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Understanding Google Ads Keyword Match Types

Ever launched a Google Ads campaign and felt like you were casting spells in the dark? The secret sauce? It’s all in the keyword match type.

Think of it as the magic wand in your PPC ad toolkit, where a simple tweak can turn your campaign from a pumpkin into a golden carriage.

Dive in, and let’s unravel this enigma of Google Ads keyword match types together.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

The Basics: What are Keyword Match Types?

Navigating the vast ocean of Google Ads can feel like being a sailor without a compass. But fear not!

The compass you’re looking for? It’s the keyword match types.

Illustration of a Keyword match types Compass

These are the tools that guide your ads to the right shores, ensuring you’re not lost at sea (or in the vast digital marketplace).

Let’s embark on this voyage and decode the mysteries of these match types.

Broad Match

Ahoy! First up, we have the broad match.

This is the default match type when you set sail on your Google Ads journey.

Think of it as casting a wide net into the sea, hoping to catch all sorts of fish.

Your ad might show up for searches that are somewhat related to your keyword, even if they aren’t exact matches.

  • Example: If your keyword is “fishing rods,” your ad might appear for “fishing equipment” or even “fishing vacations.”
  • Pros: Great for visibility and reaching a broader audience.
  • Cons: Can lead to irrelevant clicks and higher costs.

Phrase Match

Next, we anchor at the phrase match keyword.

This type ensures your keyword appears in a specific order in the search query. It’s like fishing with a specific bait, targeting a particular type of fish.

  • Example: If your keyword is “deep-sea fishing,” your ad might show for “deep-sea fishing trips” but not for “fishing in the deep sea.”
  • Pros: More targeted than broad match, leading to more relevant clicks.
  • Cons: Might miss out on some broader search terms.

Exact Match

Now, we’re diving deep with the exact match keyword.

As the name suggests, it’s all about precision.

Your ad will only show if the searcher types in the exact keyword or very close variations of it.

  • Example: If you bid on “fishing boat,” only searches for “fishing boat” or minor variations like “fishing boats” will trigger your ad.
  • Pros: Highly targeted, ensuring only the most relevant clicks.
  • Cons: Limits the reach since it’s very specific.

Negative Match

Lastly, we have the unsung hero of our voyage, the negative keyword.

This match type ensures your ad doesn’t show for certain search terms.

It’s like having a filter on your fishing net, ensuring you don’t catch unwanted fish.

  • Example: If you’re selling luxury watches and use “cheap” as a negative keyword, your ad won’t show for searches like “cheap luxury watches.”
  • Pros: Saves money by avoiding irrelevant clicks.
  • Cons: If not used carefully, you might miss out on potential customers.

To get a more hands-on understanding dive deeper into keyword research here.

Remember, just like a sailor adjusts sails based on the wind, you should adjust your keyword match types based on your campaign goals and performance.

Why Match Types Matter: A Real-Life Scenario

Imagine you’re hosting a grand party, and you’ve sent out invitations. You’ve got a list, but you’ve also told your friends they can bring a plus one.

The night of the event, your doorbell rings incessantly.

Some guests you recognize, some you don’t, and some… well, let’s just say they weren’t exactly the crowd you were aiming for.

This, my friend, is what can happen when you use broad match without a strategy in your Google Ads account.

Let’s dive into a real-life scenario to understand the power and pitfalls of match types.

The Broad Match Gala

Using broad match is like sending out an open invitation to your party.

Your ads may show up for a variety of search terms, even if they aren’t directly related to your exact keyword.

It’s a great way to get visibility, but without the right strategy, it can lead to uninvited guests (or clicks).

  • Example: You sell “vintage wine glasses.” With broad match, your ad might show up for “wine glass cleaning tips” or “wine tasting events.”
  • Pros: Maximum visibility. Your ad can appear for a wide range of search terms.
  • Cons: Can lead to irrelevant clicks, which means wasted ad spend.

The Importance of Order

When you specify a phrase match, it’s like telling your doorman (Google) to only let guests in if they say a specific password in the exact order.

This ensures a more relevant audience, but there’s still room for surprises.

  • Example: Your keyword is “red leather boots.” Your ad might show for “buy red leather boots” but not for “leather boots in red.”
  • Pros: More control over who sees your ad.
  • Cons: Might miss out on potential customers who phrase their searches differently.

The VIP Lounge

Using exact match is like hosting a VIP event.

Only those on the list (search terms that match your keyword exactly) get in.

It’s exclusive, precise, and ensures that only the most relevant searchers see your ad.

  • Example: Your keyword is “men’s gold watch.” Only searches for this exact term or very close variations will trigger your ad.
  • Pros: Highly targeted, ensuring the most relevant clicks.
  • Cons: Can limit the overall reach of your ad.

