understand the three keyword match types in google adwords and how to use them

Google Adwords works by matching keywords and keyphrases with search queries to determine when, where and how your ads will be shown to the user. This process is key in determining the success of your marketing efforts both in terms of the return of investment on the money spent and also the type of audience you are targeting and its effectiveness.

This process of matching keywords with search queries is also called keyword targeting from an advertiser perspective. There are mainly three match types that Google Adwords supports: Broad Match, Phrase Match and Exact Match. There is also a Negative Match that can be combined with each of the above mentioned three types of matches.

All three type of matches match against variations by default. These variations could include misspellings, singular and plural forms, abbreviations, accents, acronyms etc. These can be turned off in the advanced settings, if you prefer to match much more strictly.

Broad Match

This is the default type of match in Adwords. As the name suggests, it tries to match to as broadly as possible thus generating the most impressions for your keyword.

This is probably the easiest of the keyword match type to setup and to get the most coverage. But the downside is that it will also give you the most irrelevant of the matches.

Example: Let’s say you are trying to market your company which makes expensive greeting cards. Using the keyphrase, greeting cards with a broad match will bring a lot of impressions and clicks. In addition to matching for greeting cards, it  could potentially also match for note cards, credit cards, business cards etc that are irrelevant to your campaign.

When your ads match for a totally irrelevant query, the user is very unlikely to click on them. Having a lot of  impressions without clicks will reduce the CTR of the keyword and your ads. This happens because your ads are too broad and not targeted enough.  This will negatively impact the quality score of the keywords and your campaign.

I tend to not use broad match at all or use it very sparingly. Even when I do use it, I bid pretty low so that I don’t end up paying a whole lot of irrelevant clicks.

Phrase Match

The phrase match makes more sense when you have a keyphrase (multiple words) rather than a single word.  As the name suggests, the match occurs only when the entire keyphrase is present in the search query. Though it matches the entire phrase, it is quite possible to have words before or after in the search query.

Example: Using the above example as a phrase match, “greeting cards” will now match against “expensive greeting cards“, “cheap greeting cards” and “christmas greeting cards” but NOT against “note cards” or “credit cards“.

It is much more targeted than the broad match. This match type is also more useful when the keyword that you are targeting has multiple meaning in different contexts (also known as Homonyms).

This type of matching will reduce the impressions, especially and hopefully the irrelevant ones. As a result this will increase the CTR of keywords and the quality score.

If you find a massive reduction in the impressions and hence the clicks that your keyword or adgroups is generating when you move towards phrase match, then try to find and add other relevant keyphrases that you are missing out on rather than just going with the easier broad match option.

Exact Match

Exact match does what it says, it matches the search query exactly to the keyword or the keyphrase. The search query should not have any other words before or after the match either. It will also match to some very close variations and also misspellings, abbreviations etc.

Using this match depends very much on the amount of traffic you can generate from a very specific query or keyword. Such cases are rare, but if you do have one then it makes the most sense to bid highest to generate the most traffic from it. These keyphrases will definitely be the ones that generate the most revenue on your site.

The biggest advantage of using exact match is that you can bid a higher amount knowing exactly what you are getting rather than getting matched and spending on search queries that are only a close match.

Example: From the example used above, [greeting cards] will now match against greeting card and greeting cards, but NOT against expensive greeting cards or cheap greeting cards. Also, let us assume that [expensive greeting card] is the most revenue generating keyphrase. Moving this to an exact match will allow you to bid higher for just this match and generate more clicks, without having to also bid higher for cheap greeting cards or expensive greeting cards for less.

Negative keywords

Another useful match type that you can use along with both broad and phrase matches is the negative keywords. Use of negative keywords is essential to weed out popular queries that match against your keywords but are irrelevant to your campaign. This can greatly reduce the irrelevant impressions and thus the cost of the campaign without compromising on the effective of the your marketing.

Example: Again using the example above, cheap or free will be an effective negative keyword to use thus making sure that “greeting cards” does not match against cheap greeting cards and free greeting cards that perform poorly for you.

It is a very quick and easy way to eliminate the key phrases in queries that you do not want to match against. It should however be used sparingly. If you find yourself dealing with tens or hundreds of negative keywords then understand that you are targeting the wrong keywords to begin with. Try moving towards exact match or phrase match as compared to a broad match, in order to start with a better targeted marketing effort.

A well targeted marketing campaign will only need to use very minimal negative keywords or none at all.