Many advertisers who are new to Google Ads don’t know the difference when it comes to keyword matching and which options are likely to work best for them. As well as picking the right keywords to use in your campaign you also need to pick the right match type for your keywords. Failing to get this right could be the difference between seeing a positive return and losing money from your campaign. In this article we’ll take a look at the different keyword match types and when you should be using them.

Broad match

This is the default keyword matching option and means that your adverts can be shown for any search that Google deems to be relevant. Your adverts can show for searches that include your keywords in any order and even for those when your keyword is not used if the meaning is similar. And while broad match keywords can help you get the most traffic possible there is a strong chance that your adverts could be shown for irrelevant searches.

Another disadvantage of broad match is that they tend to have a lower click through rate which can also affect their quality scores and mean that your cost per click prices are higher. If you are planning on using broad match then make sure you include plenty of negative keywords to help prevent your adverts showing for irrelevant searches. Also, remember to regularly review your keyword search term report for further negatives.

Modified broad match

At first glance, the modified broad match appears to be almost identical to a standard broad match keyword but there is one important difference. By using a plus sign immediately before any word in your keyword you can specify that this term must be included in your search. This can help to make sure that key terms are included in your search while helping to limit irrelevant traffic.

Remember that user intent is important so try to incorporate keywords that convey this intent into your account. Like standard broad match, there is plenty of room for error when using modified broad match and you’ll still want to have a large list of negative keywords to help stop irrelevant clicks.

Phrase match

To use phrase match you’ll need to wrap your keyword in quotation marks e.g. “buy blue widgets”. Your advert will only be shown to people who type in your keyword in that order. Your advert will also show if they use longer searches which include your keyword phrase as part of the search term. Phrase match is a great option for those who want to show their adverts for specific queries and related queries that include their target keyword phrase.

As you’d expect phrase match tends to deliver higher click through rates and less impressions than broad match and is normally a good starting point for most advertisers. It offers some of the flexibility of broad match without the limitations of exact match.

Exact match

The strictest keyword option is exact match which gives you total control over what searches your adverts will appear for. Square brackets around the keywords define an exact match term and mean that your keywords will only show up when people enter these exact searches, plurals or common misspellings.

While exact match can be tempting the reality is that it is generally only suitable for a small number of your keyword terms. As your advert won’t show when someone includes any keywords before or after an exact match term they are best suited to keywords that have proven to be of high importance and value.


For most advertisers phrase match keywords are usually the best choice and provide enough flexibility to ensure they show up for a wide range of searches.