I've previously written Paid Search Advertising Roadmap, Paid Search Rules and Alphabet Soup and PPC. Now let's start looking at keyword matching.

Keyword match types
matches.gifEach of the three major PPC platforms follow a similar approach, with Google AdWords and MSN adCenter using essentially identical match types and Yahoo! Search Marketing being a little more confusing. If you can get your head around the different terminology in the three platforms then you're going to be just fine.

The match types are:

  • Broad match: if your term is anywhere in the search term your ad shows
  • "Phrase" match: words you bid on have to be in the same order they're searched
  • [Exact] match: the ad displays if the searcher uses only the exact words bid on, in the exact order you bid on them.

    • Here's an example of how these match types might work with different search phrases:
      match types

      Because Yahoo! uses different terminology, I made this little chart that helped me understand much more clearly:

      How you use the match types is going to affect how many impressions you get and your click through rate. Broad match gets the greatest number of impressions, because the terms you're bidding on can appear anywhere in the searched phrase, yet broad match is going to have the lowest (relative) click through rate because your ad may not be relevant.

      Using the an example of someone searching for cloth baby doll diapers, and you had bid broad match on 'cloth baby diapers' your ad would display. But since your ad doesn't say anything about dolls, you're less likely to get the click (hopefully). Phrase match will get a lower number of impressions, because the search phrase must match the phrase you've bid on, but it will get a better click through rate for the same reason. Exact match terms have the lowest impression rate, yet are inclined to have the highest click through rate.

      Remember too that the higher your click through rate, the better the quality score, and the less you pay per click. A very good thing to remember. If it's volume you're after, broad match is your answer. When you want to fine tune the clicks you pay for, start using phrase and exact match terms.

      Another very important thing to remember is that Google uses "expanded broad match," which means they can decide to show your ad for pretty much anything they think might be relevant. I had bid on a broad match term of "plastic cards" and Google started showing my ad (and people clicked!) for the search "toy cars." Make any sense to you? -- Me either -- That was when I started really vamping up on my negative keywords. Negative keywords deserves a post all to itself but I'll touch briefly on them here.

      Negative Keywords
      Basically a negative keyword list is used to prevent your ads from displaying. I added the phrase toy car as a negative to the ad group for plastic cards and solved that problem. Using "free" as a negative is an excellent example. If you don't give away free stuff, you don't want to pay for clicks of people who are searching for free stuff. Using the cloth baby diapers example, you also may not want to pay for clicks when someone is looking for "cloth baby doll diapers". In that case, use "doll" as the negative and your ad won't display. You can use broad, phrase and exact matching for your negatives too, but like I said, keyword negatives deserve their very own post. In that post we'll look at how to create a hefty list of negative keywords.

      If you're going to use Broad match, use tons, and I mean tons of negative keywords.

      Now the BIG trick is to learn where to go to change/set the match types because AdWords, Yahoo and MSN are all very different. More on that next time ...

      October 21, 2008

Diana Adams is a Pay-Per-Click Manager, SEO Specialist and all around "get-er-done" authority. Diana helps clients achieve high ROI with their PPC campaigns by providing detail oriented attention to their Pay-Per-Click ad management.

Outside the office, Diana enjoys rock climbing, skiing, hiking and camping, and has tried river kayaking. She and her husband were high school sweethearts, tying the knot 20 years later. They have five (nearly) grown children.



Well said.

It is good to remind marketers that Paid Search Marketing is not just a plug and play campaign. To obtain the best return on investment, it requires understanding the match types.

Google AdWords is deceptively easy. So easy that marketers make the mistake of giving it the “set it and forget it” strategy. Just negative keywords alone can eliminate unwanted visitors and improve conversion.

In some cases, I even stay away from Broad match. Or at least use it long enough to gain exact match keywords, and then disable them.

Hi John -

You make a very good point about avoiding Broad match all together. Using Broad match is a good way to 'get started' to find which keywords actually work. Once you know what works, start creating the Phrase and/or Exact match that are where the best ROI will be found, and pause the Broad match terms all together.

I didn't talk about using the "Search Query" report to find additional negatives, again, another topic to discuss in a post dedicated to Negative matching. You can't say enough about Negative keywords ...

Hi Diana,

[Remember too that the higher your click through rate, the better the quality score, and the less you pay per click.]
But to get the more CTR is not that much important.
If we are getting many clicks but not getting conversions & ROI then CTR does not make any sense. So i would always advice to use the match carefully to get better conversions or sales rather than better CTR.

Oh you're absolutely right, a high CTR doesn't mean so much if you can't convert your clicks.

The whole system works together, relevant keywords, relevant/inviting ad copy, relevant information on landing pages - making it easy for the visitor to do what you want them to do.

Regarding the search query report, which match type is best to use when introducing new keywords to your campaign from the search query report?

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Diana Adams > Can You Make Sense Of Match Types?