Episode #15

Google AdWords III: The Five Kinds of Keyword Match Types

Today I introduce the five keyword match types available in Google AdWords: broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match, and negative match. You'll see how pluralizations, misspellings, etc. are handled by the Google AdWords system. You'll also learn strategies for choosing between keyword types.

December 20, 2020

Show Notes

No notes available for this episode.


Transcribed by Rugo Obi

Advertisers who don't understand the different keyword targeting types on Google AdWords are doing the marketing equivalent of trying to either eat a steak with a spoon or a yogurt with a fork: they're using the completely wrong tool for the job and they're going to get completely mopped up by competition who know what they're doing.

Today we'll take a deep dive into the five different targeting types that you can use in Google AdWords to help your online advertising thrive.


Based on what we've seen so far, a key piece of complexity has been hidden from you. That's the Match Type.

So if I click on an individual keyword, you can see here that I get to choose the match type, either Broad match, Phrase match, or Exact match.

In actual fact, there are five types of match types, I'm going to demonstrate them to you now.

The two match types that are missing from the previous display are, Broad Match Modifier, that's number two that you see at the bottom of the screen, and also Negative Match, that's number five at the bottom of the screen.

First I'm going to demonstrate the differences between these various match types, and then afterward I'll share some strategies to help you decide which one is best for your use case.

The first match type is Broad Match.

This is the default in Google AdWords, and generally speaking, it casts the broadest net.

How do you tell Google AdWords to do it? Well, you just give it the raw keyword ‘law notes’, like we've done before.

What does that law notes keyword match?

Well, it matches 'law notes', exactly what was given, obviously. It also matches 'law note', or 'laws note': that means that it's immune to changes in singularization and pluralization.

It also matches 'law nots', i.e., if there are some typos, it will still match. I'm not sure about this particular case, but I would assume so, whatever.

It also matches 'contract law notes', i.e. if you add a prefix word like contract, it will still be matched with the "law note" keyword.

This is one of the ways that the broad match really expands the amount of searches that your advertisement could potentially be appearing on.

Then 'law notes for contract law'. In this case, the extra words are at the end, as opposed to as a prefix over here.

Next, we have 'the law of notes'.

What's different here is that there's a word in the middle of the two keywords that we actually gave.

We gave 'law notes' and this is 'law of notes'.

Same thing is happening here, 'take note of the law'.

The next few entries are quite exotic, and they justify the word "broad" in "broad match".

So these three aren't made up, they’re from real data from one of my advertising campaigns in the UK that targeted law notes with a broad match.

The first one is 'public law lectures uk'.

Notice that the word 'notes' isn’t even in there at all, and 'lectures' isn't really a synonym either. Yeah, it's related, but it's potentially something different.

The next one is 'human rights exam notes'.

Okay, so they're assuming that human rights and law are the same thing. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. At the very least, that's a broad interpretation.

And lastly -I was quite surprised to see this- 'bpp law ...', and then some Chinese characters. I looked this up on Google Translate and in fact, they meant notes. I was a bit surprised to see another language in the keywords that were matched.

So, what does a broad match for law notes not match?

Well, it's not going to match something like "pizza delivery service" or "Coca Cola". Basically, anything that there's no plausible connection to law notes, it will exclude.

The next match type is Broad Match Modifier.

In some sense, this is a subtype of broad match.

The way you tell Google AdWords that you want this is to add a plus in front of the word that you want the modifier to apply to.

So in this case I have 'law' with regular broad match and '+notes' with broad match modifier.

I could of course have done 'law' with a modifier and 'notes' with a regular broad match, but I'm going to stick to 'law +notes' for the purposes of the examples that follow.

So, what's the effect of this modifier, of that plus?

Basically, it constrains Google and tells them that your ad should only show whenever that word 'law' appears, or a close synonym.

In effect, this puts a dampener on the extremities of regular broad search.

This means your ads will show for less potential queries, but the queries they show for are ones you have more control over.

So, what does it match?

Essentially it matches all the initial entries that we saw in the broad match above.

For example, the exact match of law notes, some singularization and pluralization changes including in the modified keyword. We have +law but laws will also match, typos and so on as well, phrases, etc.

What won't get matched are some of these more distant synonyms.

For example, 'public law lectures uk' doesn't include the word 'notes' or any close synonym. It includes lectures so this would probably not be matched.

Similarly, with this one it has 'study books', that's now quite 'notes', and this one has Chinese symbol instead of the word 'note'. I would assume that is not matched.

The next type of matching available in Google AdWords, and also in some other advertising platforms is, phrase match.

So the way you communicate this to Google AdWords is to wrap your keyword in quotation marks. You don't need quotation marks for regular broad matches.

What does phrase match do?

Well, it requires that the two words appear together without any words in between them.

For example, it will match 'law notes' the exact phrase, it will match 'contract law notes' because that includes the phraase 'law notes' just with a prefix of contract, and similarly, 'law notes for students' just has a suffix.

Where it may or may not match is with 'notes law', that's a reordering of the words. Instead of 'law notes', it's 'notes law'.

According to the Google documentation, whether or not there's a match here depends on whether the semantics change in the eyes of Google when the word order changes.

What is not matched by phrase match is something like 'law mortgage notes'.

You can see here that a word is introduced between law notes, between the stock phrase, and that will stop the match.

Similarly, with 'take notes of the law'.

The next match type is exact match.

The way you communicate this in Google AdWords is with square brackets around the keywords that you want to exactly match.

So what does this match, unsurprisingly, it matches 'law notes' exactly as it is, and it also still matches for certain pluralization differences and small typos.

However, it absolutely will not match phrases like for example, 'contract law notes' or 'law notes for students' and so on.

With this matching style, you get a lot of control, but not so much traffic.

The next match type is probably my favorite of them all, it's negative match.

So the way this is done is you add a minus in front of a particular keyword, and this is done in conjunction with having some positive keywords elsewhere.

For example, imagine I'm broad matching for 'law notes', and then I add '-contract', say because I don't have any contract law notes and it's a waste of money to advertise to those people. This will then match 'law notes', 'tort law notes', 'criminal law notes', but it will not match 'contract law notes'.

Now with all the basic match types covered, I'd like to start talking about some strategies. I'll start with one involving the negative match.

Some time ago I was involved with helping a laser eye surgery clinic advertise.

A lot of people just type laser surgery when they're looking for laser eye surgery, but unfortunately, many people who do that are also looking for laser hair removal and so on.

So, what we did was did a broad match on laser surgery, but then did negative keywords on things like skin or tattoo and that sort of thing.

And this enabled us to reach a far larger audience than we would have if we merely targeted some sort of broad match on laser eye surgery.

That's all I've got for today.

See you next week.