Real Google Match Types

Billions of searches occur every day on Google. All this search query data has allowed Google to develop a state-of-the-art question-and-answering system. Google’s technology matches a user’s search with the most relevant ads. For your ads to show in search, you must have a keyword that relates to a searcher’s query. Keywords have three match types you can choose from — exact, phrase, and broad.

Match types are really a misnomer. Once upon a time, Google did have a strict sense of match types. If a keyword was an exact match keyword, it had to match the query exactly. If the keyword was a phrase match, then that particular phrase was in the search, but with words before or after it. And broad was just that — the broadest and loosest of the match types. Perfectly named, logical to understand. 

But Google has completely changed how match types work (and should change the names) — there really is no longer any matching at all, but approximation and intent. They change the word to synonyms or drop words completely. Sometimes they get it right, but sometimes they get it wrong.

Here are the current way match types work, with real-world examples from actual Google accounts so you can see what Google is doing now.

Exact match

Exact match keywords match to keywords with the same search intent and include misspellings, singular and plural forms, stemming, abbreviations, and accents. This match type gives you the most control over who sees your ad but reaches fewer searches than phrase and broad match. You’ll find that exact match gets somewhat close search terms for the keyword you’re targeting. An exact match is indicated by having brackets around the keyword. Below are real examples of close variants that matched to exact match keywords.

Misspellings — Example: [soccer cleats] 

Singular and Plural Forms — Example: [wedding backdrop]

Stemming — Example: [pond flowers]

Abbreviations — Example: [new york labor posters]

Accents — Example: [cafe terrace at night painting]

Phrase match

Phrase match is more targeted than broad match but not limited to what exact match will give. This match type will capture all the search queries of the same keyword in exact match, plus additional searches. Your ads will show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. With phrase match, you’re able to expand on some of the different search terms people type in without giving up some of that relevancy that broad match takes away from you. Phrase match is indicated by having quotes around the keyword. Below are real examples of search terms that matched to phrase match keywords.

Misspellings — Example: “art by da vinci”

Singular & Plurals — Example: “super cars models”

Abbreviations — Example: “human resource posters”

Broad match

Broad match is going to spread the widest net possible, giving you more volume but potentially less relevant traffic. This match type will capture all the search queries of the same keyword in exact and phrase match, plus additional searches. Ads will show on searches that relate to your keyword. Broad match search queries may not include any of your targeted keywords. For example, the broad match keyword Vincent Van Gogh oil painting showed on the search café terrace at night since the keywords are related. Café Terrace at Night is a specific oil painting by Vincent Van Gogh, and therefore, the keywords correlate.

Correlation — Example: vincent van gogh oil painting

Broad match is the default match type for all keywords.  The indicator for broad match keywords is to simply input the keyword without [ ] or “ “.

Google recommends using broad match with smart bidding strategies like Target CPA and Maximize Conversions which requires you to use conversion tracking on your account. 

See more broad match examples below:

Singular and Plural Forms — Example: bulk candy canes

Stemming — Example: fish lodge

Negative Keywords

Exclude matches you don’t want by adding negative keywords, so you’re not wasting money and showing up on unrelated searches. In the Google User Interface, check the search terms tab to see what keywords people are searching that triggered your ad to show. Google does a decent job at understanding a user’s intent but isn’t perfect, so if you find your ad showing on unrelated searches, then add negatives.

Carefully choose your negative keywords because the more negatives you add, the fewer searches you show on. Read our blog post, 5 Ways to Find Negative Keywords, to learn more.

Example: leather biker vest

Exclude: patch for jacket, patches for jackets

For example, if you’re a leather apparel company, you don’t want to show ads on non-leather apparel searches. The search terms report shows that your broad match keyword leather biker vest showed an ad when a user searched patch for jacket and patches for jackets. The intent of the user searching is to find patches, not a leather biker vest like you’re targeting. When Google drops important words from the keyword like vest and leather, then you’re thrown into a bigger pool of people who aren’t looking for your product. Regularly check the search terms report, and exclude matches that are unrelated to keep your targeting focused.

Example: Halloween sweets

Exclude: betty crocker halloween magazine, bulk halloween crafts

Another example is if you’re a candy company that sells only candy, you don’t want to show ads on non-candy-related searches. Broad match keyword Halloween sweets is showing on the keyword betty crocker halloween magazine and bulk halloween crafts. These search terms both have the keyword Halloween, but the user’s search intent isn’t for candy, and therefore, you can exclude these search terms, so your ad no longer shows. If you find that your ad is showing on several search terms that include the keyword magazine and/or crafts, then you can negative just the keywords magazine and crafts to prevent your ad from showing for these particular searches.

Choosing the right keywords and match types ensures the money you spend on Google Ads is bringing you relevant traffic and allowing you to reach your advertising goals. Check the search terms tab to see what search queries your keyword is triggering, and utilize negative keywords to eliminate unwanted spend on irrelevant searches.

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