Using Different Match Types to Optimize Your Google Ads Campaign

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When putting together a paid search campaign on Bing, Google or any other advertising platform, keywords are a critical component to driving visibility and campaign success. Conducting keyword research for PPC campaigns is the gas that drives the campaign’s engine as proper keyword implementation is a significant factor in achieving clicks and conversions.

“Implementation” is the keyword in that last sentence.

Advertisers must establish how they want search engines to interpret the keywords used by deciding the match type under which keywords will fall. Match types determine if an ad will surface for a given query based on the keywords entered, the order they appear and the linguistic associations for those keywords.

Generally speaking, platforms like Google Ads provide advertisers with three different keyword match types: broad match, phrase match and exact match. To be more specific, advertising channels also tend to supply users with modified broad match and negative match categories.

Understanding each match type and how they can be optimized to engender the most profitable PPC results is an essential component to eCommerce success.

Ready to become a keyword match master? Here is how to employ each keyword match type for Google Ads success.

Broad match keywords

Broad Match

As the name implies, broad match keywords enable merchants to get their ads out to the widest possible audience. When using the broad match type, ads can potentially surface when a user enters a query that contains any word in the term of phrase. Moreover, broad match settings allow for users to enter misspelled keywords or synonyms and still surface a merchant’s ad.

For example, if a retailer set the term “men’s shoes” for broad match and a search user enters the phrase “women’s shoes” or even “women’s boots,” the ad may still display, despite its lack of relevance to the searcher’s actual desire.

This is the downside of utilizing broad match.

While this match type will increase the number of clicks an ad garners, it will also drive a significant amount of low-quality traffic as the ads are likely to not match well with the intent of the searcher.

Moreover, broad match is the default keyword setting in Google Ads; therefore, merchants must be careful as too many broad match phrases could tank a campaign’s profitability and ROI.

However, this is not to say that broad match is without its merits. Broad match keywords can be quite beneficial in uncovering queries and other keywords that would be effective in driving quality traffic to specific pages.

woman shopping online

Through this paradigm, broad match keywords can be extremely helpful when just starting a campaign as these terms can serve as a starting point to see what keywords drive clicks and are worthy of moving into another match type.

However, if retailers are hoping to still cast a wide net while maintaining a bit of accuracy, it is wise to consider the broad match modifier.

Broad Match Modifier

The broad match modifier is a fun one to use as it maintains the reach provided by broad match keywords while narrowing down the types of queries that cause an ad to surface.

The broad match modifier works by placing a “+” before a specific keyword that a retailer wants to ensure is present in each query. Words in a keyword phrase that are not preceded by a “+” are subject to variability. As described by Google:

“Modified broad match lets you specify that certain broad match keyword terms, or their close variants, must appear to trigger your ad. Close variants include misspellings, singular/plural forms, abbreviations and acronyms, and stemmings (such as “floor” and “flooring”). Variants don’t include synonyms or related searches.”

For example, retailers aiming to target buyers of men’s shoes might use the broad match modifier of “+men’s shoes,” thereby surfacing adverts for queries like “men’s boots,” “men’s trainers” and “men’s boat shoes” but not “women’s shoes.”

Broad match modifiers are incredibly useful for increasing the relevancy of a retailer’s ads for the audience, driving more qualified traffic, boosting click-through rates and increasing conversions while still gaining the benefits that broad match has to offer.

Moreover, since the broad match modifier type excludes synonyms or related searches, this cuts down on the implementation of negative keywords (more on those shortly).

However, when retailers are ready to get more targeted with their keyword strategies, then it might be time to move on to the phrase match type.

Phrase match keywords

Phrase Match

With the phrase match type, adverts will surface when a user enters the keyword phrase exactly, in its exact order; however, there may be other words interjected at the beginning or end of the query.

Therefore, using our previous example of “men’s shoes,” a searcher might enter “brown men’s shoes for hiking” and cause a merchant’s ad to appear as the phrase “men’s shoes” is present in that precise order in the query. That said, if a searcher enters a query for “men’s brown hiking shoes,” the advert will not surface as the targeted keyword is broken up by other words.

Phrase match is a great targeting option for increasing the visibility of ads while taking a more targeted approach than what broad match allows. Because of the boost in audience relevance, phrase match terms are likely to drive a higher number of conversions when compared to the previous match types.

Moreover, when using phrase match, users who enter the targeted term will see that phrase bolded in the ads that display, which helps to draw attention to the promotions, enabling advertisers to attract an increased number of clicks and –if a site’s landing pages are optimized for conversions – sales.

Exact & Close Variant Match

Exact and Close Variant Match

Exact match keywords used to mean that searchers would be required to enter queries that matched the targeted keyword phrase exactly – hence the name. However, this is strict criteria, and while those who did enter such a search were most likely to convert, this was a small percentage of people.

Google has since decided that such an approach was causing advertisers to lose out on a substantial number of opportunities as many searches can be abbreviated, variants or misspelled. As a result, the company implemented alterations dubbed “close variant matching” that enabled exact match keywords to trigger based on the small modifications listed above.

Then, in 2017, Google announced that close variants would be broadened to “include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords” as well as function words such as prepositions, conjunctions and the like.

Happy couple with laptop shopping online

Most recently, Google changed close variants again to match the intent of a search by allowing ads to trigger for words that share the same meaning as the exact match keyword. This includes paraphrasing and implied keywords.

As an example, Google stated, “If you’re using the exact match keyword [Yosemite camping], your ads may show on other terms like ‘Yosemite campground,’ ‘campsites in Yosemite,’ or ‘Yosemite national park ca camping.’”

As a result, exact match keywords aren’t exactly exact anymore.

However, Google defends these moves by stating that, “Early tests show that advertisers using mostly exact match keywords see 3 percent more exact match clicks and conversions on average, with most coming from queries they aren’t reaching today.”

While Google altered exact match keywords various times, this match type is still quite useful for targeting the smallest but most relevant audience, which will likely result in the most conversions from any match type. Moreover, when ads are more relevant to an audience, a merchant’s quality score is likely to increase, which can lower the advertising cost-per-click (CPC).

Negative Match

While it is incredibly important to target the right keywords and use the right match types, it is equally crucial to exclude keywords that will only drag down a campaign’s performance.

enter negative keywords screenshot

Enter Negative Match.

Negative match keywords stop ads from surfacing for specific words and phrases that are irrelevant to a brand and its offerings. Many eCommerce merchants choose to include words like “free” or “used” as a negative match. Following the structure of the other match types, negative keywords come in three flavors:

Negative match keywords

Negative Broad Match

This match type is the default setting for negative keywords and will stop ads from showing up for searches that include the targeted keywords, no matter the order they appear in the query.

Negative Phrase Match

Unlike negative broad match, negative phrase match will prevent ads from showing only if the targeted keyword, in its exact order, shows up in the search.

Negative Exact Match

Much like its positive counterpart used to function, negative exact match will only stop ads from surfacing if the search matches the targeted keyword phrase exactly. If there are extra words included in the query, this match type will not stop the ad from showing. Therefore, it is essential to be precise when utilizing this match type.

Negative keywords are essential for helping brands to zero in on relevant audiences that will be interested in the goods that a store has to offer.

Merchants who don’t understand how to adequately optimize their keywords through the various match types are often doomed to burn through their ad budgets. Proper eCommerce PPC management is essential for producing high-converting, high-return campaigns that help online merchants grow their businesses. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of how to effectively sort and implement keywords into various match types, retailers stand a far greater chance of creating relevant, enticing and effective Google Ads campaigns.

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