The Ultimate Guide To Google Ads Keyword Match Types

Understanding the different match types is critical to get maximum results out of Google Ads.

The goal is to only show your ad for relevant search queries. The match types will give you control over which search queries will trigger your ads to eliminate irrelevant clicks.


There are 5 different match types in Google Ads:

  • Broad match. Triggers all search queries closely related to the keyword.

  • Broad match modifier. Limits broad match to make sure certain words need to be within the search query.

  • Phrase match. Triggers all search queries that have the keyword as a phrase within them.

  • Exact match. Triggers search queries that exactly match the keyword, plus all close variants.

  • Negative match. Prevents your ad from being shown for search queries that contain this keyword.

Explanation of different match types in Google Ads.

Broad match

Standard all of your keywords are added as broad match within your campaigns.

Broad match means that your ad will be triggered for all search queries that are closely related to the keywords. Although this will give you a wide reach, there’s a big chance your ad will be shown for a lot of irrelevant search queries as well.


Keyword: plumbing service.

Triggers your ad for search queries like: plumbing service, plumber emergency service, plumbing tips, how to become a plumber, plumbing courses, repair my toilet.

As an experienced Google Ads specialist, I would highly recommend to not use broad match keywords in your account.

Using broad match keywords either blow out your budget on irrelevant clicks or has a negative effect on your account’s Quality Score.

Broad match modifier (BMM)

Broad match modifier gives you a bit more control than broad match.

It means that all of words that have a “+” in front of them, need to be exactly like that in the search query for your ad to be triggered. They can be in a different order tho, as well have additional words in-front, in-between, or behind them.


Keyword: +plumbing +service

Triggers your ad for: plumbing service, plumbing emergency service

Doesn’t trigger your ad for: repair my toilet, plumbing tips.

Broad match modifier is a great way to identify new potential keywords, by expanding your reach but still have control over when your ads are triggered.

Phrase match

Phrase match means that your keyword needs to be within the search query for your ads being triggered.

You will still need to make sure you have a large negative keyword list to limit your irrelevant clicks.


Keyword: “plumbing service”

Triggers your ad for: plumbing service, plumbing service near me.

Doesn’t trigger your ad for: plumbing emergency service.

Exact match

Exact match keywords will give you the most control over when your ads get triggered.

It’s highly recommended to create a large keyword list with as much as possible exact match keywords.


Keyword: [plumbing service]

Triggers your ad for: plumbing service.

Doesn’t trigger your ad for: plumbing service near me.

Close variants

It’s good to keep in mind that Google will show your ad for close variants.

These could include plurals, misspellings and function words. This is not a setting (anymore) so there’s no way you could turn this off.

If you don’t want your ad to show for certain plurals or misspellings, you could create a negative keyword list with these and add them to your ad group or campaign.

Explanation of close variants in Google Ads.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords will prevent your ad from being triggered.

It’s very important that you build a large negative keyword list, especially if you’re using a lot of broad match and negative keywords.

For your negative keywords, you can use similar match types as with the normal keywords, so broad, phrase and exact.

Image that shows how negative keywords works within Google Ads.
Broad match modifier doesn’t work for negative keywords, however broad match for negatives works similarly as BMM.


What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is Google's pay per click (PPC) advertising platform, formerly known as Google AdWords. By using Google Ads you can reach potential customers on the Google Search and Display Network.

Which keyword match types are available in Google Ads?

Exact match, phrase match, broad match, broad match modifier, negative match.

How does the Google ad auction work?

Google uses hundreds of factors to decide the ad ranking and this is being re-calculated for each search query. In general, Google looks at the bid and the relevancy of each advertiser for a particular keyword.

How can I improve my Quality Score?

If you can increase the relevance of your campaign, you will get higher Quality Scores. This will significantly decrease your cost per click so that you can squeeze more clicks and conversions out of your budget.

By Jeroen

With over 10 years experience in digital marketing, Jeroen helps businesses to get more results out of their online advertising budgets.

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