Keyword Match Types in Google Ads – Trends for 2024

Keyword Match Types in Google Ads
Ravi Davda Rockstar Marketing CEO

Written by Ravi

Mar 23, 2021

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Businesses looking to use Google Ads must be aware of the different Google Ads keyword match types. Google Ads, formerly called ‘Adwords’ is Google’s pay-per-click marketing platform. It is one of the most effective search marketing tools in the world. If done well, it can provide quicker results than say, SEO or SEM. To top it off, Google has constantly been providing more prominence to Ads. Did you know that Google is testing search results pages with up to 14 Ads for mobile traffic? From a tiny block of sponsored listings on the top, it has now expanded to half the page and a column on the right.

Some experts even predict that organic search listings will phase out in some time. That’s too farfetched according to us. However, there’s no denying that Google Ads will continue to grow in stature. To add to this, there’s a growing sentiment that SEO has become unpredictable. You might work for years on developing a perfect website. Then one fine day, a new algorithm update that you never saw coming may still penalise you.

Google Ads keeps you covered. You will continue to generate traffic as long as you run Ads. Penalties won’t affect your site. Coming back to the topic. Keyword matches are types of keyword searches that you can use to target your audience. They can be extremely broad, or very restrictive. It all depends on your business objective and the experience of your Google Ads manager. This guide will explain the basics of Google Ads keyword match types to you.

The Three Types of Google Ads Keyword Match Types

When you set up a new Google Ads campaigns, Google offers you three different keyword match types. It was four initially. But one of them is going to be phased out soon (see more below). Your choice should depend on a variety of factors. Ad spend is one of the most critical ones. But it’s not the only one. There are certain business keywords, that are better suited for broader searches. On the other hand, some business keywords can leech your budget if you select a broad match.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at these three Google Ads keyword match types.

#1 – Exact Match Keyword

google ads keyword match types
Exact Match Keywords explained

The exact match keyword is the most basic of them all. It is pretty much what the name suggests. Ads will be displayed only if the searcher uses the exact match of the keyword phrase. When you set up a new Ad campaign, Google will ask you a few basic questions. What is your objective from the campaign? Which is the website where the user will land when they click on the ad and so on. Once you fill in the basic details, it will ask you for a keyword theme.

For instance, let’s say that you are a web designer based in London. You want to set up a campaign with an exact match for the keyword ‘web designer London’. This will be displayed in brackets in the keyword tool. Your Ad will be displayed only when someone searches for this exact keyword.

Recent Updates

After the change in 2019, exact match Ads are now displayed even if it matches synonyms, is a paraphrase or matches intent. Conjunctions and articles in the search query are not considered. Let’s take a look at this keyword in Ahrefs.

broad match keywords types

Ahrefs reveals that the search volume for this keyword is very low. It’s just 70 searches a month on Google UK. But take a look at the average CPC or Cost Per click. It’s a whopping $13. That’s the average cost that advertisers are paying for Ads for this exact keyword match.

In a nutshell, you will pay $13 or more if you want your ad to show up on top of the rest in sponsored listings. 70 searches a month, mean that you won’t pay a lot of money in ad spend due to the low volume of clicks. However, it is very likely to convert because its razor targeted.

#2 – Phrase Match

The second Google Ads keyword match types are phrase match. It’s a slightly broader version of the exact match. But it’s still a very targeted keyword match type because the order of the words in the keyword matter.

Google will display the Ads even if there are related specific terms before or after your keyword. But not if there are terms in between the words. For instance, ‘web designer London for e-commerce’. Here the search becomes more specific as the searcher is trying to find a web designer in London who designs e-commerce websites. This query will also display your Ad. If the searcher adds WordPress before the keyword, ‘WordPress web designer London’, then it is related to web designers with expertise in WordPress. Google will display your Ads for this too.

