Updated June 2021 due to the change from Google about how phrase match works and the sunsetting of broad match modified.
Google Ads keyword match types are your tool to help control which searches your ads will show for on the search engine results page. Account efficiency is vital in ensuring your ad spend is being used in the best possible way.
There are three main keyword match types, broad match, phrase match and exact match. Each of these match types has its uses, advantages and disadvantages. In most cases, a combination of each match type works the best.
Pros: More volume than any other match type, find new keyword opportunities Cons: Less control, ads may appear for unrelated searches
Google says “Ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches and other relevant variations” This sounds ok but in real practice, you can find broad match keywords triggering your ads for a number of unrelated search terms.
One of our main areas of work is finance. If we were using a broad match keyword Car Insurance For Young Drivers. Google would look for anything broadly related to car, insurance, young, and driver. Searches for generic car insurance, driving lessons, cars for young drivers or gadget insurance could trigger our ad, amongst many others.
In this example, ads could get clicked that would have very little chance of converting or, due to how the Google Ads auction works, the less relevant your ads are, the more you have to pay per click.
For the above reasons, broad match keywords should usually be used sparingly and in conjunction with a strong negative keyword strategy. You would also bid the lowest for broad match keywords.
Broad Match Modified
This keyword match type is no longer available to add. But if you have existing broad match modified keywords, these will still work as the updated phrase match. The below description is how broad match modified used to work. We decided to leave this here so people can understand the differences about how this keyword match typed used to work compared to now.
Pros: More volume than phrase or exact match, find new keyword opportunities, more control than broad match Cons: Less control than phrase or exact match, ads may still appear for unrelated searches
Google says “Similar to broad match, except that the broad match modifier option only shows ads in searches that include the words with a plus sign ‘+’ in front of them (+women’s hats), or close variations of the ‘+’ terms”
Broad match modified, or BMM for short, gives you the option to mark certain keywords with a ‘+’, this means that as in our example above for broad match, +Car +Insurance For +Young +Drivers would not appear for the irrelevant searches also mentioned above, as the search must include the words marked with a +. If we just put a modifier on some of the keywords, Car +Insurance For +Young Drivers, for example, you could show for a search of “Gadget insurance for young person” So you do get more control, but you need to consider your keywords carefully.
You would still need to monitor what searches are triggering your ads, adding new relevant terms and blocking the irrelevant ones. As you have more control, you can bid more competitively for BMM keywords compared to broad match.
The way phrase match works has been updated in 2021.
Pros: More control than broad match, find new keyword opportunities Cons: Lower volume than broad match
Google says “Ads may show on searches that match a phrase, or close variations of that phrase, which may include additional words before or after. Ads won’t show, however, if a word is added to the middle of the phrase that changes the meaning of the phrase”
Phrase match keywords are identified by the use of quotation marks. “Car Insurance For Young Drivers” will show for “Cheapest Car Insurance For Young Drivers” or “Car Insurance for Young Drivers In London” but won’t show for “Young Drivers Car Insurance” as the order is different.
Phrase match keywords give you much more control as the order of the keywords must remain the same but as a result, you will often find the volume lower than broad match. Bid higher for phrase match than you would do for broad but also keep investigating new keyword possibilities you may be missing if you’re not including broad match keywords.
Pros: The highest level of control, match ads very specifically Cons: Lowest volume of all match types, won’t help you discover so many new keyword opportunities
Google says “Ads may show on searches that match the exact term or are close variations of that exact term. Close variants include searches for keywords with the same meaning as the exact keywords, regardless of spelling or grammar differences between the query and the keyword.”
By marking keywords like this [Car Insurance For Young Drivers] you have much more control over what searches your ads will be eligible for. Google would show your ad for a search “Motor Insurance For Young Drivers” as it would see car and motor as being a close variant. But it wouldn’t be eligible for “Car Insurance” or “Car Insurance for Drivers In London” as these are either missing certain keywords or have keywords added at either the beginning or end.
As exact match gives the highest level of control, as long as you know it converts well, you would usually bid higher for exact match keywords than any other match type. But similarly to phrase match, you will need to put the work in to find new keyword opportunities.
The above is a very basic overview of how keyword match types in Google Ads work. Each has its uses and its challenges.
Digital marketing, as in life is all about balance. Use too much broad match and you will find a lot of your ad spend wasted on irrelevant searches. Put too much focus on control by only using exact match, and you could find yourself missing out on a huge number of new opportunities. But, used collectively along with negative keyword lists, your Google Ads account can run efficiently and find new opportunities.
Here at Optimyzd, we handle accounts with thousands of keywords using a mix of match types, mostly phrase and exact match, if you would like to find out more about we could help you with Google Ads, or any other digital platform, feel free to get in touch with us.