The Ultimate Keyword Match Types Guide – Google AdWords

Keyword match types are one of the most important settings in your Adwords account and can make or break your digital marketing strategy. To avoid some common mistakes, get the most out of your account, and optimise your ad budget, it is important to understand the different keyword match types and how they work. It’s also important to know which keyword match types to avoid!

In this post I’m going to go through all the different google keyword types you can use in AdWords and how they can help your ads show up for the same keyword your ideal customers are searching for.

We'll cover:

What are Google keyword match types?

Examples of the three keyword match types including exact match keyword, exact keywords, and broad match types

Google has a number of keyword match types that can be set to help advertisers reach the right audience.


In short, the keyword match type that you use determines how closely your chosen word or phrase needs to match with the user’s search query. This dictates whether your ad will be considered for ‘auction’.

Maybe you want to use a broader keyword type to catch as many people in your chosen demographic as possible in order to learn more about your typical customer profile, or maybe you want to select one of the much tighter options to make the most out of a limited budget, or just to ensure you’re getting high-quality traffic with high buying intent.

research for keyword match types picture. Keyword research.

What is a broad match type keyword?

Broad match keywords are the default keyword match type in all Google campaigns. Any new keyword you create without special characters will automatically register as a broad match keyword.


Google itself defines this as “A keyword option that allows your ad to show when someone searches for that keyword and variations of it, as well as other related topics.”

So you can see from that definition Google has given, that what can show up for broad match keywords is actually VERY…well…broad!

Broad match keywords can rank for the biggest selection of keyword or phrase variations out of all the keyword match types. They can match to any related topics or synonyms.

Essentially you can match for any word within your chosen keyword phrase. Let’s look at an example:

If you have a broad match keyword type for a “Google paid ads agency”, then you could rank for anyone looking at any of the following google searches:

“Pinterest paid ads agency” OR “How to set up Facebook ads” OR“What is the best google ads campaign type”

keyword match type: default match type

So you can see that with broad match keywords you can essentially show for ANY of the words in your keyword, and they don’t have to be in the context/order you’ve given them. They don’t even have to contain all the words in your keyword, you can rank for any search containing any of those words or topics related to them.

How do you create broad match keywords? It’s easy – simply enter a keyword into your Google ads account without any special characters, click save, and it will automatically default to a broad match type.

What are the pros of broad match type keywords?

  • Broad match will help you capture the most traffic
  • Less time needed to build keyword lists
  • You learn more about the broad searches that convert for you

What are the cons of broad match type keywords?

  • Broad match type keywords generate a lot of irrelevant traffic not related to your offering.
  • Be prepared to pay for a large number of impressions when using a broad match keyword. Google is a pay-per-click model, so a lot of your money may be spent on people that don’t actually have buying intent for your product or service.
  • Broad match type keywords are not a smart way to utilise a smaller ad budget. You should ideally be more focused with your keyword strategy to avoid wasting money and time.
 (You may have also seen mentions of modified broad match keywords before, but these are no longer a thing in Google ads campaigns as of 2022. Modified broad match keywords were similar to the updated phrase match keywords).

What is a phrase match keyword?

A phrase match keyword instructs Google to only show your ads to people whose search queries contain the exact phrase or a close variation of it.

Google themselves define it as “Phrase match is a keyword matching option whereby Google matches your ad only against keywords that include a phrase you designate”.

Phrase match type keywords were updated by Google in 2021 to combine the expanded reach of the broad match type keyword while still keeping control of phrase match type keywords.

Similarly to broad keyword match types, google can still show your ads for queries with additional words in the middle or at either end of phrase keyword match types. But only if Google thinks that it still has the same meaning as your original keyword. Ads using phrase match keywords can also rank when your keywords appear in a different order, but only if Google thinks it has the same search intent as what you initially choose.

Essentially, the majority of the time when you use a phrase match keyword, your ads will only show up for that exact phrase, or variations of it with the same meaning/intent.

For example, if you entered a phrase match type keyword of “Google paid ads agency”, then your ads will no longer show for any search containing the words ‘ads’, ‘Google’, or ‘agency’ independently. But, you will show up for searches such as:

“Google paid ads agency London” OR “Best Google paid ads agency” OR “Google paid advertising agency”

phrase match keywords

To create phrase match keywords, you need to use quotation marks around the phrase you want to use in your google ads account.

What are the pros of phrase match type keywords?

  • Phrase match will give you more focused, relevant traffic, so may be more likely to convert.
  • You can learn what variations of your search term are getting a lot of impressions.

What are the cons of phrase match type keywords?

  • You will get less traffic with phrase match types compared to broad match.
  • You don’t have control over any additional words added before or after your phrase that Google deems relevant.

What is an exact match type keyword?

Exact match types are the most specific keyword type you can use in Google Ads. They basically tell Google to ONLY show your ads to people searching exactly for your keyword, with no changes.


Google themselves define exact match keywords as “A keyword setting that allows your ad to show only when someone searches for your keyword or close variants of your keyword. Close variants may include: Misspellings. Singular or plural forms.”

So for exact match keywords, your ad will not show up for searches with additional words before, after, or in the middle of your keyword like with phrase match types.

For example, if you selected “Google paid ads agency” as an exact match keyword, you would only rank for exactly “Google paid ads agency” in its entirety, or “Google paid advertising agency” as that is considered a very close variant with the same meaning by Google.

exact match keywords

To create exact match keywords, you need to use square brackets around the keywords in Google Ads. 

What are the pros of exact match type keywords?

  • Exact match type keywords are a great choice to keep costs low and conversions high.
  • Exact match type keywords deliver the highest quality, highest buying intent traffic.

What are the cons of exact match type keywords?

  • Exact match keywords are much more restrictive with the queries you can show up for.
  • Generally speaking, you will get the least traffic out of all the keyword match types with exact match keywords.
  • It might take you longer to test and find the exact match keywords that work for you.

What is a negative keyword match type?

Negative keywords image

Negative keywords tell Google to NOT show your ads for a specific keyword. You can use all the above keyword match types as negative keywords, but the default match type for negative keywords in Google ads is broad match type unless you change it.

You can create negative phrase match keywords, negative broad match keywords, and also negative exact match keywords.

Google defines negative keywords as “A type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase. Your ads aren’t shown to anyone who is searching for that phrase. This is also known as a negative match.

Negative keyword match types

For example, if you’re a google ads agency but only work in B2B and don’t want eCommerce clients, you might use negative keywords like “eCommerce” OR “eCommerce Google ad agency”.

Unlike normal keywords, with negative keywords, you will not show up for any searches that are classed as close variants to your selection. So you need to be careful and make sure you’re adding negative keywords for every variant of the topic/ keyword intent you want to eliminate.

It can be as simple as needing to add both singular and plural forms of negative keywords. It can be that granular.

Using negative keywords can be a really effective strategy for eliminating any specific search queries that aren’t relevant to your product or service. It’s a smart way to avoid your budget being wasted on search terms that likely won’t convert to sales.

Hopefully, this keyword guide on match types has been useful in helping you understand the different types of keywords you should use for your business! You can watch our Founder Max go into more detail on the different ways you can use each keyword type including negative keywords below…

A quick video on keyword match types for Google Ads in 2022:

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