Do you Know how Google's 7 Match Types Work?


Yes, there are in fact seven match types, and their behaviour has changed from six months ago. Even if you’re familiar with Google AdWords, we recommend you revisit this! Searchers are a diverse bunch. Even when they’re looking for the same products/services, different people can use very different terminology, word order and even spelling accuracy. User searches are also becoming longer and more sophisticated. In 2013, it was estimated that 15% of all search queries are unique, meaning neither Google nor advertisers have encountered them before.

The Google AdWords model gives advertisers the power to match your ads to user search queries, but have you ever taken a look at some raw search query data (whether paid or organic)? You’ll see just how messy and intractable it would be to specify every search query in advance. It would also mean impractically large Google AdWords accounts. For example, if you insure people country-wide, think how many keywords you’d need to cover searches like ‘insurance Toowoomba’, ‘car insurance Coonabarabran’ and so on.

The match types were designed with this in mind. They allow advertisers to balance precision of targeting, search volumes and their workloads. Below are the seven match types with their current behaviour.

1. Exact match

This is the most targeted match type and it means that the advertiser is specifying the exact search query that they want their ads to appear. Google will now group together close variants of the search query as well, including misspellings, singular-vs-plural and other minor variations.

Exact match keywords are enclosed in square brackets. A keyword like [car insurance rates] is therefore an instruction for Google to show our text ad for queries like:

  • car insurance rates
  • car insurance rate
  • cr insurance rate

As you can imagine, because this match type is the most targeted, it will have the lowest search volume, because you’re only showing for a very small family of queries.

2. Phrase match

This match type is slightly less targeted and hence has higher search volumes. Exact match keywords are enclosed in double quotes. A keyword like “car insurance rates” is an instruction for Google to show our text ad for any query that contains the phrase (or its close variants). This means word order matters, but any text before or after doesn’t. This lets us show for something like:

  • car insurance rates
  • best car insurance rate
  • car insurance rates australia

3. Broad match modifier

This match type targets an even larger family of search queries, letting us show for any queries with close variants of our keywords but in a free order, with words before or after.

These keywords have a + before every word so a keyword like +car +insurance +rates can show for:

  • insurance rates for my car
  • car insurance rates
  • low rate insurance for a car in sydney

4. Broad match

This is the match type corresponding to the largest possible family of search queries. If you use broad match, you are telling Google to also show your ad for synonyms of a word and its related searches. To do this, drop the + before a word. So, a keyword like ‘car insurance rates’ can potentially show for a search like:

  • best insurance premiums for a bmw

Here, only the word insurance is a close variant of something in our keyword, the rest being synonyms. You can also choose which words to allow synonyms and related searches for by selectively dropping the + (eg. car insurance +rates)

In addition to letting us select which types of queries we want our ads to show for, Google also has negative match types which let us block ads from showing for certain types of search queries. If you’re not sure of the importance of negative keywords, you may want to check out our previous post about this. These are labelled like positive keywords but with a dash at the front of the whole keyword (examples for each negative match type will follow).

5. Negative exact match

This keyword is telling Google not to show your ad when the search query matches your keyword exactly, with no words before or after. When working with negative keywords, it is very important to know that close variants are NOT included. This means a keyword like -[free car insurance] will only ever stop your ad from showing for this search query:

  • free car insurance

If there is any variation (including misspellings), your ad is still eligible to show.

6. Negative phrase match

Like its positive cousin the phrase match, this excludes search queries with a particular phrase embedded in them (ie. that occur in a particular order). Once again, close variants aren’t counted. So -“free car insurance” will prevent our ad from showing for all these queries:

  • free car insurance
  • free car insurance sydney
  • find free car insurance

7. Negative broad match

Here, we are telling Google to ignore the word order as well. So a keyword like -free car insurance will not show for any search with the words ‘free’, ‘car’ and ‘insurance’ in the query but regardless of order. You will again need to add close variants yourself because these are not automatically included.

Of course, knowing the match types is only the first step. If you are interested in how to use them strategically to gain the most benefit for your account, you may want to check out our Google AdWords Training and free events covering Google AdWords topics.

We are always interested in what we can do to improve understanding of the Google products we specialise in. How many match types out of seven did you already know the full behaviour for?