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AdWords Keyword Match Types

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Understanding keyword match types is necessary to run a successful AdWords campaign. Match types give you the power to control how relevant a search term needs to be to match your keyword and trigger your ad.

How Keyword Match Types Work

Every keyword you add to your account can be assigned one of four possible match types: broad, broad match modifier, phrase, or exact. You assign a match type by adding symbols to your keywords.

Let’s take a look at the symbols associated with each match type and how it affects the reach of your keywords. keyword match types

Broad Match

Broad match keywords will give you the widest reach, but the least relevance.

No additional symbols are required to set your keyword as broad; you just type it in as is. Broad match keywords will match to search terms that are misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and whatever AdWords considers to be relevant variations of your keyword. This means that your keywords do not have to be in the search term anywhere and your ad can still show.

Bike shop as a broad match keyword would match to any search terms that mentioned bikes, shop, or any synonyms or related terms as determined by Google.

Example bike shop matches: motorcycle store, cycle stores, mountain bike shops

Broad Match Modifier (BMM)

You set a BMM keyword by putting a plus sign in front of any or all words in your keyword. Any word with a + before it must be in the search term, or a close variant of that word. Note that you do not have to put a plus sign in front of every word in your keyword, only the words that have to be in the search term. I like to refer to this as partial or complete modified keywords.

If you add the BMM keyword +bike +shop to your account it will only match to search terms that contain both the word bike and the word shop, or close variants of bike and shop.  Order of the words does not matter. If you only partially modify the keyword as +bike shop, the search term just has to have the word bike, or close variant, in order to match your keyword.

Example +bike +shop matches: bike repair shop, shop for a bike

Example +bike shop matches: bike store, bike

Phrase Match

You set a Phrase match keyword by putting it in quotes. For a search term to match to a phrase match keyword, it must contain all the words (or close variants) in the keyword in the same order without any words in between. The search term can have other words before or after the phrase.

The phrase match keyword “bike shop” would only match to keywords that have the words bike shop right next to each other, without any terms in between. The search terms can have additional words before or after the phrase bike shop.

Example “bike shop” matches: local bike shop, bike shops in washington

Exact Match

Exact match keywords provide the lowest reach but highest relevance. Putting the keyword in brackets sets exact match keywords. Only search terms that exactly match the keywords will trigger your ad. This means all the words are present, in the same order, without any words before, after, or in between.

The exact match keyword [bike shop] will only match to search term bike shop, no additional words, or close variants.

Example [bike shop] matches: bike shop, bike shops

Close Variants

Now you’re probably wondering, what are these close variants you keep mentioning? Close variants of a keyword include any misspellings, plurals/singulars, stemmings, acronyms, abbreviations, and accents. What’s important to call out here is that close variants do not include synonyms.

match type close variants

Close variants will always match to broad and BMM keywords, but you can choose whether or not close variants match to your phrase and exact keywords. You can find this option in the Advanced Settings section under Keyword matching options. If you don’t see Advanced settings, make sure your campaign type is set to All features, not Standard.

adwords match type variants

By default, close variants are included for phrase and exact keywords. I recommend leaving close variants turned on because this means you won’t have to spend the time adding in all the possible stemmings, misspellings, etc. of your keyword in order for a search term to match.

Examples of ‘bike’ close variants: bikes, bikers, bicycle, bicycling,

Examples of ‘shop’ close variants: shops, shopping, shopper, shoppers

The Match Type Target

I like to think of keyword match types like a target. As you move down the match types the target audience gets smaller, but what you lose in reach you make up for in relevancy. Having an exact match is like hitting the bullseye, those people are searching for exactly the keyword you’re bidding on.

Take a look at a list of some of the search terms that would show for each match type of bike shops. Note that any out ring match types will also match the search terms in the inner rings. So a broad match of bike shop would match to all the search terms on the target.

match type target

*These words would not match to the phrase and exact match keywords if close variants was disabled.

That’s the rundown on AdWords keyword match types. If you’d like to learn more about keyword match types and creating a successful AdWords campaign, attend one of our live, hands-on trainings.

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