Complete Guide to AdWords Matching Options, Part 1

Elisa Gabbert
Last Updated: November 15, 2021 | Paid Search Marketing
HomeBlogComplete Guide to AdWords Matching Options, Part 1


Complete Guide to AdWords Matching Options, Part 1

July 23, 2018
Paid Search Marketing


change matching option

Selecting targeted keywords is the first step to setting up a PPC campaign in Google AdWords, but the keyword matching options that you use can also have a large impact on your success. There are five AdWords match types: Broad Match, Modified Broad Match, Phrase Match, Exact Match, and Negative Match. All keyword match types have advantages and drawbacks, so we’ll discuss each in detail to help you choose the most advantageous options for your goals.

For our discussion of the different AdWords matching options, we’ll use “Gel Batteries” as the example keyword to illustrate how different options affect when your advertisements will be displayed.

Broad Match

Broad match is the default matching option for keywords used in your AdWords campaigns. A broad match keyword will be entered as Gel Batteries into your keyword list, without quotes, brackets, or other symbols.

Broad Match

When using the broad match option, your advertisement may display whenever someone enters your keywords into the search box, regardless of what order they appear in or what additional words are added. For example, the search queries “do gel batteries leak” or “do car batteries contain gel” could trigger your ad. This match option will also allow your ad to show for terms that Google interprets to be relevant to your keyword phrase, even if the search query does not include the exact keyword. So in this case your ad could also be displayed for a closely related term such as “car battery” or miss the mark completely with a term such as “AA batteries” or “hair gel.”

Broad match phrases are best used when your goal is to bring in the maximum amount of visitors possible. Since the advertisements will display for a broad variety of search terms, your ad will be visible to a large number of people in a short amount of time. This can be very desirable with a sufficient advertising budget and can quickly increase your exposure. In addition, you’ll be able to discover long-tail phrases that you never could have anticipated. (A healthy portion of search queries are completely unique and have never been searched on before.)

The immediate drawback of using broad match phrases is that while you will get a larger volume of traffic to your site, this traffic will likely not be as targeted and therefore has a lower chance of converting. You have limited control over what search terms your ads are displayed against, and you may not agree with what Google interprets as being relevant to your ad and your business.

This can easily lead to high advertising costs with low or no return on investment (ROI) in the short term. If you do make use of broad match in your AdWords campaign, be sure to read the section below on negative keywords, as these are essential to filtering out unwanted traffic and reining in costs.

Modified Broad Match

Modified broad match is a newer matching option that provides a little more control than standard broad match. To use modified broad match, append a plus sign to one or more terms in your keyword phrase to force Google to only match your ad against search queries that include that term.

For example, if your keyword is +Gel Batteries, Google will only match your ad against queries that include the word “gel” (or a very close variant), but they query needn’t contain the word “batteries.” So your ad might match against a search for “gel cells” but not “cell batteries.” If your modified broad match keyword is Gel +Batteries, on the other hand, your ad will only display in response to queries that contain the word “battery” or “batteries.” If you add a plus sign before both words, both must appear in the search query, but they could appear in any order and with additional terms.

The benefit of using the modified broad match option is that you have more control over how frequently your ad is displayed, so your traffic will be more targeted. However, narrower targeting will also reduce the overall traffic you bring in from those keywords.

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Meet The Author

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream’s Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.

See other posts by Elisa Gabbert

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