its name suggests, the audience you reach with this term is extremely broad. Broad match will make your ad eligible to show when any search query includes any word in your key phrase, in any order. For example, the keyword “red shoes” could potentially show up in a search for “red sports cars” because the term “red” is in your keyword phrase. While google does a pretty good job at reeling it in with search queries that are pretty far off, you still risk a lot of wasted impressions and clicks by using broad match terms. If you have what you consider an extremely important keyword but are not getting any search volume off of it, broad match may become necessary BUT we highly recommend you spend a great deal of time developing a strong negative keyword list and going through the search term data within your account often to build up that negative keyword list in order to protect your budget. 

For anyone playing devil’s advocate and saying “if I search for red sports cars and see an ad for red shoes, I wouldn’t click on that ad, so why does it really matter” , do not forget everything that goes into your ad rankings and overall ad account health. A ton of impressions with no clicks will lead to a negative quality score which can limit how often your ads show up, where they show up, and how much you pay for clicks overall. The importance of using proper match types goes way beyond your ad showing up when you didn’t want it to show up.

If you would like more information, or would like a free PPC account audit, or simply want someone else to manage your ads moving forward, we are happy to help! Contact us for more information.

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