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Keyword Match Types in Google Ads PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Campaigns - and What They Mean

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Have you ever tried to build and manage your own PPC (Pay-per-click) campaign in Google Ads? If you're inexperienced, the user interface can by intimidating.

After following the campaign creation process including building your responsive ad, setting your geographic limits, adding assets, etc. - you are left to choose which keywords you want to target in each ad group.

It's not uncommon for a novice PPC manager to create a campaign comprised solely of broad match keywords. In most cases, this is a mistake. Below, we outline the four different types of keywords that can be utilized in a campaign and/or ad group and why each have value.

For small business owners, advertising budgets always need to be carefully considered. By carefully choosing which keyword match types are best for your business, it's easier to reduce wasted spend and drive conversions from your most qualified prospects.

Broad Match Keywords

Broad keyword are the "default" setting for most keywords you add to a new campaign. They behave just as they sound - they're designed to give Google a 'broad' selection of search queries to serve your ad to. For instance, if you use the broad keywords 'tennis shoes', Google may decide that the search querie 'white nike shoes on sale' is a close enough match to serve your ad.

Broad match keywords give the most freedom possible for Google to find relevant searches related to your business. If your business and/or website includes some very niche keywords, broad match can be helpful - as it may provide exposure to results that hadn't been considered by the keywords themselves. The problem, however, is that they also open up a campaign to such a wide variety of alternatives that, in many cases, can result in your budget being spent on a lot of irrelevant searches.

A common use case for broad keywords is to help uncover additional, valuable keyword ideas to add to your campaign in the form of phrase match, exact match and negative keywords. Below we explain the difference between these three additional options and use case scenarios for each.

"Phrase Match" Keywords

Phrase match keywords restrict Google's pairing of your ad to searches that contain those particular keywords - regardless of order. In the title of this section we've included "phrase match" in quotations because that's how they are labeled when added to a Google Ads campaign.

An example of phrase match keywords in action may be using "mexican restaurant cedar rapids" as keywords and Google serving your ad to the query 'best cedar rapids mexican restaurant near me'. The keywords you've chosen are represented - just not in the exact order.

This tactic can be useful when you understand that most people researching or buying what you offer use the same string of words in unison frequently. The order may not matter, but rather simply their presence. This tactic provides Google with some freedom to match your ad - but with a much tighter "net" than broad match keywords.

[Exact Match] Keywords

This is the most restrictive keyword type, and will only show up for your exact keyword (or very close variations of it). While this net will capture only a small amount of people, these targeted keywords provide a more valuable impression than ones from the other match types. In this case, the title words [Exact Match] are surrounded by brackets because that's how they are labeled when added to a Google Ads campaign.

Exact phrase keywords are designed to act as they sound - by matching up your keywords with someone searching for that exact query. Historically, that used to be the case - but recently Google has loosened that distinction slightly. While exact keywords will generally serve ads to people looking for that precise order of keywords, Google has granted some subtle liberties to this keyword type in 2022. As illustrated in the image below, some very close variations of your keyword phrase may also trigger ads.

Using exact keywords as a tactic can be very useful once there's a high level of confidence that a campaign has identified very specific, valuable search terms that drive action toward its goals. If a car dealership offers a large inventory of 2023 Honda Accords, the exact keywords [2023 honda accord for sale] will most likely be valuable to their efforts.

-Negative Keywords

Use negative keywords to specify words you don't want your ads to target. Sending non-relevant keywords away from your campaign will help ensure the right people are seeing your ads. These can also include any cannibalizing keywords such as the name of your unique business (not all names will apply).

Negative keywords are added to campaigns and ad groups to filter out irrelevant words or subjects that may accidentally be associated with your goals. Negative keywords occupy their own section of the Google Ads dashboard but can be added to your campaign in the initial list by adding the minus or negative 'dash' in front of the keywords as exemplified by the word -Negative in the title of this section.

Almost every PPC campaign should be utilizing negative keywords in some way. For instance, if a company sells high end home furniture and wants to exclude searches for lower cost alternatives, they may add the negative keyword '-cheap' or '-discount' to their campaign to avoid those shoppers' queries. In another example, let's say an appliance store only sells stainless steel models. In order to avoid people looking for other common colors, they may add '-white', '-black' or other attributes they don't offer.

Successfully Managing An Active Google Ads Campaign

PPC campaigns require active management. Without diligent management, it's easy to let a campaign spend your budget recklessly. This could be through the overuse of broad keywords that are being inappropriately matched to results or a lack of negative keywords protecting you from irrelevant searches.

Over time, by observing the search terms triggering your ads and other metrics such as the clickthrough rate (CTR) of individual keyword phrases, you can fine tune a campaign to compete more precisely toward your goals and increase your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Unfortunately, most ad campaigns aren't to a level where we can just set it and forget it. Instead, they require regular maintenance (every one to two weeks) in order to optimize their performance. This can include: checking to see how keywords are performing, analyzing their click-through-rates (CTR), and filtering out any negative keywords from the search terms your ads are being seen on. While you should always be looking to make changes to your evolving campaign, it's important to give enough time to properly elevate things before pulling the plug too early.

Need Help Creating or Optimizing Google Ads PPC Campaigns?

Most small business owners are already wearing multiple hats and rarely have the time necessary to manage digital marketing campaigns. Hiring an agency with Google Ads certified staff to support your campaigns can be a more cost effective option than managing in-house. A good agency should be collaborating regularly with business ownership by providing reports, direct support and transparency of results.

Flanker Media checks these boxes. Our agency specializes in supporting the marketing and advertising efforts of small business owners. Build a face-to-face relationship with a local, dedicated representative while also receiving monthly progress reports.

Attack Opportunity with help from Flanker Media - the full service ad agency for small business owners. Contact us here to get the conversation started.

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