Using keyword matching options

  • Use matching options with your keywords to help control which searches can trigger your ad.
  • When choosing the appropriate match type for a keyword, we typically recommend starting with broad match to maximize your potential to show your ads on relevant searches.
  • Use the search terms report to monitor which keyword variations triggered your ads.

Keyword match types help control which searches can trigger your ad. For example, you could use broad match to show your ad to a wide audience or you could use exact match to hone in on specific groups of customers.

In general, the broader the keyword matching option, the more traffic potential that keyword has. Conversely, the narrower the keyword matching option, the more relevant that keyword will be to someone's search. Understanding these differences can steer you in choosing the right keyword matching options and can help you improve your return on investment.

About keyword match types

Each match type, which is specified by a special symbol, will trigger your ad to show for a customer's search in different ways.

The chart below serves as an introduction to the different match types, ordered from broad to narrow. We'll give more information on each option in the sections below.

Match type Special symbol Example keyword Ads may show on searches that Example searches
Broad match none women's hats include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations buy ladies hats
Broad match modifier +keyword +women's +hats contain the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order hats for women
Phrase match "keyword" "women's hats" are a phrase, and close variations of that phrase buy women's hats
Exact match [keyword] [women's hats] are an exact term and close variations of that exact term women's hats
Negative match -keyword -women are searches without the term baseball hats

How keyword match types work

Here's an overview of each match type, in order from broad to narrow:

Broad match

This is the default matching option. With broad match, your ad may show if a search term contains your keyword terms in any order, and possibly along with other terms. Your ads can also show for close variations of your keywords.

Sticking with the broad match default is a great choice if you don't want to spend a lot of time building your keyword lists and want to capture the highest possible volume of ad traffic. You can use it with negative keywords to avoid highly irrelevant traffic.

Example

 

Broad match keyword Ads may show on searches for
women's hats women's hats
buy ladies hats
womens caps
hats for girls
womans hats
Buy red hats for women
Broad match modifier

You can add a modifier, the plus sign on your keyboard (+), to any of the terms that are part of your broad match keyword phrase. By adding a modifier, your ads can only show when someone's search contains those modified terms, or close variations of the modified terms, in any order. The modifier won't work with phrase match or exact match keywords.

Unlike broad match keywords, modified broad match keywords won't show your ad for synonyms or related searches. For this reason, it adds an additional level of control. Using broad match modifier is a good choice if you want to increase relevancy even if it means you might get less ad traffic than broad match.

Example

 

Broad match modifier Ads may show on searches for Ads won't show on searches for
+women's +hats women's hats
buy women's hats
Hats for women
helmets for women
women's visors
Phrase match

With phrase match, your ad can show when someone searches for your exact keyword, or your exact keyword with additional words before or after it. We'll also show your ad when someone searches for close variations of that exact keyword, or with additional words before or after it.

Using phrase match can help you reach more customers, while still giving you more precise targeting. In other words, your keywords are less likely to show ads to customers searching for terms that aren't related to your product or service.

To use a phrase match keyword, simply surround the entire keyword with quotation marks. For example, "women's hats".

Example

 

Phrase match keyword Ads may show on searches for Ads won't show on searches for
"women's hats" women's hats
buy women's hats
woman's hats
Women's hats
girls hats
womens baseball hats
Exact match

With exact match, your ads can appear only when someone searches for your exact keyword, without any other terms in the search. We'll also show your ad when someone searches for close variations of that specific keyword.

Unlike phrase match, if someone searches for additional words before or after your exact keyword, your ad won't show. Using exact match means that your keywords are targeted more precisely than broad match or phrase match.

To use an exact match keyword, simply surround the entire keyword with brackets. For example, [women's hats].

Example

 

Exact match keyword Ads may show on searches for Ads won't show on searches for
[women's hats] women's hats
woman's hats
buy women's hats
women's hats on sale
Negative match

You can use negative match to prevent your ad from showing to people searching for certain terms. Your ad won't show if a search term contains the keyword term you define with a minus sign (-) prefix. Negative keywords are an especially useful way to filter out irrelevant traffic and thus prevent unwanted clicks.

