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Google Ads: Keyword Match Types Explained

Paul Dickson

Paul Dickson

Website Strategist

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Google Ad Keywords Explained

I remember when I first started setting up Google Ads for my clients I often wondered, what are the differences between Board Match, Phrase Match and Exact Match Keywords? Well today we’re going to talk about keywords in Google Ads and how to maximise your impressions and clicks by sharing some inside tips.

As you know there are too many decisions to make when setting up a Google Ads account. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about please read my Digital Marketing your website page for more information on what Google Ads are, and how they can help you increase sales and a return on your investment.

Selecting which “keywords” you want to trigger your Google Ad can be extremely difficult. You may often ask yourself:

  1. Why am I not getting clicks?
  2. Why is my Ad not showing for that particular search phrase?
  3. How come my competitor is getting more impressions than I am?
  4. What’s the difference between broad match keywords vs phrase match keywords?
  5. Why don’t my ads show for exact match keywords?
  6. What does the plus sign mean on keywords?
  7. Why is Google Ads so complicated?
  8. Can I just speak to someone in Australia that can help me?

If you don’t feel like reading my whole blog post I encourage you to watch this amazing episode from Co-Founders or Hawk Talks who break down everything I’m going to talk about in just over seven minutes.

What are Keyword Match Types?

Essentially Keyword Match Types are parameters that trigger a Google Ad in your Google Ads account when someone does a Google Search on the internet. There are 4 different keyword match types in Google Ads: Board Match, Broad Match Modifier, Phrase Match and finally Exact Match. Confused? So was I the first time I started learning about Keyword Match Types.

Google Ad Keyword Match Types

Broad Match

Broad Match Keywords are exactly that. They broadly match your keyword the reach a wider audience. The problem with broad match keywords is you could be attracting the wrong customers. For example if I was to add a broad match keyword of “men’s clothing” to my Google Ad account. My ads are going to be shown when someone enters “men’s shaving cream”, “mens issues” or “clothing for kids”. The wide reach broad match keyword increases your impressions (number of times your ad is shown) but it also increases your clicks. The problem with these keywords is the wider reach could be lowering your return on investment, conversion rate because people are simply not finding exactly what they want to buy.

Broad Match Modifier

The Broad Match Modifier Keyword is similar to Broad Match but by adding a “+” sign infront of your keyword you’re telling Google to only show your Ad if the “+” keyword is part of the search phrase. So if we were to change our search term from “men’s clothing” to “+men’s +clothing” then we’re telling Google to only show our ad if the user enters “men’s” and “clothing”. We could also put “+men’s clothing” which would only show clothing searches with the keyword “men’s”. With Broad Match Modifier we’re controlling the words that need to be in the broad match search term. This is really useful if you are using 3 or more keywords in one line.

Phrase Match

The phrase match keyword option is by far one of the most popular used match type. Your Ad with only appear if the user searches for the exact keyword phrase in the exact order you have specified. So let’s assume you don’t want to show “clothing men’s”, you only want to show “men’s clothing”. Make your keyword a Phrase Match by adding “[ ]” to your keyword. So “men’s clothing” becomes “[Men’s Clothing]”. So now Men’s Clothing will always be shown in that order but you can still have broad keywords before and after the search. Therefore a user might find you by entering “Best Men’s Clothing”, “Affordable Men’s Clothing” or “Formal “Men’s Clothing”.  As long as the enter the phrase match they will still be able to add additional words and your Ad will still show in the browser.

Exact Match

Exact Match is exactly how it’s worded. You’re only interest in showing Ads if the users search term is “Men’s Clothing”. Therefore if the user misspells or adds another word or words to the search engine your Ad may not be triggered. This could be important when you specialise in a niche marketing where competition for your keyword is low.

Negative Keywords

Your keyword match types apply to your Negative Keywords as well. Choosing what NOT to target is just as important as choosing what to target. For example if I didn’t want “Men’s Hair Loss” to show my Ads for “Men’s Clothing” then I would need to create and Negative Broad Match called “Hair Loss” and “Hairloss”. This means that any search with the word “Hairloss” or “Hair Loss” won’t be shown to the potential customer.


That concludes my blog post on Google Ad Keyword Match Types. If you need a Google Ad Specialist for your online business website please feel free to contact me and I can give you a run down of costs to manage your Google Ad campaigns. If this has been helpful in helping you manage your Google Ad Campaign please leave a comment below.

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