Featured Image

If you have any experience with pay-per-click (PPC), you know how crucial it is to select the right keywords. However, the very same keywords that deliver high-quality leads can just as easily drain your PPC budget by giving you junk clicks and sending you irrelevant traffic. Keyword match types allow you to zero in on the right people.

What Are Keyword Match Types?

Keyword match types help determine what keywords trigger PPC ads to display. They’re more commonly associated with search ads on platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising. In these cases, the match type determines how closely a user’s search query must be to the keyword in your ad campaign.

However, match types are also used with display ads and video ads. In these cases, the keywords and their respective match types relate to the sites or content on pages on which your ads might display.

  • Broad Match: Almost any search query related to the keyword triggers the ad to display.
  • Phrase Match: Search queries that are similar to the keyword and that match the intent trigger the ad to display.
  • Exact Match: Only search queries that match the keyword exactly or close variants of it trigger the ad to display.
  • Negative Match: Keywords may be broad, phrase, or exact match and prevent the ad from displaying if they’re part of the search query.
What Are Keyword Match Types?

How Do Keyword Match Types Impact PPC Performance?

Keyword match types affect many metrics used to determine PPC success.


Keyword match types can increase or reduce the number of people who see your ads.  

Cost Per Click

Keyword match type is one of the factors that can impact your cost per click (CPC). Oftentimes, a keyword seen at the end of the sales funnel, when laser-focused by leveraging a keyword match type, will cost more.

Clickthrough Rate

Because keyword match types make it easier to zero in on your audience and create content tailored to the search, you will see more or fewer clicks depending on the match type used.

Invalid Clicks

If more varied queries trigger your ads to display, your ads are more likely to appear when the person isn’t looking for your product or services. That also means you’ll get more “junk clicks” from unrelated searches or unqualified leads.

Cost Per Action/ Cost Per Lead

Naturally, if clicks cost more or it takes more clicks to get a person to take the next step, the cost per action (CPA) or cost per lead (CPL) will rise.

Return on Ad Spend/ Return on Investment

All these metrics impact how much money you get back from your ads. This is referred to as return on ad spend (ROAS) or return on investment (ROI).

Broad Match Keywords

Broad match is the default setting for keywords in most cases. If a keyword has the broad match designation, searches for just about anything related to that term will trigger the ad to display.

Syntax: How Broad Match Keywords Look

There’s no special syntax for broad match keywords. Let’s say you’re using the keyword Lawyers in Los Angeles. It would look like this:

  • Lawyers in Los Angeles

Examples of How Broad Match Keywords Work

If you’re using the broad match keyword Lawyers in Los Angeles, your ad will display when someone searches for:

  • Best family lawyers in Los Angeles
  • Attorney in Los Angeles
  • Lawyers in Los Angeles internships
  • Los Angeles lawyer pro bono

Pros of Broad Match Keywords

  • You can reach the most people through broad match.
  • You can gather a lot of data quickly to use for future keyword planning and optimization initiatives.

Cons of Broad Match Keywords

  • You’re likely to get a lot of irrelevant visitors.
  • Your budget won’t go as far as it otherwise might.

When to Use Broad Match Keywords

  • You’re more concerned with getting a lot of impressions and less about traffic quality.
  • Your PPC budget is big enough to absorb some unrelated clicks.
  • You’re experimenting with different keywords, and you plan to shift your budget toward high-performing keywords and use negative keywords to weed out unrelated or unqualified clicks.

Phrase Match Keywords

A phrase match keyword will allow ads to display anytime the user’s query has a similar meaning and contains your keyword. The designation is more restrictive than broad match, so your ads display to a more targeted audience.

Syntax: How Phrase Match Keywords Look

Phrase match keywords are placed in quotes. The Lawyers in Los Angeles example would look like this:

  • “Lawyers in Los Angeles”

Examples of How Phrase Match Keywords Work

If you’re using the phrase match keyword Lawyers in Los Angeles, your ad will display when someone searches for:

  • Lawyers in Los Angeles for businesses
  • Top lawyers in Los Angeles reviews
  • Best lawyers close to Los Angeles

However, the ad will not display when people search for:

  • Paralegal in Los Angeles
  • Lawyers in New York
  • Legal internships

Pros of Phrase Match Keywords

  • You’ll weed out some of the irrelevant traffic.
  • Your ads will likely perform better.

Cons of Phrase Match Keywords

  • Your audience will still be large and have some irrelevant traffic.

When to Use Phrase Match Keywords

  • You use personas, know what your customers want, and want to target them more.
  • Quality traffic is a concern, but you still want volume.

