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Optimizing Your AdWords Account With Positive Match Types

Keyword match types are used to direct the system on how closely you want to match what the user is typing in and what types of search queries you want your ad to show for. Each keyword you use in your AdWords account will have a specific match type. Sometimes you may want to reach a very wide audience, other times you may want to protect your ad from attracting too much traffic, especially irrelevant, poor converting traffic.

Types of Keyword Match Types

There are three main keyword match types: Exact, Phrase and Broad match. Exact match is the most restrictive, whilst broad match is the least restrictive.

Exact Match

Exact match is the most specific matching option that AdWords offers and has the highest conversion rate of all the match types. Exact match keywords are the most precise and offer the most control over the search traffic. In direct contrast with broad match keywords, you’re getting traffic whose search terms represent the specific needs you can fill.

Exact match keywords ensure that your ad is only allowed to be shown to users searching for the exact keywords that you have targeted in your ad groups. This is why CTR and ROI for exact match traffic is higher than for any other type of traffic. However, note that exact match will highly restrict the search traffic that Google sends to you. This is why it is important to invest in other types of phrase match keywords after you have made exact match work for you.

This match type signifies to Google that in order for your ad to be shown to searchers, the keywords used in a search query must match the keywords in the ad group in the exact order that it was typed in, and with no other text in the query.

First, you must enter the keywords into your ad group within brackets. Note that Google now considers “user intent” when showing ads to searchers. Since April 2012, exact match keywords will now match to misspellings, stems, abbreviations, accents, plurals, or singular forms of the words. Google is now focusing on what the user intends to type in, rather than what they actually typed in.

This was a significant change, particularly given the large amount of misspellings and abbreviations typed into Google everyday, as well as the exponential growth of mobile where users want to type in as little as possible. For example, the word pixxa (a misspelling of pizza) is typed in over 7,000 times per month.

However, exact match keywords will still not match to things like synonyms or unrelated words. A searcher must type into the search box a query that is identical to a keyword (or matches the user’s intent) in your ad group for your ad to be displayed. If you have the exact match keyword “[greeting cards],” your ad would now be shown if someone types in “greeting card” (singular),or  “greeting card” (misspelling).

It will not show if someone types in “funny greeting cards” (additional word), “phone cards” (similar word), or any other possible variation or synonym that would show for broad match keywords. Google looks at user intent more than anything else when determining whether to show your ad to the searcher. Thus, the biggest advantage of exact match is that you know a user’s intent whenever they type a keyword your ad is matched to into the search box.

You indicate an exact match with square brackets, generally found to the right of the P key on your keyboard. Exact-match keywords is a powerful way to exclude searches you don’t want to attract. You know exactly what the searcher typed or “intends to type in” when you register an exact match impression.

Note that if you include the broad, phrase, and exact matches of the same keyword in your ad group, phrase matches will show before broad matches, and exact matches trump both.

In other words, if your keyword list includes:
greeting card
“greeting card”
[Greeting card] and someone searches for funny greeting card, that searcher triggers the phrase match (in quotes), but not the exact or broad match. Greeting card triggers the exact match.

Exact match gives you the ultimate control. You could be bidding one price for “greeting card”, and a different price for “card greetings” to see which one delivers a better ROI.

You could be sending people searching for “funny greeting cards” to one landing page, and those searching for “greeting cards funny” or “cool greeting cards” to another, and evaluate the effectiveness of those terms to see if they make any difference to click through rate or conversion rate.

Phrase Match

After you have got exact match keywords working for you on the search network, your next step is to clone the keywords and change the match type for each keyword to phrase match. With phrase match, you restrict the traffic your keywords show up for by putting keywords in your ad group in quotes.

This tells AdWords that in order for your ad to show, the characters between the quotes must appear exactly as they are somewhere in the actual search, even though the search term will have additional words.

For example, if you have “suede shoes” in your ad group, your ad could show for any searcher that types in black suede shoes, suede shoes for men or wingtip suede shoes.

