keyword match types What are Keyword Match Types & How Should I Use Them

Keyword match types are the way Google Ads will match your adverts to particular keywords. When you create a Google Ads campaign, the key is to choose keywords relevant to how people will search for your business, service, or product.

There are three match types; broad, phrase and exact. They all differ in how open or restrictive Google is about showing your adverts for searches with variations of keywords that might mean the same.

  • Broad — Adverts will show for search queries that Google finds relevant in any way. If even one keyword for your ad is in a search query no matter the order, your ad will likely be displayed. Even if you don’t have a keyword in a search query, Google might still show your ad for that search if it can be associated with your keywords.

For example, if you’re targeting the keyword phrase “designer bag” for your advert, it can show up for searches like “designer bag”, “branded bags”, or “luxury accessories”.

  • Phrase —  Traditionally, your keyword would need to appear in the search query exactly as it’s been stated, including the right order of words. Google also considers queries with additional words around the phrase. 

For example, your advert targeting “arcade machines” can be displayed for searches such as “retro arcade machines”, “sega arcade machines”, or “arcade machines with a light gun”.

  • Exact — The original version of exact match type is that adverts will only show for search queries that only use the exact keyword phrase in the exact same order. 

If you bid on the term “red shoes” for your advert, it won’t show up for any other search query aside from “red shoes”.

All three keyword match types have undergone changes from their original versions to be more flexible with how they trigger when adverts get shown.

What Has Changed with Keyword Match Types 

Google Search has evolved over the years to get closer to understanding the intent of its users. It’s no longer just about words, it’s about interpreting meaning. So, keyword match types have also changed to better connect Google Search users with the right businesses looking to provide the right product or service.

Broad Match Change

Broad match type hasn’t quite changed all that much, as it still casts the widest net for adverts and search terms. However, there was a brief period in 2021 when Google introduced a variant to broad match type called broad match modifier. 

Broad match modifier (BMM) allowed advertisers to make certain tweaks to keyword phrases to catch certain search terms. By adding a plus (+) sign right before a keyword, adverts could be matched with search terms that closely resembled the keyword with a plus sign, such as misspellings and synonyms. 

The decision to discontinue BMM in July 2021 was because some of its aspects were going to be incorporated into the change to phrase match types.

Phrase Match Change

Phrase match type now means the word order doesn’t have to be the same when matching adverts with search terms. Google will still prioritise word order if it makes sense, and disregard it if changing the order would change the meaning behind the search.

For example, “Bristol to London moving services” would still trigger adverts targeting phrase match keywords “affordable moving services Bristol to London”. However, it won’t trigger adverts targeting the phrase match keywords “London to Bristol moving services”.

Exact Match Change

As for exact match type, the targeted keywords no longer have to be the exact same as the search terms for adverts to display. It can now show your advert for what it considers to be a close variant of that search term. So, “red shoes” could show your advert for a term such as “red trainers” or “red footwear”.

How to Use Keyword Match Types 

With a basic understanding of keyword match types, you can now put them to good use with your PPC campaign. Each campaign however will differ depending on what you want to accomplish in the industry you’re in. Instead of trying to cover specific strategies, it would be easier to think of each keyword match type corresponding with the three major stages of the marketing funnel.

Broad Match (top of the funnel)

At the very top of the marketing funnel, you are primarily interested in getting as many people to know about your business. Broad match can help you accomplish that goal by putting your brand in front of as many eyeballs as possible in the SERPs

The obvious downsides to using broad match are that it generates a lot of irrelevant keywords, and that it can cost a lot more than expected. If you go down this route, you would have to spend a lot of time going through the Search Query Report (SQR) to add negative keywords just to avoid having to pay for clicks that don’t convert. 

Phrase Match (middle of the funnel)

Around the middle of the marketing funnel, you are starting to look for customers that are looking for something more specific and considering their options. Phrase match lets you target that audience while making sure you’re weeding out irrelevant search queries that Google might still think matters. 

Phrase match also works as a discovery tool for highly converting keyword variations you haven’t thought of, which you can then use to start a separate PPC campaign.

Exact Match (bottom of the funnel)

At the end of the marketing funnel, customers know exactly what they want and are looking to make a purchase. Using exact match narrows down the number of searchers that will see your ad to the most qualified leads. Every click on your ad will have a much better chance of converting into a sale or any other type of action. 

Another clear advantage to exact match is that it won’t break the bank. You’re not paying for clicks on your adverts that are likely to go nowhere. It’s the most cost-efficient, making it perfect for campaigns that are on a tight budget.


Each keyword match type has its use, whether it’s capturing the widest audience or focusing on the most specific search queries. It’s a matter of understanding what your target market’s search intent is to know when to use the right keyword match type.

Getting all this right can be confusing and, for the non-experienced, involve a lot of trial and error, all of which will mean your click budget isn’t working as hard as it should be. At Superb Digital, we have the expertise and the tools to really leverage the power of keyword match types, in order to get your campaign as optimised as possible as quickly as possible, giving you the best return on your investment

Book in a free strategy call today to find out how we can help maximise your Google Ads campaign.