Skip to main content ↓
Person searching on a computer

3 Google Ads Match Types for Improving Ad Targeting

A key component of running Google Ads is choosing your target keywords. Your keywords determine when and where your ads appear in search results. To help your ads appear in relevant results, you want to use keyword match types for your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns.

On this page, we’ll answer your questions about Google Ads match types, including:

  • What are Google Ads keyword match types?
  • What Google Ads match types can I use?
  • How do I choose the right match types for Google Ads?

What are keyword match types?

Keyword match types, also known as Google Ads match types, determine how closely a keyword needs to match a user’s search query for an ad to be considered for the auction. In other words, keyword match types give you more control over which keywords trigger your ads to appear in search results.

Google Ads match types: 3 PPC keyword match types for your ads

Now that we covered what keyword match types are, let’s look at the three Google Ads match types you can use for your PPC campaigns.

1. Broad match type

Broad match is one of the least specific Google Ads match types. This match type is the default option when choosing a match type. Broad match reaches the widest audience of all the match types.

Your ads can appear with the broad match type whenever a user’s search query has any word from your key phrase. Those keywords can be in any order. For example, let’s say you’re trying to rank for the keyword “gourmet milk chocolate.” With the broad match type, your ad could appear for searches like:

  • Gourmet chocolate
  • Milk chocolate
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Coconut milk

The key terms your audience searches only have to contain one of your keywords for your ad to trigger and appear at the top of search results. Your ad can also appear for synonyms of your keywords. If you’re trying to rank for “gourmet milk chocolate,” you could also appear for a term like “decadent candy.” It’s not the exact term you’re targeting, but it’s similar.

dark chocolate bar advertisement

When to use broad match type

Broad match type is one of the least restrictive match types for Google Ads, so you only want to use it if you’re looking to increase brand exposure or find relevant terms that drive clicks.

The biggest issue with broad match type is that your ad can appear for irrelevant search results, which costs you money. As we shared in the example list above, your ad could appear for a term like “coconut milk” when you’re trying to rank for “gourmet milk chocolate.” Coconut milk has nothing to do with your chocolate, which can send a mixed signal to people who see your ad appearing in those results.

Not only that, but people might click on your ad thinking it’s relevant to their search for coconut milk, only to find it’s not. They leave your ad, and you pay for a click from someone who’s not interested in your business.

If you use broad match type, you must keep an eye on your ads to ensure you don’t drive too much irrelevant traffic and waste money.

You may only want to run these ads for a shorter time to get a little insight into potential terms that drive clicks.

An important note about modified broad match

Previously, Google offered a modified broad match as an option for targeting people through Google Ads. This option previously allowed advertisers to mark certain keywords as mandatory, which prevents ads from showing for synonyms and related keywords that may not drive the best traffic. Google decided to phase out modified broad match and absorb the best features of this option into phrase match.

By combining the two options into one option — phrase match — users can get the best of both worlds. With phrase match and broad match modifier together under one roof, you can target critical phrases and ensure you’re only appearing for key terms that are relevant to your business.

2. Phrase match

Next on our list of Google Ads match types is phrase match. Phrase match offers a bit more control than broad match type in terms of where your ad appears. Your ads will only appear in search results when someone searches your keywords in the exact order you entered them.

These ads can also appear in search results that contain words before or after your key phrase. For example, if you’re targeting “gourmet milk chocolate,” you can appear for searches such as:

  • Gourmet milk chocolate bars
  • Gourmet milk chocolate chips
  • Sugar-free gourmet milk chocolate

ads for chocolate in search results

Your ads can also appear in searches that contain synonyms, plurals, and close variants of your core keyword.

When to use phrase match

Phrase match is one of the best PPC keyword match types if you want to find new related keywords to target with your ad. It keeps your core keyword intact, but can help you find modifiers for your keywords that can help you drive more relevant traffic to your site. It’s a great option if you’re looking to expand your keyword group for your ad and target more relevant and related terms.

This option is also great if you’re looking to identify negative keywords.

Negative keywords are keywords you don’t want your ads to rank for in search results because they aren’t relevant to your business. For example, if your ad appears for “sugar-free gourmet milk chocolate” but you don’t offer that product, you can add “sugar-free” to your negative keyword list to ensure you don’t appear for those searches. Since this keyword match type only adds keywords to the front and back of your term, it can help identify modifiers you don’t want your ads to appear for in search results.

3. Exact match

The last keyword match type you can use is exact match. As the name suggests, your ad will only appear for the exact keywords you target. It’s the most specific and restrictive keyword match type Google offers.

For example, if you’re targeting “gourmet milk chocolate,” you will only appear in searches for that keyword. You won’t appear for terms like:

  • Milk chocolate
  • Gourmet chocolate
  • Sugar-free gourmet milk chocolate
  • Gourmet milk chocolate bars

You can, however, still appear in search results for terms that are synonyms or plurals.

When to use exact match

Exact match is an excellent option if you have an established keyword group and don’t need to find any new terms for your ad. If you have a handful of relevant terms you know drive results, you can use exact match to ensure you only appear for those top-performing keywords. This keyword match type is also great to use if you have a restrictive budget.

If you don’t have wiggle room to run ads to try and find new keywords, this option is best so that you know your ads only appear for your targeted keywords.

Exact match is the best of the Google Ads match types for attracting qualified leads. You’ll get far less traffic because you’re only targeting specific keywords, but the traffic that comes through those keywords is far more qualified.

How to choose the right keyword match

When you look at all the Google Ads match types, you may be unsure how to decide which one to use. Before you select a match type, consider the following:

  • Think about your ad goal: What do you want to achieve with your ads? When you consider your ad goal, whether it’s to boost brand awareness, drive traffic, or obtain qualified leads, you can figure out which match types for Google Ads will help you meet those goals.
  • Determine who you want to reach: When you choose your keyword match type, consider who you’re trying to reach. Do you want to reach a broad audience or a refined audience? Knowing this information can help you choose a match type to reach the right people.
  • Think about your budget: When you look at your options for Google Ads match types, you also want to consider your budget. Your budget impacts whether you have money to spend on experimenting and finding new keywords, or if you need to stick to a strict keyword list.

Start using Google Ads match types today

Google Ads match types are an excellent way for you to target more relevant keywords for your business. But if you aren’t sure which Google Ads match types to use, WebFX can help. We know how to craft PPC ads that help you reach leads most interested in your business.

With over 28 years of experience, we know how to craft PPC ads that drive results. In the past five years, we’ve driven over $6 billion in revenue and over 24 million leads for our clients. We’ll help you use Google Ads match types to help you target people most interested in your business.

Ready to get started with Google Ads match types? Contact us online or call us today at 888-601-5359 to speak with a strategist about our PPC services!

Try our free Marketing Calculator

Craft a tailored online marketing strategy! Utilize our free Internet marketing calculator for a custom plan based on your location, reach, timeframe, and budget.

Plan Your Marketing Budget
Marketing Budget Calculator