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Google Ads Match Types: Explaining Exact, Broad and Phrase Match

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Google Ads Match Types: Explaining Exact, Broad and Phrase Match

Learn Google Ads Match Types: Fully Explaining Exact Match, Phrase Match and Broad Match Types

You need to choose a match type when bidding on keywords in your Google Ads campaigns.

What does this mean?

Essentially, you’re telling Google how much you want to match your ads to keyword searches. The match type you choose will determine whether Google aggressively matches your ads to searches or whether they’re a bit more restrictive.

In this post we’ll explain the three different Google Ads match types and how each can be used to strike a chord with your target audience.

Exact Match

This is the most specific and restrictive of all the Google Ads match types. Choose this one and people will only see your ad when they search for your exact keyword phrase, and nothing else.


So, if your keyword is “orange table lamp”, your ad will only show up when someone searches for “orange table lamp”. If they don’t enter those words in that order your ad won’t show.

It won’t show for “table lamp”, or for “orange lamp”.

The Benefits of Exact Match

Exact match ensures that anyone who sees your ad will have found what they’re looking for. If they desperately need an orange table lamp, and if you set “orange table lamp” as your exact match keyword, then you might well show up when they make that search.

The better you’re able to reach people who are truly interested in your product or service, the better chance you’ll have of keeping your costs low and your conversions high.

PPC Hero analysed results from a number of accounts and found the conversion rate from non-branded exact match was double that of either phrase or broad.

The Downsides of Exact Match

Specific search queries like “orange table lamp” will have a lower search volume. Exact match types tend to result in fewer impressions for your ad, which means fewer clicks, less traffic, and potentially fewer conversions.

In theory, you could create a large number of campaigns and ad groups using just exact match, but that would take an extremely long time and probably be counter-intuitive when you consider the extra resources you’d need to manage it.

Broad Match

This is the default match type. Using it means that your ad is eligible to appear when a user’s search includes any word from your keyword phrase, in any order.

So, with that “orange table lamp” keyword, your ad might display for searches including “table lamps”, “orange lamp”, or “orange table”.

With broad match, Google might display your ad to search queries that use synonyms. Your “orange table lamp” ad could even display for a general “home furniture” search, which you’ll notice doesn’t contain any of the terms in your keyword.


The Benefits of Broad Match

If Google is matching your ads to as many different search queries as possible, obviously broad match is going to really help with those impressions and clicks. If your aim is to quickly boost your brand awareness and drive more traffic to your site, broad match can make a huge difference.

But you have to use with care.

A lot of care.

The Downsides of Broad Match

With broad match your ads might display for unrelated and irrelevant searches. You may find yourself paying a huge amount for traffic that simply doesn’t convert.

But there are plenty of ways around this.

Negative keywords

Google Ads lets you keep track of the keywords that triggered your ads, and you can add any irrelevant terms to your list of negative keywords.

You can be proactive too and add any negative keywords you think could come up. Need some ideas? Try our negative keywords list.

Modified broad match

You can also set up a modified broad match.

With a modified broad match you can still reach a large audience, but with a bit more control over just who sees your ads. By adding a “+” to individual words in your keyword phrase, you’ll tell Google that search queries must include that word.

So, with that “orange table lamp” keyword, adding a “+” parameter to the word “lamp” will ensure that Google only displays your ads to searches that include this term.

Phrase Match

Google describes phrase match as “more targeted than broad match, but more flexible than exact match.”

Set “orange table lamp” as a phrase match keyword and your ad will only appear when someone searches for “orange table lamp” with those words in that order. However, with phrase match, your ad might also appear if there are some words before or after that phrase.

So, your “orange table lamp” ad might also appear for a search for “bright orange table lamp”, or “cheap orange table lamp”, or “orange table lamp stand”, but it won’t appear for searches like “orange table”, “table lamp”, or “home furnishings.”

The Benefits of Phrase Match

Like exact match, phrase match makes it a lot more likely that your ads will only be seen by those who are looking for what you have to offer. You might reach fewer people than you would with a broad match, but anyone you do reach is more likely to click and to convert.

You only want your “orange table lamp” ad to be seen by people looking for orange table lamps, but with an exact match type, your ad won’t be seen by people conducting searches like “buy orange table lamp” or “best orange table lamps”.

Yet a phrase match isn’t as restrictive as an exact match. Because the search query can contain text before or after your keywords, you may reach more people than you would have done with an exact match.

The Downsides of Phrase Match

Well, you still won’t reach as many people as you would have done with a broad match.

Also, you could still experience some of the shortcomings of broad match, in that you’ll pay for clicks that might never have converted.

If that orange table lamp you’re selling is an expensive model, someone searching for a “cheap orange table lamp” won’t be interested in buying it. However, they’ll have still seen your ad with their search and, if they click your ad, you’ll still pay even if they don’t convert.

So Which Google Ads Match Type Should You Use?

You’ll have to decide which match type to use for every keyword you’re targeting. Getting the mix right can involve a lot of trial and error. You’ll have to consider a lot of factors, like how each keyword has performed to date, your cost per click and cost per conversion, the amount you’re bidding, the behaviour of your competitors, and even the specific text of your ad.

If this all sounds complicated, that’s because it is. However, get it right and the ROI can be incredible.

At PPC Geeks, we’ve worked with businesses to build their profits through successful PPC accounts. We know what it takes to get the perfect mix of keyword match types to maximise your conversions. Get in touch to see how we can help your business.


Sarah Stott

Sarah has a varied background with a degree in Politics, and significant experience in high level events management. This managerial experience transfer well to her role for the last 5 years in the Digital Marketing space.

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