AdWords Keyword Matching Options: Broad Match, Phrase Match, and Exact Match

When advertisers first get started with Adwords, keyword matching options can be quite a mystery and if not used properly can be costly causing advertisers to spend their budget quickly without any return.

This is why it is very important to understand which keyword matching types need to be used and when to use them. Otherwise it can be a frustrating experience.

adwords-keyword-matching-typesThe key to understanding these match types is forming a plan of action from keyword discovery to targeting keywords that have been proven to convert for your campaigns.

A first time advertiser might start in the discovery phase, using broad or modified broad match. This will allow you to find the keywords that convert. Then, run reports and see what’s working and refine your campaigns.

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This can be done many times over with new campaigns and keywords.

It’s a process, you shouldn’t over-look. Adwords is not a guarantee but, if you know how to use it properly and have a budget to work with, success can be very real.

So, the first thing you should do is learn about the keyword match type options and what stages to use them in your campaigns.

The Google Keyword Tool is an incredibly valuable tool for online marketers in a number of ways.

It can help marketers looking to run AdWords campaigns estimate the potential number of impressions for their ads, or it can help search engine optimizers estimate the amount of search traffic that exists for keywords related to their website or industry.

Unfortunately, it can also be extremely misleading if it isn’t used correctly.

One of the most common mistakes that people make when using the Keyword Tool is incorrectly setting and interpreting the keyword “match types” option. The three possibilities – broad match, phrase match, and exact match – can all display drastically different results, and an understanding of each is extremely important.

Broad match:

Broad match is the default matching options setting, and because of that, it tends to be the one that people get tripped up on the most.

Broad match results will generally display the largest numbers, and since those numbers are based on the default option, people often just take them for face value.

That just isn’t the case, and a poor understanding of broad match results can lead to huge overestimation of potential search traffic.

Broad match searches are just what they sound like. Broad match results will return traffic results for not only the keyword entered into the search tool, but also a huge number of related terms.

That could mean the same words in a different order, synonyms, related words or terms, pluralized forms, and more.

That means that a Keyword Tool search on a phrase like “dog kennel” that indicated 10,000 monthly searches is actual including searches on a broad number of related terms, like “dog kennels”, “kennels for dogs”, and many more.

The actual search traffic on the specific entered is often much lower than the number indicated by a broad match search. Broad match keywords are entered into the tool plainly, with no quotation marks or brackets.

Phrase match:

Phrase match isn’t as narrow as exact match, but it’s a step down from broad match in so far as the number of different keywords it will consider when tabulating results.

Phrase match will only return results that contain the exact phrase entered into the search, or a close variant on it, with words before or after. Close variations include misspellings, pluralisation, and other minor differences.

For instance, results for a search on the term “dog kennel” would not take into account the traffic to “kennels for dogs” – as it would with broad match – but will consider the traffic for keywords such as “Minnesota dog kennel” or “dog kennel recommendations” because they contain the specific phrase as entered into the tool.

That means phrase match will generally return wider results than exact match, but narrower results than broad match. Phrase match keywords are entered into the Keyword Tool contained in quotation marks.

Exact Match:

Exact match is the narrowest and most focused type of matching option, and because of that, it tends to be the one that most search engine optimizers prefer to use when trying to estimate the amount of search traffic to any specific term.

With exact match, results will take into account only the term exactly as entered, and close variants. Again, close variants include things like misspellings and plural forms.

An exact match search on the term “dog kennel” will only take into account search traffic for that exact term, or a close variation like “dog kennels”, or a misspelling like “dog kennils”.

It will not consider any other words, or any alternate arrangements. Marketers running AdWords campaigns can use exact match to ensure that their ads are shown only to people who search on the specific terms they choose.

Exact match keywords are entered into the Keyword Tool contained in a set of square brackets, for example, [dog kennel].

While there are some other potential options, like broad and phrase matches with modifiers, and negative searches that exclude certain terms and words from searches, the three types of keyword matching options described here are the ones most commonly used.

They’re also the ones that most commonly generate misunderstanding and confusion when interpreting the results generated by the Google Keyword Tool.

Understanding these three types of keyword matching options will go a long way towards helping marketers ensure that their estimates for AdWords campaigns and search engine optimization are as accurate as possible.

Without that understanding, the misinterpretation of information from Keyword Tool results could have the potential to be misleading at best, and financially costly at worst.

I remember working with an account manager named Joe at WordStream, who was adamant people sometimes never have success with adwords because they are afraid to go broad using modifiers. This is completely correct.

Adwords is a process you have to work on and watch from day one, run keyword query reports and keep refining.

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