Google Ads Match Types Best Practices

google ads match types best practicesIn this article we will be looking at Google ads match types best practices. This will include how each match type works, as well as the best time to use them.

There are 5 main Google Ads Match types:

  • Broad Match
  • Modified Broad Match (This is a version of broad match)
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match
  • Negative Match.

So, what is a match type?

A match type is something that you apply to a keyword in your Google ads campaign. By applying a certain match type, you are telling Google how broadly, or restrictively you want to target a certain keyword.

Basically, the match type you choose, will determine whether your ads are shown for more, or less specific searches on Google.

Broad match

The first match type we will be looking at will be broad match. This is the default match type in Google.

As the name suggests, when using broad match your ads will be shown for a very broad range of searches.

This means that your ads could be triggered when someone searches any of the following:

  • The exact keyword
  • Misspellings
  • Synonyms
  • Related searches
  • And any other variations that Google deems relevant.

Broad match is essentially very loose targeting of a keyword. It is not uncommon for some terms to be so broad, they are unrelated to the product or service, you are offering.

Here are a few examples of some search terms that might trigger your ad if you were using the broad keyword “women’s hat”

broad match examples

As you can see using a broad match could potentially show your ads for a wide variety of terms.

It is also important to note, that this is just a small sample. Potentially there could be hundreds of broad matches for a keyword like this.

In the image you can see that there are many words that have been added and many of the words have changed. For example, women changed to girl. Hat has been changed to cap. Colours have been mentioned and also words like buy have been added.

The result of using a broad match, is you have the potential for a lot of variation in the search terms your ad is shown for. This can be great if you are trying to find new keyword, that you hadn’t already considered. At the same time if you don’t approach this correctly it can quickly spend a lot of money on irrelevant search terms, that are not your target audience.

Broad Match Types Best Practices

As we have discussed Broad match is exactly as the name suggests. You should be using this match type with caution.

There are a few times when this would be the preferred match type:

  1. Large Budget – You have a large budget and are interested in discovering new keywords, whilst aggressively excluding irrelevant search terms.

    This can be a good approach, as you are likely to discover new keywords. However, it can be expensive, and you will need to actively, block irrelevant terms. This is not the best approach if you are on a tight budget.

  2. Already have negative keywords – Broad match may also be appropriate if you already have an extensive list of negative keywords. In this case you could block bad traffic right from the start. At the same time you could still uncovering new search terms and show ads to a broader audience.
  3. You are scaling an existing campaign – This is probably the most common and cost effective. A campaign is already working and profitable, but you want more traffic.

    Generally this would also combine point 2. If a campaign has been live for a long time, it will usually have an extensive list of negative keywords already

Broad Match Modifier

The next match type we will be looking at is a modified broad match. This match type is a form of broad match; however, it gives you much more control over the search terms that your ads can appear for.

To use this type of keyword you will still need to set it up as a broad match. The difference is you will be adding a + symbol in front of certain word in the keyword.

By adding a plus symbol in front of a word you are telling Google that this word must be in the search for it to trigger our advert.

This means that you are still able to target a very broad range of search terms whilst still having more control over specific words that must be present.

Here are a few examples of search terms that could trigger your ad, when using a broad match modifier:

modified broad matck examples

As you can see we are using the women’s hats example again.

There is still a broad range of search terms that could trigger our ad. However, you will notice that we have added a + symbol in front of both the words in our keyword.

This means that the words, women’s and hats, must be present in the search term.

As you can see all these search terms in the right-hand column have women’s and hats in them.

You will also notice that Google will show close variants such as hat and hats, or women’s and women. However, they will also not use completely different words. So, hat could not be replaced with something like cap, or beanie. Similarly, Woman could not be replaced with girl or lady, etc.

If the plus symbol is in front of a word, that word must be in the search term

Modified Broad Match Best Practices

Using broad match modifiers is a much more efficient way of taking advantage of broad match. It gives the advertiser much more control and can help to stop Google targeting too broadly.

For this reason, it is generally the go-to to match type for creating new campaigns.

It gives the advertiser a mixture of flexibility and control. Also, when combined with a good negative keyword list you, can have a very targeted campaign that is less restricted than if you had used a stricter match type.

It is important to remember this is still broad match, so you need to keep an eye on search terms and continually add negative keywords where necessary.

Phrase Match

The next match type we are going to look at is phrase match. This match type is triggered by placing quotation marks around a keyword.

When using phrase match, we are telling Google that this phrase must be in the search term in this exact same order to trigger our advert. At the same time we are also telling Google, they can still show additional words before and after this specific search term.

Here are a few possibilities of how this could work using our previous example of women’s hats:

phrase match type examples

When using phrase match, you will notice “women’s hats” is in each search term in that exact order. However, there can be words added before and after the term. This can be seen clearly in the image above where words such as “buy”, “on sale” and “red” have all been added before or after the search term.

The key point here is that the term “women’s hats” must be present for your ad to be shown.

Phrase Match Types Best Practices

As we have seen, phrase match is more restrictive than a modified broad match. Prior to the release of modified broad match in 2010 advertisers used phrase match much more regularly, however broad modifiers are generally preferred in more recent years.

This does not mean that phrase match still doesn’t have a place. It does.

Generally, it is better to use phrase match for brand terms. Often mixing your brand name into a longer sentence can make it mean something completely different. Plus, if you are tailoring your ads specifically to your brand term, this is most likely not going to work well when using a modified broad.

There are also some instances where the same thing could happen with non-branded terms. So, it is important to consider how words could be rearranged if you were using a modified broad match.

Exact Match

The next match type we will be looking at is exact match.

This is match type is triggered by putting brackets around the keyword.

Again, you can see an example of this in the image below.

exact match type examples

This is the most restrictive type of keyword you can use in Google ads. It means your advert will only be shown if someone searches the exact term. However Google have loosened this slightly in 2017 by showing plural and singular forms, misspellings, acronyms, abbreviations, and accents. The goal of this is to avoid huge bloated lists of exact keywords that generate little to no volume individually

Essentially when using exact match, you are telling Google you want to be very specific.

This is obviously good if you want to target exact terms, at the same time it does have its downsides. By being so targeted you do miss out on a lot of traffic, which you could receive from other match types

Exact Match Types Best Practices

Exact match can be useful in many situations. Obviously, it can also be used for branded terms and unlike phrase match it would appear with no words before and after.

Another useful strategy can be to find specific search terms that are profitable.

These could be terms generated by other match types, such as broad and phrase. Once you identify them, you can add them as exact match and manage their bids separately.

Negative Match

The final match type is negative match. Unlike the previous 4 options, this keyword is not for targeting. It is for excluding search terms.

We have already mentioned it several times throughout this article. It is basically a way to tell Google, we do not want to show for a specific word, or search term.

There are several ways you can come up with negative keywords including:

  • Any keyword you can think of by yourself.
  • Using keyword research tools like the new keyword planner
  • Using the search terms report in your Google Ads account
  • You can also search for negative keyword lists online

Negative keywords are an essential part of any successful campaign, it is not uncommon for a negative keyword list to be bigger than your actually keyword list.

Negative Match Types Best Practices

This is quite simple. Just block everything that doesn’t make sense for your business.

You should be starting with an extensive negative keyword list as soon as you launch a new campaign and you should be continually adding to it over time.

Thanks for reading

I hope you have enjoyed this article on Google ads match types best practices. If you have any questions, please comment below.

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