There are five main AdWords match types, but which ones are best for your campaigns? Read on to learn about each match type, what searches it will show for and how to optimise on match types to drive business while also saving on budget.

Match types (or keyword matching options) let you choose who sees your ads, based on the similarity of users’ search queries to your chosen keywords. They are the most widely used targeting options for search ads in AdWords.

AdWords lets you choose from five main match types: Exact, Phrase, Broad, Modified Broad and Negative. We’ll look at each one in detail:

Exact Match

Set your keywords to exact match, and your ads will show only when a user’s search query matches the keyword exactly.

The only exception to this rule is when a user searches for a very close variant to your exact match keywords. In these cases, your ad may appear. For example, ‘mans shoes’ instead of ‘men’s shoes’.

Exact match table

Phrase Match

Like exact match, phrase match triggers ads when a user’s search query matches the keyword exactly (or is a very close variant).

However, it will also trigger ads when the search query includes additional words before or after the keyword. For example, the phrase match keyword ‘dining table’ would also show if someone searched for ‘oak dining table’ or ‘dining table sale’.

Phrase match table

Broad Match

Broad match keywords will show ads for a wide range of queries that may be closely or broadly related to the keywords themselves.

Users can see ads with broad match keywords if:

  • They search for synonyms (for example, ‘sneaker’, ‘loafer’, ‘pump’ or ‘sandals’ would show for ‘shoe’)
  • They search for words in a different order
  • They search using long-tail queries that broadly relate to the subject matter
  • They use incorrect spellings (‘shoo’ rather than ‘shoe’)

Broad match table

Broad Match Modifier

Broad match modifier is effectively a cross between broad and phrase match. It offers a greater level of targeting control than broad match, because it won’t display ads when users search for synonyms or related searches. And unlike phrase match, it will show ads when users search for words in a different order.

To use Broad Match Modifier, you place a modifier (+) in front of one or more words in a broad match which you need to appear exactly as is or as a close variant in your potential customer’s search.

Broad match modifier

Negative Match

While other match types let you control the search queries for which ads will appear, negative match lets you define queries that will stop ads triggering.

At this stage in your audit, you should make sure you have a solid list of these ‘negatives’ at account level. The obvious candidates are potentially offensive keywords, but there may be more obvious negatives that are specific to your industry or brand.

At a later stage, you should build this list out at campaign level – but only when you have a better understanding of which keywords convert, and which don’t.

Negative match table

Why are Match Types Important?

Auditing and optimising your match types is crucial. Without control of your keyword targeting, you won’t have control of your budget. This is because clicks that come from irrelevant, non-targeted search queries are less likely to convert.

Each different match type affords a greater degree of control over targeting (and therefore budget). Exact match offers the most control, followed by phrase match, modified broad match and broad match. We would recommend the following breakdown:

Match type pyramid chart

Broad match should be avoided most of the time, as broad match ads are likely to appear for low-value and irrelevant queries.

You could set your ads to broad match, then use long, extensive lists of negatives to filter out irrelevant search queries. However, this would be a long, strenuous task – it’s much easier to simply get your match types right in the first place.

In an ideal world, your account would have all keywords set to exact match, with all possible keyword variations covered. This would allow the maximum level of control over targeting and budget.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. So we have to use phrase match and modified broad match to help us reach our customers without spending several epochs optimising our campaigns.

We recommend using an equal balance of exact match and phrase match to ensure you’re capturing all traffic. Then, using the Search terms report, you can identify opportunities for keyword expansion using the search queries that have come through on phrase match.

Broad match modifier should be used selectively as an extension on your converting keywords to expand coverage, reaching out further for those long tail targeted keywords and rolled out on an account where you have extensive exact and phrase coverage.

What To Do Next?

Get Your BidCops Match Type Audit. BidCops is our free PPC reporting tool. It can audit your account in seconds and report on your match-type efficiency. At a glance, you can see your budget broken down by match type. This can help you deduce if you’re wasting money on irrelevant clicks caused by broad match keywords.

Plus, you can see the number of clicks received for each match type. If this dashboard shows a heavy reliance on broad match keywords, you should think about revising your match types.

Alternatively, contact us for an Expert AdWords Audit for a thorough analysis of your account’s match type performers.

This post is adapted and abridged from our FREE eBook – The Best-Practice Guide to AdWords Audits: Part One

Download your copy now to discover how to structure a successful AdWords campaign and keep up-to-date with Google’s guidelines.

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