Phrase matched keywords will typically attract less qualified traffic than exact match keywords. Consequently, in order to get the same cost/conversion, you should consider lowering your max cpc to around 80% of what you are bidding for exact match keywords, for the same keywords. You should also aim for the same cost per conversion.

Note that you can use the AdWords editor to clone a complex campaign, change the keyword match type, discount all the bids, and upload the new campaign. Since March 2012, Google now focuses on user intent, and your ad would still trigger if someone entered the wrong word order, misspellings, plurals, stemmings and acronyms of your phrase match keywords, but not if or the user entered a word between your keywords. This latest feature of Google is discussed below.

Your keywords are less restrictive, so the words “greeting cards” will match the following searches:
•    looking for gretting cards tht are funny
•    card greetings
•    retro greeting card cheap
•    cheap greeting carrds london
•    Funny vintage greeting crd for mothers

In each of the above instances, there are words before, after, or before and after your misspelt keyword phrase. There’s also one case where the word is in the wrong order. This means phrase match is far less restrictive than exact match.

However, your actual keyword phrase will always be included in the search query exactly as it is written. Your ad would still not trigger if someone entered a word between your keywords. In the “greeting cards” example, if someone searched for “greeting funny card,” your ad would not show as the search query did not contain your phrase exactly.

Just to clarify, the user is not actually typing in quotes or adding formatting when entering their query into Google. The user is searching as usual; the quotes are only used on keywords in your ad group to signal to Google that you would like your keyword to be triggered if it matched the search pattern as a phrase match keyword.

New Accounts

A combination of exact and phrase match is one of the best match types to use for a new account, particularly if you have limited funds. These match types generally have higher CTR and lower CPC (cost-per-click) than broad matched keywords (discussed below) because they eliminate synonyms and completely unrelated words. You can use phrase match to discover some of the additional variations you’re being matched to with the search query report.

You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner to discover what words are being added to your core keywords in search. By monitoring the report, you can also ensure that your ad is not being matched to broader items that might not bring you a positive ROI (return on investment).

In some cases, phrase-match campaigns MAY not generate a lot of traffic. Monitor your new campaign carefully for a little while and if you find that your campaign is not attracting a lot of traffic, then venture into a broad match camaign.

Broad Match

This is the default match type for all keywords in Google AdWords. When adding new keywords to an ad group, Google recommends using broad match and monitoring variations of the keywords that are triggering the ad to appear so that you can modify the keywords as necessary.

This is because your ads can be triggered to appear for anything including synonyms, similar but unrelated words, singular and plural versions, stemmings, acronyms, misspellings, and other unrelated variations of your keywords that you haven’t considered.

In your AdWords account, any keyword that doesn’t have quotes (“”), minus sign (-) or brackets ([]) around it is a broad matched keyword. Broad match keywords are the least restrictive of all the match types, and have the least control and lowest conversion rates typically because their reach is so large.

You’ll need to adjust your max cpc for the much lower quality traffic you’ll be getting to around 60% or less of your exact match bids for the same keywords on the search network. Note that the better your quality score and clickthrough rate, the higher the likelihood of your keywords being matched to similar keywords.

If you find that broad match has a higher conversion rate than phrase or exact match, it is generally because you are being matched to some search queries where you do not have that corresponding keyword in your account. This is another reason to use the search query report: to find those converting keywords you do not currently have in your AdWords account.

According to Google, 20% of keywords searched on are words they’ve never seen in the last 90 days, or before. Since millions of searches are made on Google every day, that is a huge number. The fact is, if you have a large budget, you can use broad match to uncover some keywords that you would have never considered including in your AdWords account.

For example, if you sell blue suede shoes and bid for suede shoes as a broad match keyword, then your ad might show for any search queries that contain the words suede and shoes, and keywords that are not necessarily in that order.

Note that all keywords in your ad group (including keywords with quotes and brackets) but without the minus sign in front of them are keywords you are bidding on. Your ad may be triggered to appear for searches like misspellings and related queries like:
•    sport tennis shoes;
•    sandals;
•    aerobic shoes;
•    athletic shoes and even
•    suede jacket.

