PPC Keyword Match Types Explained


Whether you use AdWords or BingAds (hopefully both), there are several ways you can present your keywords to search engines. This is referred to as “match types” which allow advertisers to specify how much control they want to give to the search engines when connecting target keywords to a user’s actual search query.
Let’s pretend I own a shoe store (Please remember – I do not own a shoe store, but this offers a good example for this blog).  One of the keywords I want to target is mens dress shoes. Let’s run through each match type using this keyword and the kinds of search queries your keywords can be connected to for each match type. As you are reading, think of your own account and how you might want to utilize each kind of match types when targeting certain keywords.

Broad Match Keywords

This is the basic keyword type. A broad match is giving the search engines free reign to associate your keywords to whatever search terms they see fit based on their database collection of past searches. For example, here is how my target keyword in true broad match could be associated with actual search queries.

Target Keyword: mens dress shoes

Possible Search Query Connections: boys fancy shoes, mens loafers, dress boots

Now as the advertiser, you have the tools to see the actual search queries that trigger your keywords. What if my store doesn’t sell shoes for boys or kids, and I’m seeing a lot of those searches triggering my ads? I can either add “boys” as a negative keyword, or I can upgrade my match type to:

Modified Broad Match Keywords

Adding a plus sign (+) in front of each keyword makes sure that your ads won’t show unless all those “plused” words are part of the user’s search query. In the example below, I added a plus in front of “mens” and “shoes.” This means that the words “mens” and  “shoes” has to be in the user’s search.

Target Keyword: +mens dress +shoes

Possible Search Query Connections: mens oxford shoes, mens derby shoes

The “plus” sign entered before your keyword makes those specific words mandatory, therefore you see the words “mens” ands “mens” and “shoes” are a part of every search query. There is also a more specific and modified broad match type that makes sure every word of your keyword is included in the user’s search query. This gives the advertiser more control than the other broad match keyword we just saw. Let’s see the full modified broad match example:

Target Keyword: +mens +dress +shoes

Possible Search Query Connections: mens designer dress shoes, dress shoes for men

Since I added pluses in front of each word in my keyword, a user must type those into their search query.The order of the words do not matter, but they must be included. Looking at the search query examples above, let’s pretend that I don’t sell designer shoes, or I want my target keyword to show up in sequential order in the user’s search query. Then I should use:

Phrase Match Keywords

Phrase match type uses quotations around the keyword to specify that my target keyword must show up in that exact order in the user’s search query. There can be additional words in the query, but they must appear before or after your desired keyword. Here are some example:

Target Keyword: “mens dress shoes”

Possible Search Query Connections: cheap mens dress shoes, womens and mens dress shoes

You can see that “mens dress shoes” is in that exact order in the user’s search query, but there are additional words that could be added to the search query. If I don’t sell women’s shoes at my store, I might want to consider getting as precise as possible with:

Exact Match Keywords

Now we’re at the most specific match type out there. The advertiser uses brackets instead of quotes to tell search engines, “This is the exact search query I want to go after. Nothing before, between, or after my target keyword.”

Target Keyword: [mens dress shoes]

Possible Search Query Connections: mens dress shoes

With exact match you only get one possible search query…exactly what you put in between those brackets.

Things to Think About

  • Google (and now Bing has followed jumped on board) has the discretion of using close variant matching when connecting your keywords to search queries. This allows them to connect misspellings, pluralizations, etc. in users’ queries to your target keywords. So your phrase and exact match type targets might not be as specific as you think.
  • Before choosing a keyword, try to think of several possible search queries that could trigger your ads. If you can envision a lot of irrelevant searches that don’t apply to your business, consider choosing a more targeted match type.
  • The broader your keywords are, the more search queries will appear in your search query reports. Viewing search query reports can show you which search terms have lead to goal conversions on your site, thus giving you more keywords to add to your account that have proven success.
  • It is very common to see keyword cost-per-clicks go up as your match types get more focused. This shouldn’t worry you. I’m willing to pay for someone to visit my site if they are a more relevant user to my business and have a better chance to convert.