Get the Most from Google AdWords with Keyword Match Types

Jun 27, 2022 | 4  min
author Pyxl Development

Consider this for a moment: your paid search account in Google AdWords is the face of your watch, the tool you use to tell time and measure marketing success. If your campaign dashboard is the face of a watch, keywords are the gears that make your paid campaigns tick in AdWords.

Like cogs, keywords come in different shapes, sizes and types. This is something a lot of PPC neophytes struggle to understand, and it makes a significant difference when it comes to setting up campaigns.

Keyword match types, as these keyword variations are referred to, aren’t settings you access by navigating to a new tab and checking a box — they are built into the native system. By giving your keywords different denominations, you give them the ability to do different things, or more precisely, to tell Google when you want your ads to be served for a query on the search engine results page (SERP).

To understand this fully, you need to understand the structure of a paid search campaign in AdWords. From the top down, advertisers start with an Account in which are various search and display Campaigns. Those campaigns are composed of organizational Ad Groups, which are comprised of a collection of specific Keywords.

Needless to say, keywords are the mechanisms that control (alongside bid strategy and ad copy) the operation of your paid campaigns. Match types are assigned to each keyword, and tell Google when to trigger your ads.

Their system makes this decision based on how much freedom for disparity they have when pairing your keywords with search queries that users make with the search engine. In other words, the more broad your match type, the more Google can show your ad for search terms that don’t exactly match that keyword.

For instance, if the keyword you set up was broad match “digital marketing tips,” and a user Googled “the worst digital marketing tips ever,” your ad still might populate. Negative keywords can prevent this from happening, but this demonstrates why knowing your available tools is so important.

The following are match types available in AdWords.

We put them in descending order of liberty allowed to Google for serving your ads:


Example: digital marketing 

Ads could show for a search query like: The best digital marketing un-agency

Description: The broad match type captures the most clicks and impressions, with (generally speaking) the lowest clickthrough rates. This match type is useful for collecting keyword data to inform the more specific match types, but requires significant time for gathering data.

With the search terms report available within AdWords, this match type helps advertisers discover new ideas for strong, relevant keywords. In comparison to other match types, broad match will often have the lowest cost-per-click by nature of the lower competition for non-specificity.

Broad modified

Example: +digital +marketing

Ads could show for a search query like: Successful inbound and outbound digital marketing

Description: This match type must include all the modified terms, but not necessarily in that order. For instance, the examples above could still turn up for a query like this: Digital nomads don’t understand marketing like gurus.

Broad modified is a great way to get new ideas with greater control on your campaign with a better click through rate, but quality score is tougher to control with this variability. Therefore, negative keywords are essential to your campaign strategy. More on this, soon.


Example: a “digital marketing”

Ads could show for a search query like: Tennessee’s favorite digital marketing agency, Pyxl

Description: This match type allows for ads to show when the keyword phrase is included in the query with other keywords prepended and appended. Though this match type gives you more control, it still presents the opportunity for your ads to be served for visitors you are not interested in. Unlike broad match, these keywords must appear in the order you specify.


Example: [digital marketing with Pyxl]

Ads could show for a search query like: Digital marketing with Pyxl

Description: As the name suggests, this match type will only allow your ad to be served if the query matches your keyword exactly. This means an ad won’t populate on the SERP if any additional words are added to the beginning or end of the keyword you’ve placed in brackets in your campaign’s ad groups.

This ad group generates both the highest clickthrough rates and the highest cost-per-click. At this point of your keyword development, you are no longer looking for campaign keyword ideas, and have reached the most particular psychological ground for connecting to your persona. This match type is generally used only when you know for certain you want your ads to be served for a very specific keyword, or you’ve already analyzed your broad match data.

Another important note, even though the match type is exact, Google allows for slight variations and plurals.


Example:  -digital marketing

Ads could show for a search query like: The marketing agency I’ve been looking for

Description: Perhaps the simplest keyword match type to grasp, negative keywords are your tool for exclusions. If you want your ad to populate for digital marketing agencies, but don’t want to include enterprise level vendors, simply adding -enterprise would remove the opportunity for your ads to populate with that search term.

If you’re concerned that you might miss out on customers who are poor spellers, or happen to pluralize your keywords, don’t worry, those keywords — what Google calls “close variations”– will still be included, and your ad will still be served for those queries.

The further you get away from peripheral keywords, and the closer you get to specifics, the higher your click through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC) will likely be.

If you are interested in paid media strategy, or need to supplement your ongoing marketing efforts with search and display campaigns, Pyxl is happy to help. Reach out to our paid media team, and ask about a paid media recommendation for your next digital campaign.

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

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