If you are planning to do search engine advertising through Google Ads, it’s critical that you master the keyword match types system. The keyword match types are an indispensable feature that determines how closely the targeted keyword needs to match a search query for an ad to appear. There are three keyword match types for targeting; They range from more general to more specific. They are:

  • Broad match
  • Phrase match
  • Exact match

Here are descriptions of each match type in Google’s own words:

Broad—”Ads may show on searches that are related to your keyword, which can include searches that don’t contain the targeted keyword terms.” This is the loosest of the match types. Using it will generate the most impressions, the most clicks, and the most costs, but it is the least focused for targeting. It normally should not be used much for this reason. Broad match keywords are input into Google Ads normally, without any special formatting, such as photographer for hire.

Phrase—”Ads may show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. The meaning of the keyword can be implied, and user searches can be a more specific form of the meaning.” This is the middle option when it comes to the specificity in ad targeting. It will lead to more impressions, clicks, and costs than exact match but less than broad match. Phrase match keywords are input into Google Ads with quotation marks, such as “photographer for hire”.

Exact— Ads may show on searches that have the same meaning or same intent as the keyword. Of the three keyword matching options, exact match gives the most control over who views your ad but reaches fewer searches than both phrase and broad match. Exact match keywords are input into Google Ads with brackets, such as [photographer for hire]

In years past, it was necessary to add every relevant keyword variation separately, such as plurals, common misspellings, and other versions. These days that’s not necessary because the system automatically includes “close variants” of the keywords you use.

Negative match

There is another match type, but it’s not meant to help trigger ads. It’s meant to do the opposite: prevent ads from being triggered. It’s called negative match. You can use negative keywords to exclude your ads from showing on searches with that term. For example, if you’re a hat company that doesn’t sell baseball hats, you could add a negative keyword for baseball hats.

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Negative keywords are a crucial part of search engine advertising and can be an enormous cost saver. Good campaign management involves looking at the search queries that lead to ad clicks, finding ones that were not productive, and then adding them as negative keywords. Your collection of negative keywords should always be growing. It will be one of the biggest assets you have to help you spend wisely so you get the most out of your budget.

Negative keywords can be added at either the campaign or ad group level. There are two ways that they can be added:

  1. Directly in a campaign or ad group
  2. Through a negative keyword list

To add them directly, click Keywords in the left navigation panel, then Negative Keywords. You’ll be able to choose a campaign or ad group for them to be applied and then type or paste them in a field, one per line.

A negative keyword list is something that is created in your Shared Library (found in Tools and Settings). The advantage of using a keyword list is that it can easily be applied in different places, such as different ad groups or campaigns.

Here are some important things to know about negative keywords:

  • They don’t match to plurals or other close variants, so you’ll need to add every plural and variant you can think of separately.
  • It’s better to keep them short, like one or two words, so they work more broadly. For example, let’s say somebody searched the words free mechanic services, and that led to an impression and click for an auto mechanic’s ad. The mechanic could add that complete phrase as a negative keyword, but they could also just add the word free as the negative keyword. Adding the whole phrase will only prevent the ad from showing for searches that have all three words in the search with the exact same spelling. Adding the word free only will prevent the ad from showing for any search that has the word

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How match types should affect your bids

To truly master the keyword match types, it’s important to see them in perspective with your bids. More general targeting (like broad match) means that you are ceding some control in order to get more volume. In this case, you might want to lower your bids because your ads are more likely to be triggered for unrelated searches, i.e., ones that don’t seem to be good prospects for your business. On the other hand, more specific targeting (like exact match) gives you more control over the types of searches that trigger your ads. It normally makes sense to bid higher for exact match keywords.

When choosing keywords to target, it’s a good idea to consider the concept of commercial intent. That means asking yourself if the keyword is more informational (meaning they just want to read information), navigational (meaning they just want to find a certain website), or commercial (meaning they are interested in doing business). Keyword phrases like “buy a bicycle” or “electrician for hire” have commercial intent. You might want to bid more aggressively for this type of search, especially when using exact match.

Five tips for using the match types properly

  1. Remember that broad match is best for getting the most volume of impressions and clicks, but it can lower the quality/relevance level between the search query and your business offerings because it is more general.
  2. Remember that exact match gives the most control and is the most conservative approach since it requires more specificity.
  3. Phrase match can be a good middle-ground between volume and specificity.
  4. Consider how you might want to bid differently for the different match types. Exact match provides more control, so it might be beneficial to bid more aggressively. Broad match is more general and might trigger your ad for more irrelevant searches, so it usually makes sense to bid less for broad match.
  5. Negative keywords are a crucial, money-saving tool that should always be used to the maximum. Make it a routine to add new negative keywords on a regular basis.