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Google Ads Match Types: How to Find a Match Made in Heaven

Tinder and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns have more in common than you might think – on both platforms your matches are the key to success. Whether you’re advertising on Google, Bing, Yahoo or Amazon you’ll be asked to set a match type for your keywords. Put simply, this governs how precisely the search engine algorithms will interpret your keywords. The match type you choose is contingent on your advertising goals. If you’re interesting in building brand awareness and visibility your match type will be different than if you’re looking to target a few highly specific leads. 

It may sound straightforward, but choosing the incorrect match type may mean that your PPC budget is being wasted and potential customers aren’t being reached. In this blog post I’ll be covering the 4 main match types, what they mean and when you should use them. 

Broad Match 

Within the world of PPC the most common match type is broad match. Like the name suggests, it is the least controlled match type and allows you to target the biggest audience. Using broad match means that your ad will show if a search query contains any part of your keyword. This means that if your keyword is ‘vegan cheese’ your ad will show not only when the search query contains ‘vegan cheese’ but also for searches containing the word ‘vegan’ even if the word ‘cheese’ isn’t present, and vice versa. Both components of the keyword aren’t required for your ad to show. As well as this, under a broad match strategy your ad will also show for close variants and synonyms of your keyword. Our ad will therefore show when the search query means the same thing as ‘vegan cheese’, such as ‘plant based cheese’ or ‘dairy free cheese’.

Using a broad match type is beneficial if you’re inexperienced or just starting out with PPC. Why? As the default option broad match requires no extra setup, but enables your ads to be highly visible. The large volume of search queries under broad match means that you’re provided with the greatest insight into what your audience is searching for. You can use this data to find new keywords and make your future campaigns more precise. This is the strategy that Google recommends as best practice. 

The downside of using this approach, however, is the lack of precision. Although you’re likely to experience the largest amount of impressions by using broad match keywords, these impressions won’t be very targeted. This means that for our vegan cheese example our advert may show for ‘vegan chocolate’ or ‘cheddar cheese’, which aren’t completely relevant. Ultimately, this means that you’re paying for clicks from people who may have little or no interest in your product. Broad match may not be the best option if you sell a niche product and you’re trying to generate highly targeted leads. 

Ads will show for:

  • Vegan cheese 
  • Vegan Mac and Cheese
  • Vegan chocolate
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Synonym: plant based cheese, dairy free cheese, cruelty free cheese
  • Close matches: vegan cheez, vegan cheeses 

Broad Match Modifier

Broad Match Modifier (BMM) keywords are used to combat the pitfalls of Broad Match keywords, as they offer users a lot more control. To get started with BMM simply put a + sign in front of each essential keywords. From this any search query that contains your + marked keywords will be eligible to show your ads. There’s no limit on how many + words you include in each keyword but all + words must be present in the query for the ad to show. Therefore a keyword of ‘+vegan +cheese’ will show for ‘vegan cheese, good vegan cheese, vegan leicester cheese’.If, whereas, your keyword is ‘+vegan cheese’ your ad will show for search queries that contain the word ‘vegan’ plus any close matches of ‘cheese’. This may be ‘vegan mozzarella, vegan dairy’ etc.

Broad Match Modifiers sit somewhere between Broad Match and Phrase Match keywords. This means you get the visibility of broad match, but the precision of phrase match. Whilst you’ll experience less impressions using BMM compared to Broad Match keywords, only users who are potentially interested in your product will see your ads, which means less of your ad spend is wasted. What’s more, research by Ignite Visibility suggests that using BMM can generate higher click-through-rates and higher conversion rates. It’s therefore best used when you’re looking to get a direct response to your ads rather than trying to increase visibility. Like regular broad match keywords, BMM generates a good amount of data which can be used to uncover new keywords and refine your strategy. 

Ads will show for:

  • +vegan +cheese = vegan cheese, good vegan cheese, vegan leicester cheese
  • +vegan cheese = vegan mozzarella, vegan dairy 

Phrase Match

Phrase Match keywords, however, are even more controlled and will only show your ads when customers are searching for your exact keywords (plus close variants). Search queries may contain words before or after your keyword phrase, but not in the middle of it. Therefore phrase match is beneficial if the order of your keywords matters. Phrase Match is activated by putting quotation marks (“”) around your keyword eg “vegan cheese”

In terms of control, phrase match keywords sit between BMM and exact match types. If you know the exact search queries your customers tend to submit, phrase match will allow your campaigns to be highly targeted. This is likely to generate a higher click-through-rate since you aren’t wasting your spend on unwanted impressions. Furthermore, Google is constantly evolving and 20-25% of daily searches have never been made before. Under an exact match approach these new search queries would not be targeted, under phrase match they would. So whilst you’re limiting your campaigns exposure based on what works, using phrase match you’re not completely cut off from new opportunities. 

