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Google Ads keyword match types: a detailed overview

updated 15.04.2021

Any Google Ads advertiser at some point asks a reasonable question: why do I get so many clicks but very few conversions? One of the most common problems – traffic is not relevant. The most common reason – wrong usage of matching types.

Keyword match types help you control which searches on Google can trigger your ad.

Some match types like broad can generate lots of irrelevant clicks. That results in low relevance and conversion rate.

Those who need to manage Google Ads in a professional way need to understand how different match types work.

Here is an overview of different match types: 

Different types of keywords

Now let’s examine each matching type and close variants in detail.

Broad match

The syntax. The keyword without any additional characters is considered a broad match.

The ad may be displayed on searches that are relevant variations of your target keyword. It might include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other not so relevant variations.

Broad match keyword may trigger showing ads on searches that don’t contain the target keyword.

Broad match in Google Ads DOESN’t take into account the word order in the key phrase and there will be results for close variants.

Broad match type of keywords

BROAD is very dangerous when using a single noun as a keyword so we would recommend using it for a long-tail keyword in the first place.

The main advantage of this match type is that it allows you to spend less time on keyword research. The main disadvantage – you might pay for lots of irrelevant clicks.

Broad match modifier (BMM)

The syntax. Add a plus sign (+) before specific words to show ads only for searches that contain those words. For example, if you will add plus before +engagement you would be served on such search terms:

BMM keywords

BMM DOES NOT take into account word order.

There is no negative BMM match type.

What is the main difference between BMM and broad match?

BMM allows more control compared to broad match but still can trigger not so relevant search terms if you don’t have enough negatives.

Phrase match

The syntax. The keyword enclosed in quotation marks (“”) will show ads to users who are searching for an exact keyword with additional words before or after.

Phrase match type of keywords

PHRASE takes into account word order.

It’s more targeted compared to Broad match.

Compared to BMM it gives you lower traffic volumes with the same relevance.

Phrase match is quite similar to BMM but it limits traffic volumes. I never use Phrase in my campaigns.

Exact match

The syntax. The keyword enclosed in brackets [].

Exact match type of keywords

EXACT is the most specific match type. You will show ads to customers who are searching for your exact keyword or close variants.

The main advantage is high CTR and high traffic relevance. The main disadvantage – lower traffic volumes and high cost per click because usually, these keywords are a bit more competitive.

Close variants 

In Google Ads, the option “close variants” is enabled by default for any match type and it cannot be disabled. This means that not only keyword text would be displayed. You will also bid on:

  • Typos
  • Singular and plural forms
  • Transliteration (in some cases)
  • Declensions, cases and other word forms
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents
  • Stemmings

Different parts of speech like noun – verb, etc., are not close variants.

For exact match keywords, it also includes different word orders. For example [engagement rings], [rings engagement].

Negative keywords 

Negative keywords allow blocking ads from displaying on certain words. They also have their own match types. To learn more check this article


Once again, to reinforce important points:

  1. There are four different match types.
  2. Close variations are enabled for all match types.
  3. The word order is taken into account only for keywords in the phrase match, for the rest (including the exact match) the word order doesn`t matter.

Officially Google recommends broad-to-narrow strategy. They suggest starting with broad keywords and monitor their performance over time to pause low performing keywords and add negatives.

Usually, such a strategy results in wasted spending and might be extremely dangerous for accounts with high budgets. It might be too late trying to add negative or narrowing match types after you have already spent $20k on irrelevant traffic.

That’s why I recommend using a narrow-to-broad strategy. Start with campaigns in BMM and Exact match – ensure that traffic is relevant. Then duplicate campaign in broad with lower bids and budgets. By that time you will already have a lot of negatives and your broad campaigns might outperform exact and mm due to lower CPC and relevant traffic.

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