Choose the right Google Ads keywords for effective targeting

Manage match types for growth and control

Understanding keyword match type strategy and keywords' overall role in your account is essential to crafting your Google Ads strategy.

Use broad match to capture long tail queries, reserve exact match for your primary volume and value drivers

Your keywords target users’ queries, and your match types are intended to control the targeting logic of those keywords. 


Semantic vs. Syntactic

The main difference across the keyword match types is the meaning of a user’s search (semantic) vs. the order of the words in a user’s search or close variations of the specific words in that search (syntactic).

Type of matching Keyword Matched queries
Semantic flower arrangement flower arrangement
floral arrangement
arranging flowers
(+ others)
Syntactic [flower arrangement] flower arrangement

Broad match uses Google’s long history of deciphering the meaning of queries to answer a question (semantic), while the other match types describe the words that users type and the order in which they type them, independent of the intention of those words (syntactic). As 15% of queries each day on Google haven’t been searched before, broad match gives you the best chance to capture anything that’s semantically relevant.

In your account, think about deploying keywords to match this behavior. Broad match exists to uncover and capture a wide range of queries based on user intent, while the other match types should be used (with varying levels of control) to capture actual queries that you know are occurring in high volumes.

Don’t create minute variations of phrase/exact match keywords

Refine Match Types for High-Value Queries

You can have more control over bids and creatives if you target queries with more specific match types, but targeting via phrase and exact shouldn’t be the dominant strategy across your entire account. Don’t overcomplicate your account and its management while missing out on valuable traffic from broad match terms.

Focus syntactic match types on high-value and high-volume queries where you will experience the benefits of more control over bids and creatives.

Match type Use case
Exact You know that a specific query is being used with enough frequency that you’ll benefit from managing those queries using a specific keyword.
Phrase There’s a set of words repeated across a number of different queries, and you want to manage all of the traffic that’s appearing in those queries. The order of the set of words matters. For example, you see performance differences between “flower bouquet” and “bouquet of flowers.”
Modified broad There’s a set of words repeated across a number of different queries, and you want to manage all of the traffic that’s appearing in those queries. The order of the set of words does not matter. For example, there are no performance differences between “flower bouquet” and “bouquet of flowers.”

Look for the places in your account where there’s enough query volume to justify creating a separate syntactic match type keyword. To do this, sort your search terms report based on click or conversion volume. Remember, getting specific with creatives will require you to put these keywords into a new ad group so you can tailor messaging.

Don’t spend a lot of time building out minute or obscure variations of your exact and phrase match keywords. Phrase and exact match types expand to cover close keyword variations. Misspellings, singulars/plurals, acronyms, abbreviations, accents and stemmings are all included in the matching behavior of your keyword. (Synonyms are not included.)


Establish a baseline of how the different match types perform in your account. This will help you set bids on new keywords if you’re using manual bidding on them. Then, after initial setup, manage them based on their performance.


Expand Match Types for High Value Keywords

Going from broad to exact allows you to better manage traffic for valuable terms. Conversely, going from phrase/exact match to broad match can increase your volume.

Sort your phrase/exact keywords based on click, conversion or assist conversion volume. For high-performing terms that are only running on phrase or exact, consider adding a broad match or broad match modified version (these cases will also be surfaced on the Recommendations page for you).

As you expand your reach, you’ll want to maintain an acceptable level of performance. To do this, consider adding negative keywords or enabling bid automation for your broad match terms.


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