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A guide to keyword match types in Google Ads

Back to all resources

A guide to keyword match types in Google Ads

Key takeaways

From appearing for your own brand name to showing up in wider category-related queries, keyword matching options help you connect with more relevant users on Google Search.

With three options to choose from — exact match, phrase match, and broad match — you can control how closely your chosen keywords must be to a user’s query for your ads to be eligible to appear.

Here, we explore the different match types and the benefits they can bring to your business.

1. What are keyword match types?

2. Why are keyword match types useful?

3. Which matching option should I use — and when?

1. What are keyword match types?

Whether you pick them manually or use the Keyword Planner, keywords are used to match your ads with the terms that people are searching for online.

On your Google Ads campaign, you can determine how close a user’s query needs to be to your chosen keywords in order for your ad to be eligible to appear. This is called keyword matching — and thanks to advancements in machine learning, it’s a feature that understands human language and intent better than ever before.

There are three different keyword matching options to choose from: exact match, phrase match, and broad match. As a rule, broader targeting gets more traffic and is less competitive, while narrow matches are more specific and targeted.


The building blocks of search advertising — those words or phrases you select to best describe your product, service, or business. They’re used to match your ads with the terms that people are searching for.

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2. Why are keyword match types useful?

By selecting the right keyword match types for your business, you can drive better quality, more relevant traffic to your website — while avoiding unnecessary spend on irrelevant clicks.

They are a perfect tool for growing your account’s performance and capturing all the different kinds of search query — and consumer demand — that relate to your business.

It’s recommended that you use Smart Bidding with all match types to automatically optimise your campaigns for your performance objectives.

Smart Bidding

Smart Bidding uses machine learning to optimise your bids, driving conversions and value across your Google Ads campaigns.

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3. Which matching option should I use, and when should I use it?

Which match type you use — or how many — depends on your business objectives and the types of search query you’d like to show up for.

By utilising more than one match type, you’re more likely to capture all the nuances of the consumer journey — from users researching without much intent on their desktop to those searching directly for your brand name (but possibly with spelling errors) on their phones.

Use exact match for when you want to be in control

Exact match is the most precise of the keyword matching options. It works by targeting queries that are identical, or have the same meaning, as your chosen keyword.

For example, a keyword like “woman’s t-shirt” will cover that exact query, plus plurals (“women’s t-shirts”), synonyms (“female top”) and similar variations, to ensure you’re not missing out on valuable leads.

While exact match might be narrower and more competitive than broader match types, it’s crucial when you’re looking to capture very specific intent — such as searches for your product or brand name — and those leads most likely to convert.

Use phrase match to reach a wider set of queries

Phrase match allows your ads to reach more queries by targeting searches that include the meaning of your keyword as part of a wider phrase.

For example, for the keyword  “woman’s t-shirt”, your ad could also be eligible to appear for queries such as  “best designer women’s t-shirts”, “women’s tops for summer”, and more.

With people increasingly searching the web with longer phrases and questions, phrase match is a great tool for capturing these queries and qualified leads.

Use broad match to let automation do the legwork

A broad match keyword uses advanced machine learning to identify much more nuanced user intent signals on Search, helping you show up for queries that more broadly relate to your chosen keyword.

For example, if you choose the keyword “woman’s t-shirt”, signals such as consumer location, recent search activity, landing page content, and the other keywords in your campaign will help decide which queries are relevant to your business — from “women’s clothes” to “summer fashion ideas” to “what to wear on holiday”.

Broad match is particularly useful if you’re looking to build brand awareness and connect with users just starting to explore a category. It also vastly reduces the number of keywords you need in any one campaign, while ensuring you still cover the queries that could drive valuable leads to your business.

Whether you’re looking to use just one, a combination, or all three, match types are the perfect tool for increasing the relevancy of your ads and the performance of your Google Ads campaigns.

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