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Google AdWords Keyword Match Types for Search Campaigns

Circle Tommy Sands On Google+


Google AdWords Keyword Match Types for Search Campaigns


Have you ever noticed articles or posts that +include references to “keywords” but they are [surrounded] by a variety of -symbols? That was the first thing I recall noticing that led to my first introduction to Google AdWords Keyword Match Types.  From that point on, I began experimenting with the different options available to find the perfect ‘match’ for my keywords. Learning about the varying Keyword Match Types that were available to me in Google Adwords and implementing them effectively, proved to benefit my campaigns considerably. 


What are Keyword Match Types?

Keyword Match Types (KMT) are designations placed on keywords to signify how you would like them to be considered for matches with search queries. There are two basic identities that can be assigned to KMT, Positive and Negative.


Positive Keyword Match Types

Positive Keyword Match Types are used on individual keywords within your ad groups to suggest the manner by which keywords should be matched to search queries. Currently, there are 4 positive KMT available to advertisers:


  • Broad Match allows ads to show for similar phrases and variations of the keyword. Any or all of the terms used in a Broad Match Keyword are eligible for matching search queries. Keywords are entered as is (ex: keyword) with no punctuation. This is the least restrictive option of the KMT and generally leads to a wider reach and a higher number of impressions. However, Broad Match Keywords also have the most potential to match irrelevant search queries.
  • Phrase Match pulls in the reigns a bit and forces the keyword phrase to be included, as listed, in any search queries that it is matched with. Keywords are entered with quotes (ex: “keyword”) to signify use of the Phrase Match option. This KMT is a bit more restrictive and will provide slightly less impressions than Broad Match but should deliver more relevant impressions.       
  • Exact Match is the most restrictive KMT option and will only match a search query when there is an identical match between the keyword and the search query; no extra terms can be included in the matching query. Keywords are designated Exact Match by entering them into ad groups with brackets (ex: [keyword]). There is no leniency with Exact Match and if used properly, these keywords should deliver the most relevant impressions.
  • Modified Broad Match is an additional KMT option that provides greater reach than Phrase Match and more control than Broad match. This KMT is enabled by entering keywords with plus signs (ex: +keyword) assigned to any or all of the terms in a keyword. The plus sign will identify a required term. The terms that have the plus sign assigned will be used, in any order, to match search queries. The remaining terms that do not have an assigned plus sign can be used but are not required to be part of the search query to trigger an impression.

In a campaign promoting toys, an ad group for toy cars includes the keyword ‘toy car’.  Here is how the multiple positive match type options would work for this keyword.




Match Type

Potential Matches

toy car

Broad match

toy car, car toy, toy motorcycle, auto parts

“toy car”

Phrase match

toy car, buy toy car, toy car auction

[toy car]

Exact Match

toy car

+toy car

Modified Broad Match

toy car , toy store, used toys

toy +car

Modified Broad Match

toy car, fast car, classic car

+toy +car

Modified Broad Match

toy car, car toy, used car toy, old toy store car


Negative Keyword Match Types


Negative Keyword Match Types are used to reduce and eliminate unwanted impressions and matching of irrelevant and under-performing keywords. Negative KMT are held to the same standards as Positive KMT just in an opposing fashion. Currently, there are three Negative KMT available:


  • Negative Broad Match can be quite tricky to work with. Any search query that contains all of the terms in a Negative Broad Match keyword will be ignored. This match type will eliminate the highest number of impressions and also narrow the reach of a campaign extensively.
  • Negative Phrase Match use will disqualify all search queries that contain the phrase, in the exact order in which it was listed. It will also act similarly when additional terms appear in search queries before or after the designated negative phrase.
  • Negative Exact Match is used to eliminate keywords one at a time from matching search queries.  This KMT has limited capabilities but works great to remove specific queries from triggering a match.

Negative Modified Broad Match is not currently supported by Google. Adding a plus sign (+) to a Negative Keyword will just revert back to Negative Broad Match.


In the same campaign for toy cars, here is how Negative Match Types could function:




Match Type

Excluded Matches

-smart car

Negative Broad match

smart car cost, smart car mileage, smart toy car

-“smart car”

Negative Phrase match

smart car, smart car price, toy smart car

-[smart car]

Negative Exact Match

smart car



The decisions you make in choosing Keyword Match Types should be based on your own research, account history and advertising goals. Chances are strong that by implementing only broad match keywords in your campaigns, you will find impressions in great numbers but the relevancy could be questionable. By employing varying Positive and Negative Keyword Match Types, you will gain greater control over the relevancy of your impressions and ideally the audience to which you are serving ads, ultimately leading to a better ROI.    


Tips on use

  • Set your bidding in line with your Keyword Match Types. The more restrictive the match types should be more productive and therefore should have higher bids.
  • Broad Match Keywords are eligible for matching search queries containing 'other relevant variations' of your keyword.  Do not be surprised when you find matched search terms that are not included in your campaigns as keywords.
  • Negative Keyword Match Types can be set at both the Campaign and Ad Group level. 

Announced in April 2012, Google announced 'New matching behavior for phrase and exact match keywords'.  Be sure to understand these options and how they impact your account.  You can find out more about these changes as well as how to opt-out from them in the 'Improving exact match and phrase match' article below.


Learn More

about Tommy Sands

My journey with Internet Marketing began in 1998 and I first started working with AdWords a decade later in 2008. I am currently certified by Google in Search & Display Advertising as well as Bing Ads Accredited. I've also obtained Google Analytics Individual Qualification and was designated an AdWords Community Top Contributor. As part of the team at Philly Marketing Labs, I am responsible for Paid Search account strategy and management for a variety of clients across multiple platforms.

Michael E
January 2015

Definitely worth repeating, as you don't want your broad matches eating up all of your budget!



  • Set your bidding in line with your Keyword Match Types. The more restrictive the match types should be more productive and therefore should have higher bids.


David Jov
May 2016

Help telll me about google adword ad campaign please