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A Guide to AdWords Keyword Match Types

This blog will take you through the three main keyword match types and how to get the most out of your PPC campaigns.

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Keyword match types are super-important in Google AdWords. It’s not enough just to stick 100 broad match keywords in an adgroup and hope for the best. By using different keyword match types in your adgroups, you can better qualify the users who see your ads and ensure that your ads appear to the right people.

In AdWords, there are three main keyword match types: broad, phrase and exact (there is also broad modified, and negative, which I’ll explain further down). You should ideally use a mixture of all three keyword types in order to get the most out of your campaigns. However, that is not to say that you should use all three match types for every keyword in your account! There is however, no harm in including more than one match type per keyword, and seeing which works best for you.

Google AdWords Keyword Match Types

Broad match

Broad match is the keyword match type that’ll get you the most impressions (when your ad is triggered by a user, whether they click or not). The problem with that is, they might not be impressions that you want. These users will see your ads, but they’re never going to click on them, and this’ll force down your clickthrough rate. For example, say you sell walking boots. Using the broad match keyword “walking boots” will get you found for that query, but it might also get you found for “boots uk” or “ankle boots”, neither of which are particularly relevant.

Phrase match

Phrase match keywords are shown in AdWords with quote marks round them, e.g. “walking boots”. If you use this match type, your ads will be triggered if the user searches for those words in that exact order, with or without additional words either side. So “walking boots”  could trigger an ad if someone searches for “walking boots”, “leather walking boots” or “walking boots for kids”.

Exact match

Exact match has the narrowest focus of the three keyword types. With exact match, the search query must exactly match the keyword (spelling, word order etc) in order for your ad to be triggered. In AdWords, exact match keywords have square brackets around them. This match type is very good for getting super-relevant traffic and maximising the number of conversions you get, but be careful – too narrow a focus could limit the number of impressions your ads get.

So, those are the three main match types, but as I mentioned above, there are two others that you definitely need to use in your campaigns as well:

Negative keywords

Negative keywords are an essential part of any AdWords campaign. You can use these to cut down the number of irrelevant impressions your ads receive (handy if you’re using a lot of broad match keywords), making sure that your ads appear only for relevant queries. For example you could  add words like “holidays” or “dog” to your negative keyword list to stop your ads for walking boots showing up for “walking holidays” or “dog walking”.

Modified broad match

Modified broad match is somewhere between broad match and phrase match. It basically allows you to specify which word(s) in your keyword phrase you want your ads to show for. You simply add a + modifier to any or all of the keywords in a phrase, so “walking boots” would become “+walking +boots”. Any keywords with a + in front of them must be included in the search query in some way (in any order) for your ad to show. So your ad would show for “kids walking boots”, but not for “ankle boots” or “hiking boots”.

Here’s a useful little tool for modifying those broad match keywords so you don’t have to do it all by hand. You can add the + modifier in front of all, or specify it to only appear before certain words, depending on your requirements.

Further reading:

AdWords “Modified Broad Match”: Improve your PPC campaign

Team Hallam Top Tips: Starting out with Google AdWords

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