Match types are Google AdWords keyword options which are used to deliver an ad on the Google Search Network and Display Network. Depending on the selected keyword option, ads are delivered to a broad target group or a special user group. The keywords can be generic, so that as many users as possible can be addressed. Or, they can be accurately specified to increase the relevance of the ad but reduce the user group that the ad is presented to. There are generally three types of keyword options that can be used to define the triggering search queries for ads. The broad match modifier and the negative keywords option exclude the possibilities of the match type.

General information on the topic

Keyword match types are used in the SEA area. Some user search queries can trigger ads that are delivered when a user enters a search term that matches their previous definition. On the one hand, the relevance can be increased by determining search terms very precisely. On the other hand, the scope of the target group can be increased by specifying more general search terms. With a precise control of the keywords and regular observation, the return on investment or the return on advertising spending (ROAS) can be targeted. In this context, an ideal keyword or matching structure is also used which is relevant to the user’s search intention and which triggers ads for as large a target group as possible. The search terms or keywords are supposed to reflect the user’s search intention in order to be able to deliver interesting advertisements.

Types of keyword options

Ad delivery differs depending on which keyword options are enabled. Google recommends combining multiple keyword options to keep track of the size of the target group and to keep relevance at a high level by using more defined keywords.

The search term report is a prerequisite for the effective handling of keyword options. Search terms which are particularly suitable as keywords and are actually used by users can be identified. These keywords can then be specified with the following options.

  • Broad match: The broad match option is assigned to all keywords by default, if no other settings have been selected. Spelling errors, related search queries, synonyms, and keyword variations can also affect the delivery of ads. Some terms that have not been defined but are variations or synonyms can also trigger ads. Google also takes into account word stems, as well as singular and plural forms of the term and new search requests. The target audience is very large for this match type. However, non-relevant keywords, or even keyword contamination, can occur when Google assigns variations to certain keywords that are not effective in the paid search. A continues comparison of the CTR of individual keywords is therefore advisable when this option is selected.
  • Modified broad match: Modifier + is used to narrow down certain keywords or add versions to the list which should also trigger ads. These include erroneous spellings, singular and plural forms, abbreviations, acronyms, and word stems. If a keyword is preceded by a plus sign (+), then Google’s variations will be used to deliver ads. Synonyms and related search queries will not be considered.
  • Phrase match: A suitable phrase and very similar variations of this phrase are defined to trigger ads. A keyword phrase is specified with quotation marks (“ ”). Search queries that contain this “phrase” will then trigger display ads. This keyword option is more flexible and can increase the relevance.
  • Exact Match: This keyword option triggers ads when the search queries match the search terms exactly or contain very similar variations of the search term. Similar variations are erroneous spellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, word stems, abbreviations, and accents. With the square brackets [] option, the search terms can be defined exactly and allows you control of the triggering search requests. Achieving an ideal matching structure is relatively complex with this option. But, it can be assumed that the users have a high interest in the ads associated with the search terms. The keyword planner can be used to select variations of keywords along with the keyword search term.
  • Negative match: If certain search queries are not intended to trigger ads, they can be specified with negative keywords. That way, irrelevant impressions can be excluded for ads. It is recommended to ensure that certain keywords do not conflict with each other and that the chosen keyword options do not result in high bids.

AdWords is not case-sensitive, so keywords can be case-sensitive. Certain symbols and special characters like! @%, * are used by the system and should not occur in the keyword options.

Segmentation of keyword options are optional at the levels of a campaign or ad group. If a segmentation is made, the most effective keyword options can be organized and optimized according to their CTR. This is useful especially for small budgets, since lower performing keywords also cost money.[1]


  • Broad match: The keyword “shoes for women” triggers an ad when a user enters the search terms “women’s shoes” or “pumps.”
  • Phrase match: The keyword “shoes for women” triggers an ad when a user enters the term “buy shoes for women” for example.
  • Exact match: The keyword [shoes for women] triggers an ad when a user enters the search request “shoes for women.”

Relevance to online marketing

Match types or keyword options are a necessary way to control spending on SEA campaigns and ensure their effectiveness. Match types can be defined for almost all paid advertisements on the Internet on larger portals, including Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Bing, who employ similar technologies.[2] In general, the more precise the match type and the semantic variations of a term are, the higher will be the conversion rates for ads, which has a corresponding effect on the return on investment. However, reach is also lower when the keywords are selected exactly.

A sensible keyword strategy would meet both requirements and select relevant search queries for the best reach possible, without neglecting the budget. In addition to the semantic aspects and the search intentions of the users, financial factors must also be taken into account by monitoring the CTR and the general marketing budget related to the campaign. If only traffic for a web project is to be generated or branding campaigns are planned, broad match keywords can be easily selected. For other campaigns, keywords control based on match types is advisable.


  1. Should You Segment Your PPC Campaigns By Match Type? Retrieved on 07/20/2016
  2. What are keyword match types, and how do I use them? Retrieved on 07/20/2016

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