About keyword matching options

Keyword match types help control which searches on Google can trigger your ad. So 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.

This article explains the different match types that are available. Learn more about adding keywords.

How keyword match types work

In general, the broader the match type, the more traffic potential that keyword will have, since your ads may be triggered more often. Conversely, a narrower match type means that your ads may show less often – but when they do, they’re likely to be more related to someone’s search.

Understanding these differences can help you to choose the right options and improve your return on investment.

We typically recommend starting with broad match to maximise on the potential for your ads to show in relevant searches. You can also use the search terms report to monitor which keyword variations triggered your ads. Learn more about the search terms report

Keyword match types

Each match type can trigger your ad to show for a customer's search in different ways. Next, learn a little bit more about each type.

Broad match

Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned. Ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches and other relevant variations. So if your keyword is “women’s hats”, someone searching for “buy ladies hats” might see your ad. 

  • Example keyword: women's hats
  • Example search: buy ladies hats

Learn more about broad match.

Broad match modifier

Add a plus sign (for example, +keyword) to modify a broad match keyword. Ads may show on searches that include modified broad match keywords (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order.

  • Symbol: Plus sign, for example +keyword
  • Example keyword: +women's +hats
  • Example search: hats for women

Learn more about broad match modifier.

Phrase match

Ads may show on searches that match a phrase, or are close variations of that phrase, with additional words before or after. Ads won't show, however, if a word is added to the middle of the phrase, or if words in the phrase are reordered in any way.

  • Symbol: "keyword"
  • Example keyword: "women's hats"
  • Example search: buy women's hats

Learn more about phrase match.

Exact match

Ads may show on searches that match the exact term or are close variations of that exact term. Close variations here may also include a reordering of words if it doesn’t change the meaning, and the addition or removal of function words (prepositions, conjunctions, articles and other words that don’t impact on the intent of a search).

  • Symbol: [keyword]
  • Example keyword: [women's hats]
  • Example search: hats for women

Learn more about exact match.

Negative match

Ads may show on searches without the term. So, if you’re a hat company but you don’t sell baseball caps, you could add “-baseball caps” as a negative keyword so that your ads don’t show for people searching for baseball caps. 

Symbol: -keyword
Example keyword: -baseball hats
Example search: women’s hats

NOTE: In this example, ads will show in searches for “women’s hats” but not in searches for “baseball hats.”

Learn more about negative match.

Bear in mind

Keywords aren't case-sensitive, which means that they're matched without regard to upper-case or lower-case 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.

As you'll learn in next sections, symbols have special meanings in AdWords, so you should generally avoid using them. Also, keywords can't contain any non-standard characters like: ! @ % , *

You can use keyword match types with campaigns that show ads on the Search Network. On the Display Network, keywords are treated as broad match by default.

More on close keyword variations

So that you don't miss out on potential customers, we'll show your ads for close variations of your phrase match and exact match keywords to maximise on the potential for your ads to show in relevant searches. Close variations include misspellings, singular forms, plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations and accents. So there's no need to separately add close variations as keywords.

For example, if your phrase match keyword is "kid's scooter", you'd still want to show your ad when someone searches for "kids scooter" or "kid scooters".

Bear in mind that even though we show close variations of your phrase and exact match keywords, these match types still give you more control than broad match and broad match modifier. That's because broad match and broad match modifier keywords also show for synonyms and related searches, which aren't considered close variations.

For app install campaigns, we may extend the scope of some of your keyword match types in ways that are specific to apps. Here's how this can work:

  • For exact match and phrase match keywords, we may make small changes to search terms (such as adding or removing the word "app") to better match with your targeted keywords.
  • For broad match keywords, we may use app category information to improve both your targeting precision and reach. 

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