Keyword Match Types

Odd as it sounds, the first thing we’re going to review in this tutorial on choosing keywords is the concept of keyword match types. For a lot of newcomers to search marketing, setting match types is always something to consider after choosing keywords, and, having chosen your keywords, trying to set the match type one-by-one is often extremely overwhelming. The trick is to think of matching options as they apply to your entire ad group, and to think of them as a tool for selecting keywords — perhaps the most important one — rather than something to apply to your keywords after making your selection.

There are three matching options: broad, phrase and exact. (There’s a fourth if you include “negative,” which we’ll get to in the next part of the series.) Here is how each of the options works:

Exact Match

The easiest match type to understand is exact match, because it’s the most limited. Simply put, your exact match keywords are only triggered when users search for exactly that phrase.

For instance, if your exact match keyword is “backpacks,” your ads are only triggered when users search for exactly the term “backpacks,” and not for “red backpacks” or for “backpack” in the singular. This also works for multi-word keyword phrases: if your exact match keyword phrase is “purple shoes,” your ads are only triggered by that search phrase, and not by “purple tennis shoes” or “red and purple shoes.”

To set a keyword as an exact match, put it into square brackets, as in [backpack] or [purple shoes].

Phrase Match

Slightly less limited than exact match is phrase match. With phrase match, your ads are triggered by any queries that include your keyword or keyword phrase.

For instance, if your phrase-matched keyword is “black shoes,” your ads are triggered by that phrase, as well as by “brand name black shoes” or “black shoes for sale.” However, your ads aren’t triggered by queries that include the words in your keyword phrase in a different order, or that include terms in between, such as “black running shoes” or “shoes for sale black.”

To set a keyword or keyword phrase as a phrase match, put it into quotes, as in “black shoes” or “black running shoes.”

Broad Match

The default setting for keywords is broad match. In addition to searches for your exact keyword or keyword phrase, ads associated with your broad match keywords are also triggered by queries that include other words (both before and after the phrase, or in between words in your phrase), queries that include words from your keyword phrase in a different order, and queries that include terms similar to those in your keyword phrase, such as plurals of synonyms.

For instance, if your broad match keyword is “flower,” your ads could be triggered by the searches “flowers,” “roses,” “purple flowers” or “tulips.”

To set keywords to broad, simply type them in without brackets or quotation marks, as in flower. By default, all your keywords are set to broad match.

(The last match type, again, is negative match, but we’ll reserve that for another tutorial.)

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantages and disadvantages of the various keyword match types are pretty easy to understand:

Exact match allows you to target users very precisely and cheaply because it limits the searchers who will see your ads. Broad match, on the other hand, displays your ads to a wider audience, but results in more irrelevant clicks.

The goal, of course, is to present your ads to as wide an audience as possible, but without over-paying. No single match type will help you achieve this goal, but a combination of match types will: to get the benefits of broad match (a wide audience) and exact match (lower costs), use both. First, use a small number of broad match keywords to determine which queries drive clicks. Then, switch to a larger set of exact match keywords that you already know will perform. In the next tutorial, we’ll show you exactly how to do this.