Google Ads Match Types: Common Mistakes and Best Practices

By: Ben Cherry Content Writer

When the time comes to set up your first Google Ads account and launch a campaign, there’s plenty to get your head around, especially newcomers.  

After spending time getting to grips with the puzzling platform, you might think you’ve got everything in order. 

Keywords? Check! 

Budget? Check! 

Ad copy? Check!

But, there’s one final hurdle to contend with: match types. 

Most entry-level marketers skip this step, opting for Google’s default match types, which is so often the downfall to ad campaigns. 

This article is an important guide to using match types to make your budget go further and generate some extremely valuable clicks. It can seem a little confusing at first, but believe us; it’s worth learning.

What are Keyword Match Types? 

Simply put, the match type determines whether a broad audience will see your ad or if it will only be shown to a select few. Your choice of match type tells Google how closely you want to match an advertisement with a keyword. 

For example, if your keyword is “Women’s Top,” do you want Google to show your ad solely for “Women’s Top,” or would you prefer your ad also show for similar terms, such as “Women’s Blouse,” “Women’s Shirt,” and “Ladies Top”? 

The broader the keyword match, the more people your advert will reach. Conversely, a narrow keyword match has the potential to capture more targeted searchers.

Google Ads offer 4 keyword match types: broad match, modified broad match, phrase match, and exact match. If you don’t know when to use which one, you could be wasting your budget and missing out on clicks. 

So what are the differences between each match type, and how should you use them?

Broad Match

Broad Match is Google’s default setting, and, as such, is the most widely used match type by entry-level Google Ads users. 

But just because it’s the default setting, it doesn’t mean it’s always the right choice. Consistently using the default setting can be problematic once you understand how this match type works. 

Broad match casts a wide net and reaches the largest audience – showing your ad to people who search for all kinds of variations of your keyword, as well as your specific keyword. 

For example, if your keyword is “basketball shoes,” Broad Match may target relevant phrases, such as “men’s basketball shoes,” “basketball trainers,” “basketball equipment,” and “cheap basketball shoes.”

Indeed, Broad Match puts your ad in front of more eyes, but a lot of these impressions are from irrelevant traffic, which can negatively impact click-through rate (CTR) and cost a small fortune.

Amongst the useful search queries Google suggests, there will almost certainly be a handful of suggestions that are not relevant. For the same keyword as above, Google might suggest “designer basketball shoes,” “tennis shoes,” and “sports trainers.”

You can restrict that reach of Broad Match by setting negative keywords that tell Google what queries you don’t want your ads to show for. 

Modified Broad Match

Modified Broad Match is the middle-ground between Broad Match and the more targeted match types to come. 

This match type lets you be more selective in the queries that will trigger your ad by assigning a ‘+’ to specific words in your keyword phrase. When you add ‘+’ to a specific word, Google will only show ads for searches containing that word. 

This allows you to reach a similarly wide audience as a Broad match, but better control the targeted words. 

For example, if you use a Broad Match Modifier on the keyword “+bike +shop,” Google can show your ad when a user searches for “bike repair shop,” “bike shop,” or “online bike shop,” but will not display your ad for “cycling shop,” “bike store,” or “bicycle repair store.”

Phrase Match

Phrase Match introduces a higher level of control for your ad campaigns – eliminating the unnecessary traffic that Broad Match provides.

With Phrase Match, ads only appear for searches using your keyword in the exact order you entered and close variants. 

The critical thing to remember with this match type is that it must be in the exact order. No words are allowed within the keyword, but some additional terms might be added at the beginning or end of the query. 

For example, if your keyword is “dog treats,” your ads are eligible to show for other terms such as “healthy dog treats” or “chewy dog treats,” but not “treats for dogs” or “dog chew treats.”

Exact Match

As the name suggests, Exact Match is the most targeted keyword match type. Previously, users would only see your ad if they searched your exact keyword phrase, synonyms, and no juggling of words. 

However, Exact Match now includes misspellings, reordered phrases, and when function words are removed, added, or changed. For example, if your keyword phrase is “Montreal hotel,” Exact Match will also include other phrases such as “hotel in Montreal,” “Montreal hotel,” and “Montreal hotels.”

This keyword match type is useful when you’ve identified a keyword that drives conversions. You might not receive as many impressions as Broad Match, but you’ll probably see a higher CTR.

Which Match Type is Best for your Campaign?

Match type is the tool that controls exactly which search queries you’re bidding on, so, of course, they have a significant impact on your ad performance. 

It takes time to identify the match type that works best for your campaign; every business is different, and there is no “one size fits all.” 

That being said, testing can universally uncover the match types that work for you and which ones don’t.

By running Broad Match, Phrase Match, and Exact Match simultaneously, you can compare the data to see which has the highest CTR and lowest cost-per-click. 

Alternatively, you can launch a Broad Match campaign to identify profitable queries and eliminate budget-draining keywords. You can then use this data to setup Exact Match campaigns that isolate the profitable queries into their own ad groups.

We never recommend running pure broad match keywords generally, but there are some exceptions. We like to segment our search campaigns by match type, broad match modified, and exact match. This way, we can discover new keywords with the broad match modified campaigns and then add it to the exact match campaign. 

A common mistake we see when people segment their campaigns by match type is that they forget to negative out the exact match keywords from the BMM campaigns. This prevents overlap between the campaigns, which can skew your data.

Google Ad Experts

Starting a PPC campaign is easy, but making it work is the tricky part. That’s where the experts at Rank Media Agency come in. Improving results, driving down costs, and squeezing clicks and profit out of your PPC campaign is what we do best. 

When you work alongside Rank Media Agency, you have access to a highly experienced and knowledgeable team. Get in touch to find out how we can help your business today.