Nevertheless, the drawback of using phrase match keywords is the uncertain amount of relevancy. As any word can appear before or after your keyword, your ad may still show for irrelevant searches. Using phrase match doesn’t guarantee relevancy. For instance, our vegan cheese ad may show when someone searches for ‘why do people bother with vegan cheese?’. This person is unlikely to be interested in purchasing our vegan cheese, so this is a wasted impression. Similarly, although phrase match is more targeted than broad match and BMM match types, using it may mean you’re missing out on a lot of relevant traffic. Unless you’re 100% certain about the phrases that ALL of your customers use every time they search for your products, some potential prospects will simply not be reached. Relying solely on a phrase match campaign is therefore not advised, as it will seriously limit your ads success. So what about using phrase match keywords in conjunction with broad or exact match keywords? According to Bryant Garvin, phrase match keywords are a waste of time and effort, which makes them completely obsolete. As phrase match keywords are more restrictive than BMM, any search query which could potentially be matched to a phrase match keyword could instead be matched to a BMM keyword. This approach can be used to generate new keywords, which can then be added as exact match keywords. 

Ads will show for:

  • Vegan cheese
  • Cheap vegan cheese
  • Vegan cheese in Manchester
  • Close match: Vegan cheeses

Ads won’t show for:

  • Vegan cheddar cheese

Exact Match 

The fourth and final match type is exact match. This is activated by putting square brackets [ ] around your keywords and, like the name suggests, offers the tightest control over your advertising. Similar to phrase match, by using exact match your ad will show if the search query exactly matches your keyword. Unlike phrase match, search queries cannot contain additional words before, in the middle or after the keyword. Since 2018, exact match keywords also incorporate close variants which means your ad will show for common misspellings and abbreviations, but more of that later. 

As expected, with exact match keywords your ads are highly targeted and therefore give you the best chance of reaching high intent prospects. In fact, if you know your customers well enough you’ll be able to use exact match to target customers at specific parts of the buyer’s journey. Unlike broad and phrase match keywords, your ads won’t show for irrelevant queries that you don’t want to advertise on. This means that whilst you might not receive as many impressions, you’ll experience a higher click-through-rate and less wasted expenditure.

Whilst using exact match means your ads will be highly specific, the downside of this approach is limited reach. Unless you have a comprehensive list of search queries that your customers use to find your products, with exact match you’re not fulfilling your full potential. It’s near impossible to cater for all eventualities, there’s always going to be prospects who use abnormal search queries to find your products but under exact match they won’t be targeted. However, even if you’re confident that you know everything about your customers, exact match allows no room for your business to grow or evolve. The keywords that people use are constantly progressing but relying on exact match doesn’t help you to discover these new search terms. For this reason we don’t recommend relying solely on exact match campaigns, and we especially don’t recommend using exact match if you’re just starting out with Ads or if you’re looking to build brand awareness. 

Ad will show for:

  • Vegan cheese

Ad will not show for:

  • Vegan cheese alternatives

Negative Keywords

Although it isn’t strictly a match type, efficient campaigns will also make use of negative keywords. Negative keywords prevent your ads from showing for irrelevant searches. There’s no point researching which keywords to target if you don’t define which keywords not to target. Negative keywords are beneficial because irrelevant searches are unlikely to produce any tangible results. Irrelevant searches are a waste of impressions, clicks and cost. So choosing which words to exclude will help you refine your targeting and ad spend. For our vegan cheese example, we probably don’t want our ads to show for people searching for ‘vegan eggs’ or ‘full fat dairy cheese’, so it’s best practice to add these as negative keywords. To use negative keywords simply include a minus sign at the start of your keyword, e.g ‘-dairy cheese’. Negative keywords can be set either for the full campaign, or individually for each ad group. 

Close Variants

Back in 2014 Google introduced ‘close variants’ as a component of all keyword match types. Before this, for an exact match keyword the users search query had to exactly/precisely match the respective keyword. This meant that advertisers had to create incredibly long lists for each keyword in order to cover all possible variations. Nowadays, however, Google considers close variants of a keyword to mean the same thing as the keyword. The definition of close variant is constantly evolving but currently it includes:

  • Common misspellings e.g Chesse, Cheeze
  • Singular and plural versions of words e.g Vegan Cheeses
  • Acronyms e.g VGN Cheese
  • Abbreviations e.g
  • Stemmings or words that have the same root e.g shop, shopping and shopped
  • Accents

As previously mentioned, close variants is applied by default to all keywords and there’s no way to turn it off. Even if you could, we wouldn’t recommend this since close variants can potentially increase relevant traffic by up to 7%. This statistic is plausible considering Google reports that 7% of searches are performed with a spelling error or typo. As well as saving a lot of time, close variants means campaigns are a lot more organised and easy to manage. 

Still confused about which match type is best for your campaign? Need help finding and optimising your keywords? We can help, just drop us a message!