The Do Not Enter List

Lastly, negative keywords act as your bouncer, ensuring certain search terms don’t trigger your ads.

It’s a way to filter out unwanted guests and make sure your ad spend is used efficiently.

  • Example: You sell luxury watches. By adding “cheap” as a negative keyword, you would ensure your ad won’t show for searches like “cheap luxury watches.”
  • Pros: Avoids wasted spend on irrelevant clicks.
  • Cons: If not used carefully, can exclude potential customers.

To further understand how these match types play out in the competitive landscape, check out this competitive keyword analysis guide.

In the world of Google Ads, understanding match types is like mastering the guest list for the perfect party.

It’s all about balance, strategy, and ensuring the right people walk through your door (or click on your ad).

Crafting Your Strategy: Tips from a Battle-Tested Pro

Picture this: You’re a general preparing for a grand battle.

Your weapons? Google Ads keyword match types. Your strategy? Well, that’s what we’re here to craft.

Just like in any battle, knowing your weapons is only half the battle; using them effectively is where the real challenge lies.

Let’s dive into the trenches and carve out a battle-tested strategy for your Google Ads campaign.

Understanding Your Arsenal

Before we charge into the battlefield, it’s crucial to know each weapon in your arsenal and when to use it.

Each keyword match type serves a unique purpose, and using them strategically can be the difference between a triumphant victory and a crushing defeat.

  • Broad Match: This is your infantry, covering the most ground but may not always hit the target. Use it to gain visibility, especially when starting a new campaign.
  • Phrase Match: Think of this as your archers, precise and targeted. They ensure your ads show up when specific phrases are used in the exact order.
  • Exact Match: Your elite knights. They only engage when the exact keyword or very close variations are used, ensuring precision.
  • Negative Match: The moat around your castle, keeping unwanted search terms at bay. Use it to exclude irrelevant terms and protect your budget.

Crafting the Perfect Attack

Now that we know our troops, how do we deploy them for maximum impact? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Start Broad, Then Narrow Down: Begin with broad match keywords to gather data on what users are searching for. This gives you a lay of the land.
    • Tip: Monitor the search terms report to see which queries triggered your ads. This can give insights into potential negative keywords or new opportunities.
  • Refine with Phrase and Exact Match: Once you have enough data, start targeting more specific terms using phrase and exact match. This ensures your ads are shown to the most relevant audience.
    • Tip: Use A/B testing to determine which match type gives the best results for specific keywords.
  • Defend with Negative Match: As you gather more data, you’ll find search terms that aren’t relevant to your business. Add these as negative keywords to ensure your ads don’t show for these terms.
  • Stay Agile and Adapt: The digital battlefield is ever-evolving. Regularly review your keyword strategy, adjust bids, and explore new opportunities. For instance, with the rise of mobile searches, ensure your ads are optimized for mobile devices. Get tips on mobile optimization here.

In the grand scheme of Google Ads warfare, it’s not just about knowing your weapons but also about deploying them effectively.

With the right strategy, you’ll not only conquer the digital battlefield but also see a triumphant return on your ad spend. Onward to victory!

Advanced Techniques: Beyond the Basics

So, you’ve mastered the basics of Google Ads keyword match types. Congratulations!

But, as with any craft, there’s always another layer to uncover, another technique to learn.

Let’s venture into the advanced territories of Google Ads, where the real magic happens. Ready to level up?

Quality Score Matters

The Quality Score is like the GPA of your Google Ads.

It’s a metric that evaluates the quality and relevance of your keywords and ads. But why does it matter?

  • Understanding the Score: Google uses the Quality Score to determine your ad rank and how much you pay per click. It’s based on three factors: ad relevance, expected click-through rate (CTR), and landing page experience.
    • Tip: Regularly review your Quality Score to identify areas of improvement. A higher score can lead to better ad positions and lower costs.
  • Improving Your Score: Focus on creating relevant ad copy, optimizing your landing pages, and refining your keyword list. Remember, it’s not just about getting clicks, but about providing value.
    • Real-life Example: Imagine searching for “vegan leather boots” and landing on a page showcasing fur boots. Disappointing, right? Ensure your landing page aligns with your ad and keyword.

Ad Extensions Can Boost Relevancy

Think of ad extensions as the cherry on top of your ad sundae.

They provide additional information, making your ads more relevant and enticing.

  • Types of Extensions: From site link extensions that showcase specific pages of your site to call extensions that allow users to directly call your business, there’s a variety of extensions to explore.
    • Tip: Use the keyword tool for research to identify which extensions might be most relevant for your audience.
  • Boosting Click-Through Rates: By providing more information and options to users, ad extensions can significantly boost your CTR.
    • Real-life Example: If you’re advertising a local bakery, a location extension can show users how close they are to a fresh croissant!

