AdWords Keyword Match Types

December 12, 2017
By Josh Kilen

Understanding Keyword Match Types in AdWords

The skinny on broad, broad modified, phrase, and exact match types in AdWords
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Lowering Your CPC

Need Help With AdWords Keyword Match Types?

When you are first starting with AdWords, keyword match types can be confusing. If you don’t understand how they work, you can end up spending a lot more money than you expected.

Here are some tips to getting familiar with keyword match types, and using them to set up an awesome PPC campaign.

General Keyword Match Types

  1. Broad Match
  2. -Negative Match

Broad Match

No keyword match type is always bad. Different match types could all be used to achieve different goals. Broad Match keyword types are a good example of this.

If you are just starting out in AdWords, Broad Match is likely the match type you are most familiar with. That’s because it’s the default for AdWords. When you type in your keywords at Campaign setup, unless you add a + or “” or [], you are using Broad Match.

What Google doesn’t tell you is that Broad Match is also the most expensive.

The problem with Broad Match is that it lets Google run wild with your account. If you sell IT services, and you include the keyword ‘network support,’ then Google will “helpfully” match you with every technical support query in your location settings. Playstation support lines. Metro PCS support lines. Comcast support lines… In other words, wasted clicks.

How do you stop those clicks from happening in the first place? That’s where negative keywords come in handy.

Tip: Please. Please. Please. Please! PLEASE!!!! Don’t use just Broad Match keyword match types if you are just starting out with AdWords or have a limited budget.

Negative Match

To counteract the unrestrained freedom that is Broad Match, you can use Negative Match. Negative Match is designated by putting a minus sign in front of the keywords you want to exclude from searches.

In our above example, you would exclude the words “-Playstation”, “-Metro -PCS” and “-Comcast” from your searches.

A combination of Broad Match and Negative Match could create a successful PPC campaign, however it’s in your favor to use some advanced match types as shortcuts.

Advanced Keyword Match Types

  1. +Broad+match+modifier
  2. “Phrase Match”
  3. [Exact Match]

Advanced options will help you pinpoint your audience and narrow the search results that activate your ads. Keep in mind, optimizing your PPC campaign means spending the least amount of money for the biggest gain. Use some of these Advanced options to weed out the irrelevant searches and only find the people that want to find you.

Broad Match Modifier

The Broad Match Modifier will help focus your results by making every word with a + (+keyword) in front of it required to be in the search, but it can be in any order. If you run a family law firm and only want to target searches involving divorces, you would add the keyword ‘+divorce +lawyer’. If you do that, when someone searches ‘custody lawyers near me’ your divorce ads won’t show up. With regular broad match, without the + in front of the words, they will show up, but not with the modifier.

Phrase Match

In order to use Phrase Match surround your keyword with quotes (“keyword”). Phrase match offers flexibility beyond broad match, but also a better level of control. Your ad only appears in searches that match your Phrase Matched keyword. Google uses the exact order of the words, but the search could include words before or after your keyword.

For example, if your key phrase was “divorce lawyer,” your ad could appear when a user searched for “divorce lawyer,” “best divorce lawyer,” or “divorce lawyer in Seattle,” but not for searches like “custody lawyer,” “child support,” or “personal injury.” This keyword type will give you a lot less traffic.

Exact Match

Exact Match is designated by use of brackets ([keyword]), and Adwords will only trigger when there is an exact match. Of the keyword match types, exact match is the most specific. Exact match allows users to only see your ad when they type your specific keyword phrase by itself.

For example, if your keyword phrase was “family law attorney,” your ad is only eligible to show up when a user searches for “family law attorney” when those words are in that exact order. Searches for “family law,” “family attorney” or “the best family lawyer in washington” won’t show your ad. The nice thing about exact match is that clicks on your ad are more likely to lead to sales, reducing wasted clicks. However, there will be less traffic due to lower search volume.


In order to have real success with a PPC campaign, you must use keywords wisely. Using only broad match will result in you paying a lot of unnecessary money for an ad that won’t reach your specific audience. A combination of all keyword match types will enhance your Adwords campaign and lead to great success.

If you want more help, and a look at your website and AdWords performance, sign up below for a free Strategy Session!

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