What Are Google Keyword Match Types?

Choosing the right keyword match type when setting up Google Ads will significantly impact how successful a campaign will be. A match type determines who will see your ad based on the conditions imposed on the keywords chosen and therefore, which searches will trigger an ad.

Keyword Match Types Explained

Broad Keyword Match Type

Broad Match is the default keyword match type and useful if you want to reach a wide diverse audience. No symbols are required to denote specific terms and an ad may appear when a search query includes any word in your phrase, in any order and with variations.

Broad Match may seem advantageous due to the capability of reaching a wide audience. Be cautious! Its strength can be its weakness. Clicks can be wasted, incurring unnecessary costs due to search results not quite matching a search query.  It can also increase the bounce rate on your website which isn’t good for SEO. 

Broad Match can be more effective if used with a well thought out list of negative keywords.  Keeping a close watch on your search query report is useful to ascertain whether you are paying for a lot of irrelevant clicks.

Google Ads Broad Match Type

Modified Broad Keyword Match Type

Recent Changes and Developments

Although we have included Broad Match Modifier in this article as some of you will still be using this at the time of reading, Google has announced it will start to be phased out this month (February 2021)  and incorporated into Phrase Match. According to Google the reason being that both types serve the same use cases, therefore combining the two can increase the reach.

While the new system is being rolled out you will not have to migrate keywords and performance data will still be available.  However, from July onwards you will not be able to create new broad match modifier keywords and existing keywords will serve under the new system.

Modified Broad Match is similar to Broad Match type but provides a more flexible approach, enabling you to gain more control over where you spend your budget. It provides more targeting than broad match so you can reach out and connect to a more specific market.

How does it work? By adding a + symbol in front of keywords, Google will understand that the search query must include that term.  Because of the specific targeting, to maximise the results, it is best used to accurately describe your product or services, limiting the chance of missing your target market.  For example, if your keyword was +red +shoes, it would show for search terms such as ‘red shoes for sale’ or ‘buy red shoes’.  

Advantages of Modified Match Type

  • Helps identify and discover new keywords
  • Can produce good search rate results
  • Filters out more irrelevant terms in comparison to broad match type


  • Doesn’t irradicate all irrelevant traffic
  • Is not conversion centred
  • Needs careful monitoring to access cost

Phrase Keyword Match Type

As mentioned above, Phrase Match will start to incorporate Broad Match Modifier from this month (February) onwards, here is more information on the new match type.  So how does phrase match work at the moment? A query must include the whole phrase, which is denoted by using quotation marks. There can be wording before and after, but bear in mind Google will be presenting the ad based purely on the phrase, therefore the text has to be in the exact word order. It doesn’t look for individual words within the phrase.

Phrase Match is a useful match type for those who want to focus on click through rates that have a greater propensity of increasing conversions by eliminating irrelevant traffic but still have the flexibility to include close variant phrases for increased targets.

Google Ads Phrase Match

Words have to be in order but included are linking words outside the phrase.

Advantages of Phrase Match

  • Conversion focused
  • Provides ideas for relative phrases that closely relate to your target keywords
  • Cuts out irrelevant traffic


  • Not all irrelevant traffic is eliminated
  • CPC’s can be costly
  • Interpretation terms are eliminated
  • Lower traffic volume

Exact Keyword Match Type

Traditionally Exact Match is seen as the least flexible of all the keyword match types. However it is less restrictive than the title suggests, this is because Google started to introduce a much wider scope of variables. There is no denying that Exact Match is still very specific and highly targeted, which can lead to less traffic and lower impressions than with the other match types.  On the plus side, ads tend to be seen by interested people, therefore costs tend to be lower (less wasted clicks) and conversion rates higher.

Keyword Exact Match

Advantages of Exact Match Type

  • High conversion rate
  • Good for your budget – eliminates irrelevant searches
  • Useful if you don’t need to target new keywords
  • Improves quality score and ad relevance more than any other match type


  • Restricted reach
  • Other  keywords overlooked due to variant limitation
  • CPC can be high

Negative Keyword Match Type

The – symbol is used to prevent certain search terms from triggering an ad. Negative keywords can be matched to broad, phrase or exact types and is used as a preventative measure with no trigger.

Google Ads Negative Match

Pause For Thought!

Understanding the words people use to search for information is the key to successful marketing campaigns.  It also helps us, as marketers, get an idea of where prospects are in the buyers’ cycle.  Understanding what your target audience is searching for is an essential factor that will inform meaningful campaigns. Campaigns that are driven by solid strategies based on firm foundations.

Find out more about the  New Marketing Funnel and the ever more complex buyer cycle.  At the core of the cycle and the catalyst that dives prospects through the funnel are well thought out strategies that are highly targeted and content-driven.

If you need help or advice on PPC advertising or any aspect of digital strategy then please get in touch here. We are always available to provide professional advice and assistance.

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