Google Ads Match Types Explained

One of the best things about running pay per click advertising with Google is the amount of control you can have over your ads using match types.

For those not in the know: when you build new keywords for an account, you have to select a match type for them. The match type helps determine how close the user’s search term has to be to your keyword for the ad to be shown to the user. This allows for some strategic ad builds.  

Each of the match types have their own uses and nuances. Here’s a handy chart outlining the basics:

google ads match types chart.png

Here’s a little more detail about each match type:

Broad match

Broad match, as its name suggests, applies your keyword to a range of search terms that are related to your keyword, including misspellings and synonyms. You do need to be careful with these match types because you can potentially target unwanted traffic. Here’s an example:

Keyword: men’s shoes

Search Term: footwear for guys

Broad match modified

Broad match modified keywords function very similarly to broad match keywords, except they allow additional words to be in the search before, after, or between the words in the keyword. Note: if you create a keyword that is broad match modified for every term, it's essentially the same as phrase match.

Keyword: +men’s +shoes

Search Term: men’s size 11 shoes

Phrase match

Phrase match matches search terms in which your keyword phrase appears with words allowed before and after. So, in this case, men’s size 11 shoes would not show an ad, but it would for new men’s shoe size 11.

Keyword: “men’s shoes”

Search Term: new men’s shoe size 11

Exact match

Exact match is another type that sounds like what it is. Your ad should be shown only when the exact thing you’ve specified is shown. This used to be a lot more strict, but Google has allowed for some variation on exact match terms in recent months. We’ll have another post on that in the future.

Keyword: [men’s shoes]

Search Term: men’s shoes



There are two important things to note about Exact Match terms:

They aren’t “Exact” Anymore:

Exact Match terms aren’t quite “exact” any more. Exact match now includes words in different orders, and will show regardless of inclusion or exclusion of functional words like “the” and “for.” There are some ways to make exact match keywords exact again. Check out this guide for details.

Close Variants

Another important thing to note about exact match terms are close variants. These can include variants such as:

  • Singular/plural

  • Misspellings

  • “ing”, “ed”, “er”, etc.

  • Abbreviations

  • One word being split into two words

  • Two words being combined into one

They’re sort of a double-edged sword. They can be extremely useful in driving traffic, but they can sometimes lead to dramatically higher CPAs. With anything else in your accounts, you should make sure to keep an eye on the close variants that are triggering ads in your accounts.

Negative keywords

We’d be amiss to write a blog post about match types without bringing negative keywords to the table too. After all, choosing what not to target can be just as crucial as choosing what to target.

Negative Broad Match is the default setting that stops your ad from showing if all the negative keywords are searched, regardless of order. For example, the negative keywords men’s shoes will prevent your ad from showing up when a user searches “cool shoes for men”.

Negative Phrase Match stops your ads from showing if the search includes your exact keywords in the exact order you specify. If your negative phrase match keyword is “men’s shoes” your ad will not show up for the search query “cool men’s shoes” but will show for “shoes men.”

Negative Exact Match prevents your ads from showing if the search query is exactly your negative keyword. This means, your ads will show if extra words or phrases are added. The negative exact match keyword [men’s shoes] will prevent your ads to show only when someone searches exactly “men’s shoes.”

Final Thoughts and Query Management

There’s one last thing that needs to be stressed: with the recent changes to exact and phrase matches (and the difficulty of keeping exact match exact) means a heavier reliance on broad and broad match modified keywords. It is crucial now more than ever that advertisers spend time on negative keywords and query management as a whole.