#3 – Broad Match

We generally recommend using broad match keyword types only for businesses looking for a wider reach. Increased reach is typically associated with reduced relevancy, but the cost can add up. Your Ads will be displayed for any search query that very broadly matches your target keywords. It may or may not always be relevant.

phrase match keywords types
Broad match is one of the most interesting google Ads keyword match types

In the above example, your Ad might be displayed even when someone searches for web designer UK or even designer London. Let’s look at the first example. The user could be looking for a web design company outside London but within the UK. In the second one, they may be looking for a costume designer for all you know. Both searches will trigger your Ad and you will be billed if they click on the Ad out of curiosity. Broad match Ads are also displayed when someone uses synonyms. By default, Google Ad campaigns are set to broad match and can quickly eat into your marketing budget.

That’s why it’s critical that you partner with Google Ads experts who understand the nitty-gritty of keyword research and the search algorithm. When is it recommended to use broad match searches? How to monitor an ongoing campaign to spot irrelevant search queries that are taxing your Ad spend? Only a search marketing team with years of expertise across industries will be able to point this.

#4 – Broad Match Modifier

The broad match modifier is a very interesting Google Ads keyword match type. In theory, it’s an extension of the broad match keyword type. However, Google allows you to make it more relevant by adding a ‘+’ sign before phrases that you want to be included in the search. For example, you do not want your Ad to be triggered when someone is looking for an interior designer in London. So, you add a ‘+’ before the term ‘web’.

The keyword match type for Google Ads changes from a broad match for ‘web designer London’ to ‘+web designer London’. Similarly, if you want to razor target traffic looking for London-based companies only, you can add a ‘+’ before London. The keyword will then be ‘+web designer +London’. It’s still a broad match keyword mind you. It will be triggered irrespective of whether they are looking for a WordPress designer or someone who specialises in Shopify. But unless the search term includes web and London, the Ad won’t be displayed.

Using the ‘-’ sign does the reverse. It works as a negative match and will prevent Ads from being displayed for those keyword phrases.

Update Feb 2021

In the most recent development, Google has announced that the broad match modifier is on its way out. This leaves you with the first three Google Ads keyword match types mentioned in this list. It has evoked mixed reactions from experts. Google though, says that the broad match modifier will now be included in the phrase match.

exact match keywords types
The new changes explained by Google

Well, just like the rest of the world, we don’t feel that the two Google Ads keyword match types are the same. It seems more like a push towards automated bidding. This gives the big G more control over your Ad spend. Thankfully, we can still use the Broad Match modifier until July. That leaves us with ample time to tweak our existing campaigns. Is your Google Ads manager aware of this massive change?

How do Google Ads keyword match types affect your marketing campaign?

Google Ads keyword match types can make or break your campaign. As clichéd as it sounds. It is the single determining factor that gives you control over your Ad spend. With an experienced PPC marketing team, you can narrow down on the least expensive keywords that provide you with the best return.

Here are some of the factors that we use in determining which keyword match types to use for our clients.

  1. Competition – The easiest way to know what keyword match types are working great for a business is to look at their competitors. For instance, if your competitor is running a broad phrase match for a keyword, despite a high CPC, chances are that it’s converting better than expected. This may not exactly be the case. But it’s definitely worth a try. We use similar strategies for Facebook Ad PPC campaigns as well.
  2. Performance – Be it Google Ads or LinkedIn Ads, campaigns must constantly be monitored. Keyword performance over a period of weeks or months can give you a fair idea of its worth.
  3. Bids – Advertisers use a variety of strategies to reduce the CPC. They manipulate bids by altering their bidding strategy depending on performance. Staying on top of the bidding for a keyword phrase gives us an idea of what match type works best.


Google Ads keyword match types can be optimised to create low-cost, high-return campaigns. But designing winning campaigns takes years of expertise in PPC marketing. It’s all the more important given the frequent changes that Google is rolling out. Rockstar Marketing can create razor targeted Google Ads campaigns that fit into your marketing budget.

We can also suggest relevant marketing strategies such as SEO and email marketing, to expand your visibility and reach. Speak to us now to know how we can help.


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