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Running ads on Google is very different from other running ads on Facebook or other networks that don't focus on keyword search terms. While social platforms require selecting the right audience to display your ads, Google focuses on creating the right keywords to show your ads.

Knowing which terms you want to appear for means nothing if you don't know the mechanics of how to make your ads properly display when and where you want them. 

This is where keyword match types comes into play. It helps show Google which search results we want to pay for our ads to display on.

Getting our match types wrong can mean...

  • Appearing and paying for irrelevant terms that don't convert
  • Not appearing for the terms that would convert
  • Less ROAS (return on ad spend)
  • Lots of wasted time 

Mastering the four keyword match types that I'm about to show you will save you serious amounts of time and money.

The 4 Google Keyword Match Types

4 Google Keyword Match Types

Here are the 4 Google match types you need to know to succeed with Google ads in 2020.

#1 Broad Match 

The most basic match type, broad matches allows the keyword to trigger your ad to show when someone searches for:

  • That phrase
  • A similar variation
  • Close variations
  • Related searches
  • Other relevant variations

The broad match below: women's hats might appear for phrases such as... buy ladies hats or women's clothing.

These terms are generally in the same ballpark but the degree of relevance will vary tremendously. 

Broad Match Google Search Terms

We make broad match keywords simply by typing the words or phrases we want without any sort of other match identifying punctuation (more on these shortly).

This means no [brackets] or "parenthesis" around the terms. Just the word or phrase.

Broad match keywords are best utilized to get an idea of terms that might work well for your campaign.

The analogy that works best is that broad match terms are the shotgun approach to search ads. You're letting your ad show for a wide variety of terms that may or may not be totally relevant.  

Broad match example shotgun

You need to be very careful not to blindly let them run.

  • Google will spend as much budget as you give them.
  • They will have many irrelevant terms you don't want to appear for.

Broad match types need to be regularly reviewed and optimized.

When using broad matches, you'll want to regularly review your campaign to see what terms you're appearing for and create negative keywords for any terms that are irrelevant or low converting. 

To keep this article concise, I won't be showing you how to create these negative keywords in your account but I'll refer you to this article if you want to learn more about utilizing negative keywords for PPC. 

#2 Broad Match Plus Modifier

This type of match offers more control over broad match because it only shows ads that include words you’ve added a plus (+) sign to. This match type works best when you want to ensure specific terms are in users’ searches.

Broad Match + Modifier Example

A basic broad search for a term like women's hats might show up for terms like women's clothing but if we feel that clothing is not a good replacement for hats and we always want to include the word hat in the results, we could achieve this by adding a plus sign (+) before the term hat, like this...

The keyword women's +hat (notice there are no brackets or quotation marks around the phrase) means that the term "hat" must always appear.

This would remove things like women's clothing, but would still allow things like "ladies hats."

If we wanted to keep BOTH "women's" and "hats" we could achieve this by putting the plus sign (+) in front of both terms, like this -- > +women's +hats.

This will still produce a wide array of results but you'll be getting more relevance than a standard broad match. 

Sticking with the gun analogy, this is more like a machine gun. We're a little more focused but we still appear for some relatively broad terms.

Broad Match + modifier

#3 Phrase Match

A phrase match must include the phrase (or perfect replacement) that we put between parenthesis. Google can append additional terms before or after the  phrase but not in between. 

Google Phrase Match Type Example

A phrase match search for a term like "women's hats" (note the parenthesis) might show up for terms like women's hats on sale or best women's hats.

The phrase women's hats must be present and the words cannot be separated (with few exceptions).

This will produce a much more refined set of display possibilities.

Continuing the weird gun analogy, this is like a basic hunting rifle. Much more defined than broad or broad + modifier but still not perfectly accurate. There is a little bit of wiggle room left for Google to play with. 

Google Phrase Match

#4 Exact Match 

Exact match types only show your ad when the user includes the exact phrase of your keyword. Exact matches are entered by placing brackets around your keyword or keyword phrase.

The phrase [women's hats] used to display for that single phrase and nothing else but Google recently changed the parameters for exact match keywords to show even when search queries have the same words, but are in a different order.

The change also allows the Exact Match keywords to disregard functional words:

  • Prepositions (in, to, for)
  • Conjunctions (and, but, or)
  • Articles (a, an, the)

Your ads may also match to searches that contain synonyms, plurals, or other variations of your keyword.

Although not as stringent as it once was, the exact match type will always produce the most refined results and will give you the most control over where your ads are displayed.

Exact Match Search Example

You’ll get less traffic using Exact Match because the more specific search queries have lower overall search volume. However you’ll have higher conversions and reduced costs due to the restrictions.

Wrapping up the gun analogy, this is the sniper rifle. Super focused terms with near absolute control of display.

Exact match Keyword Google

Heads Up!

I've mentioned it a couple of times already but I want to reiterate here.

The match type rules are not as stringent as they used to be...

Google gets progressively more intelligent every year. They have done a good job of finding additional terms that have the same meanings or search intent.

This means that even though we used an exact match for a term like [women's hats] as shown in the chart above, Google might still deviate from the exact match guidelines and display your ad for a search such as "ladies hats."

They've recently begun taking more liberties in plugging in these terms even when they technically deviate away from the match type we provided. 

Although this is more often helpful than harmful, the best practice is to go into your campaign dashboard and review all of the keywords that your ad has been shown. 

Changing Match Types

You can easily change from broad match to exact phrase or exact match with a couple clicks when you are logged into your account.

Remember though, when you change a keyword’s match type, you lose it’s historical data. This can be a concern if you’ll be using company data for your next campaign.

How Match Types Affect Search Results

Match types allow you to control which queries you’ll bid on so they can have a major impact on your campaign’s performance.

Key components to watch:

  1. Performance to Date: How keywords perform using the individual match types provides you with necessary insight for campaign spending.
  2. Competitors: Use the historical actions of your competitors to estimate your own results for certain match types.
  3. Bids: Advertisers frequently bid more or less aggressively based on a specific match type. These actions can influence which match type will work better for your campaigns.

There you have it, the basics of Google search match types.

You can now avoid unnecessary spends for irrelevant clicks or wasted time NOT showing the terms you want by paying attention to and optimizing the way you use these keyword match types. Now, go make some ads!

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