Exact Match Keywords

Historically, exact match keywords were just that. If the user’s query did not match the keyword verbatim, the ad did not display. Google pivoted a couple of years ago, and now exact match allows for close variants, too. That means an exact match can also include:

  • Plural or singular variants of your keyword (lawyer = lawyers)
  • Misspellings (lswyer = lawyer)
  • Reordering of the keyword (Bankruptcy Attorney = Attorney Bankruptcy)
  • Adding, ignoring, or reordering function words (Attorneys in Los Angeles = Attorneys Los Angeles)

Syntax: How Exact Match Keywords Look

Exact match keywords are placed in brackets. The Lawyers in Los Angeles example would look like this:

  • [Lawyers in Los Angeles]

Examples of How Exact Match Keywords Work

If you’re using the exact match keyword Lawyers in Los Angeles, your ad will display when someone searches for:

  • Los Angeles Lawyers
  • Las Angeles Lawyers
  • Lawyers in Los Angeles

However, the ad will not display when the search query does not share the exact meaning or intent.

Pros of Exact Match Keywords

  • The traffic you receive is very targeted.
  • You can build specific and personalized customer journeys to ensure your content is relevant to readers and they’re more likely to act.

Cons of Exact Match Keywords

  • The volume is often much lower.
  • You may miss out on some relevant traffic.

When to Use Exact Match Keywords

  • You want to reach a very specific audience.
  • You have data that shows what your personas are searching for and know your top-performing keywords.
  • You’re focused on boosting the efficiency of your campaigns.
  • Your PPC budget isn’t big enough to absorb the cost of unrelated or unqualified clicks.

Negative Keyword Match Types

Negative keywords can be added to your campaigns to prevent your ads from displaying for certain searches. These follow the same conventions as general keyword match types: broad, phrase, and exact.

Syntax: How Negative Match Keywords Look

Let’s say your company is focused on quality over price. You don’t want to attract cost-conscious buyers through PPC because they don’t convert. So, you might use the negative keyword cheap lawyers with any match types covered so far. It would look like this:

  • Broad Match: cheap lawyers
  • Phrase Match: “cheap lawyers”
  • Exact Match: [cheap lawyers]

Examples of How Negative Match Keywords Work

Even though you can have broad, phrase, and exact match negative keywords, they work differently than regular keywords. The most notable distinction is that you must add each close variation you want to exclude, Google reports.

Now, let’s look at how the match types for cheap lawyers would impact ad visibility for a couple of different search queries.

Negative Keyword Match Types

The User Searches for: Affordable Family Lawyers

  • Broad Match: Ad displays
  • Phrase Match: Ad displays
  • Exact Match: Ad displays

The User Searches for: Cheap Lawyer

  • Broad Match: Ad Displays
  • Phrase Match: Ad displays
  • Exact Match: Ad displays

The User Searches for: Los Angeles Cheap Lawyers

  • Broad Match: Ad does not display
  • Phrase Match: Ad does not display
  • Exact Match: Ad displays

The User Searches for: Lawyers Cheap

  • Broad Match: Ad does not display
  • Phrase Match: Ad displays
  • Exact Match: Ad displays

The User Searches for: Cheap Lawyers

  • Broad Match: Ad does not display
  • Phrase Match: Ad does not display
  • Exact Match: Ad does not display

Pros of Negative Match Keywords

  • More of your budget will go to the keywords your customers actually use.
  • Improved targeting can boost your ROI.

Cons of Negative Match Keywords

  • You’ll reach fewer potential customers if you use too many negative keywords.
  • If you haven’t created negative keywords for each close variant, your ad might still show when you don’t want it to.
  • Your ad might still show if someone’s query is longer than 16 words and your keyword is after the 16th word.
  • You must continuously update your negative keywords based on search behavior.

When to Use Negative Match Keywords

All campaigns should leverage negative match keywords. Moreover, negative keywords should be updated regularly based on the searches that are actually triggering your ads to display.

Bring on a Pro to Manage Your Keyword Match Types

Using the right keyword match types consistently can seem complicated, but it dramatically impacts the success of your PPC campaigns. If you need help with keyword match types or any other aspect of your PPC management, request a complimentary consultation.

About PPC Agency Guide

PPC Agency Guide is a leading resource for businesses across the globe navigating the complex landscape of paid advertising. Developed by a team with more than 50 years of experience in digital marketing and business development and ongoing work across a wide variety of industries, the platform offers a wealth of vetted pay-per-click (PPC) strategies and first-hand insights into how PPC advertising works, optimizing campaigns, and obtaining unmatched ROI. Additionally, this extensive expertise and ties to the digital marketing community make PPC Agency Guide the natural choice for businesses that would like to explore their paid advertising options with trusted and experienced PPC agencies. For the latest PPC insights and updates, follow PPC Agency Guide on LinkedIn and Twitter(X). Join a thriving community and be the first to get access to exclusive content.
Get a Consultation

Leave a Reply