Consider the User’s Journey

Every user is on a journey, and understanding this journey can help you craft more effective ads.

  • Mapping the Journey: From awareness to consideration to decision, users move through different stages. Tailor your ads and keywords to match each stage.
    • Tip: Use modified broad match keywords for the awareness stage, and exact match keywords for the decision stage.
  • Aligning with Intent: Ensure your ad aligns with the user’s intent at each stage. Someone in the awareness stage might be looking for general information, while someone in the decision stage might be ready to buy.
    • Real-life Example: A user searching for “best DSLR cameras” is likely in the research phase. An ad showcasing a comparison of top models would be more relevant than one pushing for an immediate sale.

✏️ For more insights on aligning your ads with the user’s journey, check out smart bidding strategies.

In the advanced realm of Google Ads, it’s all about fine-tuning, understanding deeper metrics, and aligning with the user’s intent.

With these techniques in your toolkit, you’re well on your way to becoming a Google Ads master.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Ah, the treacherous waters of Google Ads!

While it’s a powerful tool, it’s also easy to make mistakes that can sink your campaign faster than you can say “negative keyword”.

But fear not! With a bit of guidance and some real-life tales of woe (and how to avoid them), you can navigate these waters like a seasoned captain.

Avoiding Over-Reliance on Broad Match

Broad match is like that tempting all-you-can-eat buffet.

It promises so much, but sometimes, you end up with a plate full of things you didn’t really want.

  • The Trap: Relying too heavily on broad matches can lead to your ad showing up for irrelevant searches. This can drain your budget without delivering results.
    • Real-life Example: Imagine you sell “apple pies”. A broad match might show your ad to someone searching for “apple tech support”. Not quite the hungry customer you were hoping for!
  • The Solution: Balance is key. Use broad match to discover new keywords, but refine with phrase and exact match as you gather data.
    • Tip: Regularly review your google ads account to see which search terms triggered your ads. Adjust your strategy based on this data.

Learn more about the nuances of broad match and other common Google Ads mistakes here.

Forgetting Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are the unsung heroes of a successful Google Ads campaign. They ensure your ad doesn’t show for irrelevant searches.

  • The Trap: Forgetting to set negative keywords can lead to wasted ad spend and lower ROI.
    • Real-life Example: Let’s go back to our “apple pies” example. Without setting “tech” as a negative keyword, you might end up paying for clicks from tech enthusiasts instead of pie lovers.
  • The Solution: Regularly update your negative keyword list based on the search terms report and industry research.
    • Tip: Think about the broader context of your product or service. What other meanings might your keyword have? Exclude them!

For a deeper dive into the art of negative keywords, check out this guide.

Not Reviewing and Adjusting

Set it and forget it? Not in the world of Google Ads!

  • The Trap: Not regularly reviewing and adjusting your campaign can lead to missed opportunities and dwindling performance.
    • Real-life Example: Imagine you set a campaign during the holiday season but forgot to adjust bids and keywords after. January rolls around, and you’re still advertising “holiday discounts”!
  • The Solution: Schedule regular check-ins for your campaign. Adjust bids, explore new keywords, and refine your strategy based on performance data.

In the dynamic world of Google Ads, staying vigilant and proactive is the name of the game.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you’re setting yourself up for success.


Navigating the intricate maze of Google Ads keyword match types might feel like deciphering an ancient code.

But remember, every pro was once a beginner.

By applying the insights and strategies we’ve journeyed through, you’re not just ticking boxes; you’re crafting a narrative for your brand.

Ready for the next level? Dive deeper into scaling your Google Ads efforts and let your story unfold.


How many types of keyword match types are there in Google Ads?

There are four main keyword match types in Google Ads: Broad Match, Phrase Match, Exact Match, and Negative Match.

What are Broad Match keywords?

Broad Match is the default match type and will show your ad to a wide audience. It triggers your ad for searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations.

How does the Phrase Match keyword work?

Phrase Match shows your ad when a user searches for your exact keyword phrase, even if they add additional words before or after it. The search query must have the exact phrase in the order you’ve specified.

What are Exact Match keywords?

Exact Match ensures your ad is shown only when someone searches for your exact keyword or close variants of it. Close variants include minor misspellings or very similar terms.

How can I use Negative Match keywords?

Negative Match allows you to exclude specific words or phrases, ensuring your ad doesn’t show for those terms. It’s useful to prevent your ad from appearing for irrelevant searches.

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder is a Google Ads and SaaS marketing consultant. He has been managing $200k-$300k monthly ad spend and has worked with 200+ SaaS companies. The thing that makes him unique is his data-led approach and his focus on SaaS businesses.