Understanding PPC Match Types and When to Use Them

PPC advertising is a great marketing channel to help increase brand awareness and generate sales online. However, as you begin to build your campaign, you may notice that curating keyword lists can be a bit daunting and leaves you with plenty of unanswered questions, such as:

How should I start? What keywords should I use? How much should I bid on these keywords? What is the difference between all these match types?

While we can’t give you all the answers, a huge part of creating a successful PPC campaign is understanding match types for the keywords you’ve selected. Below you’ll see that we’ve taken the guesswork out of keyword match types, helping you to understand the differences between them and why they’re essential in making your campaigns as profitable as possible.

What are keyword match types?

Match types are small indicators surrounding or added to individual keywords. These indicators tell popular PPC platforms, such as Google Ads and Bing Ads, how they should allow keywords to trigger for each search result.

Choosing the right match types for your keywords has a significant impact on campaign performance, affecting budget, conversions, and ad copy relevance. There are three keyword match types, but it’s important to remember that a mix of each can lead to great results.

Broad match

The broad match keyword type is the default match type. Broad match keywords are the most vague match type and include variations, misspellings and plural or singular versions of search terms. They can also trigger search queries with your target keywords in any order. There are no special characters or indicators added to broad match keywords. Simply add the keyword to your keyword list and it will automatically default to broad.

Example: You are a florist offering a $10 discount on all red roses. When creating your PPC campaign, you try to target all relevant searches for red roses in your targeted location.

Keyword                     Match Type                  Search Queries

red roses                      Broad                          thornless red roses

red roses                      Broad                          red rosses

red roses                      Broad                          red long rose

red roses                      Broad                          tulips for Valentine’s Day red

Generally, broad match keywords are used when you’re unsure of what type of search queries your audience is using to find products and/or services related to your business. When honing your PPC skills, broad match keywords can help ads trigger to help you gather relevant data. Over time, you can review keyword data and important reports, like the search terms report, to analyze which searches actually triggered your ads. This information is essential in helping you make decisions, such as whether to pause or remove keywords, change the match type or add to your negative keyword list.

PPC Expert Tip: Broad match keywords can potentially increase the frequency of your ad appearing in searches. They can also eat through your daily budget because they cast a larger net of searches. Be careful when using broad match keywords and expect a few irrelevant searches to trigger your ad.

Phrase match

Phrase match keywords utilize specific phrases you would like to target within a user’s search query. They give PPC marketers even more control over which search terms trigger their ads. Unlike the previous broad and broad modified match types, the ordering of words is taken into account with phrase match. This means you’ll need to have a good idea of what search terms your audience is using and how relevant each search is to your business. Phrase match keywords still take into account common misspellings, plural or singular versions of words and terms appended before or after a keyword phrase. To indicate the match type for phrase match keywords, wrap your keyword with quotation marks (“).

Example: Your red roses are starting to sell, but now you want to focus specifically on selling thornless roses. The best way to narrow your target to potential customers only searching for thornless roses is with phrase match type keywords.

Keyword                                     Match Type                 Search Queries

“thornless roses”                    Phrase                         long-stemmed thornless roses

“thornless roses”                     Phrase                         thornless rose

“thornless roses”                     Phrase                         thornless roses red

“thornless roses”                     Phrase                         red thornless roses for date

Not only do phrase match keywords give more control to PPC marketers, they also tend to have more relevant searches and may even result in better click-through-rates and/or conversion rates. This is usually due to eliminating irrelevant searches and, since the available searches are more limited, you generally have a lower bid for these keywords.

PPC Expert Tip: If you’re new to PPC or not quite comfortable with search engine advertising platforms, limit the amount of phrase match keywords in your campaign. It’s always great to experiment with your keywords and match types, but consider starting broad and then honing in on your target keywords to yield the best results.

Exact match/close variant

The exact match type refers to targeting the exact keywords or phrases that match your customers’ search queries. Unlike the aforementioned match types, exact match does not include any added terms before and/or after your keyword. In addition, exact match keywords take into account the ordering of your terms within the keyword. So you’re targeting keywords which exactly match your audience’s search query. Exact match keywords work best when you’re certain of your customers’ search behavior.

Last year Google did away with the pure exact match keywords and reconfigured the format to include ‘close variants’, which includes close variations on words within your keyword phrase. While this makes the exact match type less precise, it expands your potential search queries, allowing ads to be seen more often.

Nevertheless, exact match/close variant match types provide the most precise data and should be used when you’re confident in user behavior. When inputting exact match keywords into your PPC campaign, be sure to include the target keywords or phrase within brackets ([ ]), this indicates an exact match keyword.

Example: Your red roses are performing well and, after you’ve run your campaign for some time, you notice some keywords that many users have searched to find and order your red roses. These target keywords include: red, roses, thornless, delivery and anniversary, so you want to be sure to include these exact search terms in your PPC campaign.

Keyword                                               Match Type                 Search Queries

[red roses]                                             Exact                           red roses

[thornless red roses]                        Exact                           thornless red roses

[red roses for anniversary]             Exact                           red roses for anniversary

[red roses delivery]                            Exact                           red roses

PPC Expert Tip: Experiment with a mix of match types to see which match type performs best, and which match type converts more in line with your goals. Always keep budget and cost in mind when optimizing match types. You may find that increasing a bid on an exact match keyword yields better results while bidding up for a phrase match keyword may provide similar results.

Negative keywords are your friends—get to know them

Negative keywords are specific words or phrases used to prevent your ads from triggering. Adding negative keywords can help trigger the most relevant searches while eliminating irrelevant search terms and reducing overall advertising spend. To add a negative keyword at the campaign or ad group level, put a minus sign (-) before each keyword.

Once your target negative keyword is in the keyword list, choose the specific match type for your negative keywords. These match types are the same for general keywords. This allows for more precise negative targeting, resulting in more qualified traffic. Before expanding your negative keyword lists, allow your campaign to run for a short period. Once the search engines have had an opportunity to test the campaign with your audience, you can review the data to add, negate or modify keywords as necessary.

Remember match types are about relevance

The key to understanding keyword match types is to target the most relevant search terms used by your audience. The more targeted you are with keyword match types, the more cost-effective, higher clickhigher click-through-rate and likely more conversions you’ll see. Remember to test often to determine which keywords perform best with each match type. Now you’re ready to start building your first PPC campaign!