How To Utilise Different Match Types in Paid Search

Written by Conor Ross

Conor specialises in data visualisation, designing and creating bespoke data dashboards and automated reports with Google Data Studio. With a background in Psychology and Research Methods, he also works on projects focused on improving customer experience and website usability through A/B Testing and Personalisation in Google Optimize.
April 5, 2019


Understanding Keyword Match Types in Paid Search

When you’re using paid search ad platforms like Google Ads or Bing Ads, choosing the right keywords to target is pretty important…well, actually, it’s really important. Doing your keyword research and picking the right keywords can make or break a campaign.

But, don’t think choosing keywords is all you need to do. It’s just as important to ensure you choose the right keyword match types. Confused about Match Types? – Read on to find out everything you need to know about how picking the wrong match type can affect your search campaigns.


Should I Care About Keyword Match Types?

The short answer, yes! The long answer is that match types help you control how closely the keyword should match the user’s search term, in order to trigger your ad – so they affect the number of clicks, and impressions your ads received, how targeted the audience is and how much you pay for that audience to click on your ad.

Understanding match types is essential to running a successful search campaign. There are 4 different keyword match types available: broad match, broad match modifier, exact match and phrase match. Each of these offers advantages and disadvantages that you should take into account before launching your campaigns.


How Broad is Broad Match?

It’s pretty broad. As its name suggests, Broad Match allows you to reach the widest possible audience. This is the default setting on both Google Ads & Bing Ads. All you have to do is add in your targeted keywords, click save, and BOOM! you’re off to the races. Your keywords are placed in Broad Match by default, which can be problematic once you understand how it works.

With Broad Match, your ads are eligible to appear whenever a user searches any word in your key phrase, in any order – it also allows misspellings and synonyms to trigger your ads.

For example, if you use broad match on the keyword “men’s hats”, your ad might show when a someone searches for “women’s hats”, “men’s scarves”, or “men’s fedoras”.

The broader the match type, the greater the reach. However, as reach increases, relevancy can often decrease as ads may show for less relevant searches. So Broad Match will increase the number of impressions and clicks you get, but these clicks will more than likely be from irrelevant traffic.

So, if you decide to use broad match, it’s important to check the Search Terms Report to ensure you’re not spending money on irrelevant keyword traffic that isn’t converting.


+Broad Match Modifier – A Less Broad, Broad Match

If you like the idea of using Broad Match but you’re worried about irrelevant traffic, try Broad Match Modifier. BMM sits between phrase and broad match, it’s still broad but it offers more control over the queries that trigger your ads. So, you’re getting good reach, but it’s a more targeted (and relevant) audience your reaching.

By adding a + before a modified term in the keyword, you are telling Google that any keyword with the + sign in front of it has to be included in the search query. Therefore, this match type will retain a high amount of impressions but, compared to the broad match type, the search queries are more relevant.

For example, if your keyword is +blue +socks the search terms that trigger your ad could be:

  • Socks in blue colour
  • Blue socks for girls
  • Blue boy socks

Your ad won’t show for queries where the keywords are not present, like:

  • Blue skirts for girls
  • Red Socks

To create broad match modifier keywords, just add a + sign in front of each keyword when adding them to your campaign.


Phrase Match – A Good Choice for Tight Budgets

Phrase Match will pick up search queries with your keyword in them, but it may have additional words before and after your keyword. However, the keywords must be in the same order as mentioned by you.

For the keyword “pink pyjamas”, for example, you may appear in searches like:

  • Pink pyjamas for girls
  • Girls pink pyjamas
  • Pink pyjamas set

Your ad would not appear in searches like:

  • Red pyjamas for girls
  • Pyjamas in pink colour
  • Pink and printed pyjamas

This match type reduces irrelevant traffic. However, it tends to have fewer impressions which can lead to a higher click-through-rates and a higher quality score. All of this can lead to a lower cost-per-click. This makes Phrase Match a great choice if you are working with a limited budget.

To create phrase match keywords, add quotation marks around them – “green tennis shoes”.


Exact Match – Not as Exact as it Used to Be

The name says it all (or well, it used to). In days gone by, with Exact Match your keyword was only triggered when the search query exactly matched your keyword. So, if I was bidding on the keyword [soft toy], my ad would only show up for people who entered that exact phrase.

This is still the case for Bing Ads, but from 2018 Google Ads have been doing things differently. Google has changed how exact, exact match keywords, have to be to trigger ads. They now include:

  • Misspellings
  • Plurals
  • Acronyms
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents
  • Semantically Similar Queries

For example, if your keyword is [men’s dress shirt] your ad could be triggered by search queries such as:

  • Mens dress shirt
  • Dress shirt men’s
  • Men dress shirt

Despite this, Exact Match still gives you the greatest control over what queries trigger your keywords and ads.  So, if you want only relevant traffic and a high conversion rate, this is the match type for you. Just like Phrase Match, it works great for anyone with a tight budget. The obvious downside is that you are limiting the number of impressions your ads will get. This will help cost and conversion rate, but you may be limiting your ad campaign due to the smaller amount of impressions you will be receiving.

To create exact match keywords, add brackets around them, [Just Like This] when adding them to your campaign.


Getting the Balance of Match Types Right

All 4 match types are important and powerful tools in your Google Ads or Bing campaigns. However, every account and every campaign is unique, so the match types that you should use to best fit your campaigns will be different too.

The best advice is to try different match types and combinations, and monitor the performance of your keywords. Yes, you can set up entire ad campaigns only utilizing one match types, but to do so would be missing out on the various opportunities that each gives you. So, evaluate your budget and advertising goals, and determine how to best use all of the match types in order to succeed!

For more information on Google Ads or Bing Ads, please feel free to contact us at, or leave a comment below and we’d be happy to answer any questions!




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