As you can see, some of these keywords being searched on are completely unrelated to the keyword you are bidding for: suede shoes. Your ad can also be displayed in response to user queries containing similar words or synonyms to your broad match keywords, as well as plural forms of the keywords.

Similarly, if you had the broad matched keyword used dell laptops, you could also match to “dell laptop” (singular), smartphones, tablets, pdas, gaming machines, “dell compter” (misspelling), desktop or tablet (similar product). The order of the words does not matter.

If you used the broad match used computers, your ad could be triggered to appear whenever anyone types in the words: computer second hand or laptop preowned, build a computer network, computer games, computer accessories or anything remotely connected to computers.

Lastly, your ad might show if the search query contains similar words to your keyword with additional parameters. For example, if your keyword was “tea cups,” you could match to “tea red mug,” “blue mugs tea,” or “tea cup holder.” Essentially, your ad would match to any words that contain the keywords being searched for, whether or not they are relevant.

In addition, your ad will receive significantly lower CTR and higher bid prices. This will lead to very low quality scores because your ad will be getting a large number of impressions, but very few clicks. With the use of broad match, you may be extending your reach too far and wasting money on irrelevant traffic from people who might only be looking for information related to what you are selling, including those who are not even looking for what you are selling at all.

This is why it is important to understand all of the match types to best control when your ad is displayed for a particular search query. If you want the maximum exposure possible for all of your keywords, broad match will help you get there. Just realize that this will come at a cost.

If you will be using broad match, it is more important than ever to add negative keywords that will keep the worst search queries from triggering your ads. Note however that if you add broad-matched negative keywords, you’ll need to add their plural versions, such as “computers” or else your ad will show for various forms of those negative broad match keywords.

Using Modified Broad Match

If you want to use broad match to uncover as many keywords as possible, you can use a broad match modifier in AdWords to control your keywords a bit more without restricting them too much by using the other more restrictive match types. This will effectively protect your ads from searchers that are not actually interested in you or your business.

A broad match modifier modifies the search and gives you potentially more targeted traffic. This lets you control your broad match keywords a bit more without having to restrict them too much by using phrase or exact match.

The format is: +keyword. For example, +greeting +card. In this instance, you’re telling AdWords that the keyword that directly follows the + sign must appear in the user’s query exactly as targeted or as a very close variant in order for your ad to be displayed for that search query.

Ads can be triggered to display for modified broad match keywords if the user query is a misspelling, abbreviation, or stemming of the modified broad match keyword, or if it is a singular or plural form.

Here’s an example of how the broad match modifier works: let’s say your broad match keyword is was “navy suede shoes.” Using such a keyword could prompt your ad to show up for searches for “navy boots,” “sandals”, “tennis shoes”, slippers”, “colorful shoes,” “suede jacket,” etc. If you want to ensure your ad does not show up for irrelevant keywords and phrases, adding +navy +suede +shoes will ensure that your ad only shows up for search queries that include all three keywords or close variants of those keywords, which include misspellings.

It is important to track the performance of your keyword types to evaluate how they are  affecting your clickthroughrate, conversion rate and ROI because they can decrease your expected traffic. Google notes in its broad match modifier overview that you can produce a performance report that just details information about modified broad match keywords.

Google suggests adding new modified broad match keywords to existing campaigns in a separate ad group. This will make it easy to compare new and existing keywords based on performance.

When to Use Broad Match

With the benefits of modified broad match, you might be wondering when to use standard broad match. Here are a few situations where you’ll want to use standard broad match in your ad groups:

  • For buying research: Broad match allows you to match to many queries that will give you meaningful insights into search behavior. So, if are conducting research, broad match can prove very useful.
  • When there are very few queries for the account:If you are trying to serve ads into a very small geography or are in a very niche business, you might try using some broad match to increase your total impressions and clicks; just make sure they are helping you reach your overall marketing goals.

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One comment

  1. Hey great article on keyword match types – lots of detail and examples! And I appreciate the mention 🙂

    Just wanted to let you know that 3 or 4 of the links are broken. They all have rel=”nofollow” at the end which makes them not work.