One of the most important tactics to understand as a search engine marketer is how keyword match types work. Match types can be utilized together, or separately, depending on your AdWords strategy and business type. Each match type has its own set of benefits, as well as drawbacks.
What type of keyword match type should you use? Here’s a breakdown of all the AdWords keyword match types, and the kinds of situations they are useful in.
Broad Match for Building Keyword Lists
Having keywords set at broad match means that the search engines will make a rough approximation of what they think is relevant to your chosen keyword. If you’ve got a large enough budget and can afford to waste a little of it in the name of research, broad match can be a fantastic keyword research tool.
Remember you are casting a large net, and you may or may not get relevant traffic. But, you will get more traffic. If you are going for brand recognition, use broad match. Stay away from broad match if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford any extra wasted clicks.
Broad Match Advice: Never use only broad match when you’re starting out. It will drain your campaign budget and you risk getting a large quantity of irrelevant clicks.
Broad Match Modifier: Large Net, with Control
Modified Broad match is another variant that is less understood and often under-utilized. Basically, it allows you to add “modifiers” (or plus symbols) to keywords you deem important. By adding a + before one of the broad match keywords in your string of keywords, it tells Google that any keyword with a + before it has to be included in some degree in the search query.
You would utilize this match type if you want to keep a high impression count, but also narrow down the irrelevance you typically get from broad match. This offers the exclusivity of Phrase Match without limiting the search query to the specific order in which the keywords are listed.
Phrase Match and Broad Match Modifier are not the Same
Broad Match modifier is not a literal exact match. It allows close variants like misspellings, singular and plural forms, abbreviations and acronyms, and stemmings (like “floor” and “flooring”). Synonyms (like “quick” and “fast”) and related searches (like “shoes” and “boots”) aren’t considered close variants.
In short, using Broad Match Modifiers is about control. It’s our responsibility as advertisers to take advantage of this added control and use it to its fullest potential where it makes sense, and in so doing encourage Google to continue to add features like Broad Match Modifiers.
Broad Match Modifier Advice: If you’ve primarily used broad match keywords, consider adjusting your bids as you add more relevant modified broad match keywords. A higher cost-per-click (CPC) bid may increase your click volume and conversions.
Phrase Match: Great Middle-Ground Approach
Phrase match is a good middle-of-the-road solution to the match type problem. Under phrase match, a user’s search query must match the keywords you specified (including word order), although your ads will also show if they add more keywords before or after the keyword(s) you specified.
Phrase match filters out a lot of the weird, marginally-relevant traffic that broad match brings in, but it still allows you some leeway to overlook some terms that a user could type in. It may be a good option to start out new campaigns with phrase match, and then switch later to either broad or exact match if you decide that you need more or less traffic to your site.
Phrase Match Advice: Consider using this match type if you have a more limited PPC budget, as fewer impressions will lead to a higher CTR and Quality Score, leading to less cost. Also, if you are advertising for a more specific product, but don’t want to eliminate all traffic that isn’t exactly pertaining to your product, utilize this match type.
Exact Match – What You See Is What You Get
If you’re having a lot of trouble with unqualified traffic, exact match is the way to go. Keywords set to exact match will show ads when the user types in a search query that matches your keyword, and nothing more. You’re going to block out a lot of traffic with this setup, but sometimes you need to take drastic measures to keep your costs down.
If you want only relevant traffic and a high conversion rate, this match type is for you. So, if your marketing budget is very small, and you only want converting traffic, use this match type. The obvious downside is that you are limiting the amount of impressions your ads will get.
Exact Match Advice: Often high-converting, but can be hard to find high-volume keywords, especially for small niches or local search campaigns.
Don’t Forget About Negative Keyword Match Types
If you see a few troublesome search queries in your reports, but don’t want to take a measure as drastic as setting everything to exact match, then some creative use of negative keywords may be in order. Negative keywords prevent ads from showing whenever a search query contains a keyword listed in your negatives. You can also set negative keyword match types for more precise targeting – negative match types.
But, be careful of how you add them. Many times in accounts, if there is a sudden downturn in impressions, it can be attributed to a negative keyword accidentally blocking relevant traffic.
Embedded match is a variant of Negative match. Basically, it helps to more specifically narrow down irrelevant traffic and prevent your ad from appearing in relation to certain phrase or exact matches. This is popular when an advertiser sells merchandise related to a movie or book, but not the actual movie or book.
To use the Google example, let’s say you are advertising for Toy Story merchandise, but don’t want to appear for the search term “Toy Story”, which would mean somebody simply looking for information or a copy of the movie itself. You would then add the embedded keyword –[toy story] to ensure that your ads will be triggered for Toy Story-themed queries that are more than just the term “Toy Story.” So, anyone searching for the movie “Toy Story” and only includes that in the search query will not see your ads, but a user searching for “Toy Story Merchandise” will possibly be served your ads.
Test All Match Types to Discover What Works Best
As with any pay-per-click marketing strategy, it’s important to test out different match types to see which one works best for each campaign. These instructions should give you a good starting point, but don’t forget to analyze those search query reports to make sure your keywords are driving the kind of quality traffic you need.
Vary Bidding when Mixing Match Types
You can set up entire ad campaigns only utilizing one of the match types, but to do so would be missing out on the various opportunities that each gives you, the advertiser. If you use more than one match type, the best way to control ad serving is to differentiate the bidding on match types:
- Highest bid = Exact Match is the highest bid
- 90% of the highest bid = Phrase Match
- 75% of the highest bid = Modified Broad Match
If your ad rank for your broad match trumps your exact match, then your conversion rates and other data by match types become compromised.
It may take some time for you to really learn how to use keyword match types appropriately, but make sure you do not neglect them for your long-term SEM strategy. So, evaluate your budget and advertising goals, and determine how to best use all of the match types in order to succeed!