You can use negative keywords in conjunction with other match types. For example, you could use an exact match negative keyword to prevent your ad from showing to people who searched for that exact keyword.

Example

If your keyword is women's hats and you add the negative keyword -women your ad won't appear for any searches that contain the word women.

 

Negative match keyword Ads may show on searches for Ads won't show on searches for
-women girls' hats
sun hats
hats for women
women's hats
-"women's hats" girls' hats
women's baseball hats
women's hats
Women's hats
women's hats for sale
want to buy women's hats
-[women’s hats] buy women's hats
women's hats on sale
women's hats
Women's hats

It's important to keep in mind that you should only add the minus sign (-) prefix to the keyword that you don't want to trigger your ad, like -women as shown in this example.

To create negative keywords, go to your keyword table in your account and look for the Negative keywords link below your keyword table. When you create a negative keyword (or make one from an existing keyword by adding the negative symbol), it will show up there.

See negative keywords

Tip

Depending on the product or service you advertise, there are a few terms you might want to add as negative keywords to your ad group: "free," "course" or "class," and "job." Adding these terms will help prevent showing your ads when people search for free items or services, courses or classes related to your keywords, or jobs that might include your keywords.

Keep in mind

  • Keywords aren't case-sensitive, which means they're matched without regard to uppercase or lowercase letters. For example, you don't need to enter women's hats and Women's Hats as keywords -- just women's hats will cover both.
  • You can use keyword match types with campaigns that show ads on the Search Network or both the Search and Display Networks combined. On the Display Network, keywords are treated as broad match.

Close keyword variations

We'll automatically show your ads for close variations of your keywords to maximize your potential to show your ads on relevant searches. Close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents. So there's no need to separately add close variations as keywords.

If you don’t want your ads to show on close variations of your exact match or phrase match keywords, you can narrow your exact match and phrase match targeting.

How to narrow your exact match and phrase match targeting

To narrow your exact match and phrase match targeting, you'll need to choose one of the following campaign types when you create your campaign or already be using one of these campaign types:

  • "Search Network only - All features"
  • "Search & Display Networks - All features"
  • "Search Network with Display Select - All features"

Learn about the different campaign types available. If you have a different campaign type, you won't be able to restrict your matching options.

Follow these steps to restrict exact and phrase matching:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account at http://adwords.google.com/.
  2. Click the Campaigns tab.
  3. If you'd like to restrict your exact and phrase matching for a new campaign, click + New campaign. If you'd like to restrict your exact and phrase matching for an existing campaign, select that campaign and click the Settings tab.
  4. Scroll to the "Advanced settings" section. Click the Keyword matching options link. Keep in mind that if you don't see the link, it might be because you can only restrict your exact and phrase matching for certain campaign types, like "Search Network only - All features." See keyword matching options
  5. In the "Exact and phrase match" section, select Do not include close variants.

How to choose the right keyword match types

When choosing the appropriate match type for a keyword, we typically recommend using a "broad-to-narrow" strategy. Start off with broad match keywords to maximize your potential to show your ads on relevant searches. Monitor your keywords' performance over time and make your keyword match types more specific if you find that your ad is showing up for too many irrelevant variations of your keywords.

Once your broad matches have gathered impressions and clicks, review the search terms report to monitor which keyword variations triggered your ads. A few tips on using the information in the report:

  • Look at the "Match type" column to see how closely the search terms that triggered your ads on Google are related to the keywords in your account. This information will give you an idea of which match types you might want to use for your keywords. For example, if you find that most of the variations shown in your search terms report are irrelevant to what you're advertising, consider making your keyword match types more specific.
  • Add new search terms with high potential as keywords.
  • Weed out any terms that aren't as relevant to your business by adding them as negative keywords.

Next steps