A Complete Guide to Google Keyword Types and When To Use Each

16 May, 2023

Unravel the complexities of Google Ads keyword types with our comprehensive guide. Understand broad, phrase, exact, and negative keyword types, explore advanced keyword strategies, and learn best practices for maximizing your campaign performance.

A Complete Guide to Google Keyword Types and When To Use Each

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Success in the paid search landscape hinges significantly on the strategic use of keywords. More specifically, it's about understanding the nuanced world of keyword match types and leveraging them effectively to drive your campaigns. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the various Google keyword types, discuss their evolution, and share strategies on structuring your Google Ads account to align with your unique goals and objectives. Whether you aim to discover new keyword opportunities or maximize the value of your key search terms, this guide is designed to equip you with the knowledge and insights needed to navigate the ever-changing terrain of Google Ads keywords.

Understanding Keyword Types in Google Ads

The cornerstone of any successful Google Ads campaign lies in its keywords. These are the terms or phrases that your potential customers enter into the search engine, prompting your ads to appear in the search results. Effective keyword selection aligns with the user's search intent, making your ad relevant and increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversions.

The concept of keywords is simple on the surface but offers a depth of complexity when we delve into the realm of keyword match types. Over the years, Google has refined the way it matches these search queries with the advertisers' selected keywords. This evolution is characterized by a shift from a largely literal approach to a more nuanced one, allowing for more flexibility and relevance in matching ads with user queries.

This transformative journey has resulted in the keyword match types we have today, each serving a unique purpose and offering different levels of control over who sees your ads. Understanding these keyword types and their appropriate application is essential in crafting a Google Ads strategy that reaches the right audience and achieves your advertising objectives. In this section, we will explore these keyword match types and their uses in detail.

Broad Match Keywords

Broad match keywords provide the widest reach among all match types. When you employ this default match type, your ad can appear for searches that not only include your keywords, but also synonyms, related searches, and relevant variations. The broad match type is a powerful tool, particularly for new or less-known businesses aiming to maximize visibility and reach the widest audience possible.

Utilizing broad match keywords usually comes with a more affordable cost-per-click (CPC) compared to more specific match types. This affordability, however, should be paired with a controlled budget and close monitoring of search term reports. Broad-match keywords can generate a high volume of impressions, but they might also lead to irrelevant traffic and clicks. This is due to the broad match's expansive reach, which, while beneficial for visibility, can also result in your ads appearing for less relevant or even unrelated searches.

Google's machine learning algorithms largely power the functionality of broad match keywords, taking into account a myriad of factors, including the potential customer's search intent and the overall context of the search query. It's important to note that Google often recommends broad-match keywords when advertisers opt for automated bidding campaigns.

However, the reliance on Google's machine learning also poses a risk. The automated nature of broad match keywords means you're entrusting Google's algorithms to interpret the intent behind users' search queries and match them with your ads. While these algorithms are increasingly sophisticated, they may not always align with your specific understanding of your product or service.

To make the most of broad match keywords while mitigating potential risks, it's essential to monitor your search terms report and keyword performance regularly. By doing so, you can identify irrelevant search queries that triggered your ads and add them as negative keywords. This continuous refinement process helps you optimize your PPC campaign, improve its quality score, and ensure that your ad spend is directed toward potential customers genuinely interested in your offering.

Phrase Match Keywords

Phrase match keywords offer a middle ground between the expansiveness of broad match and the specificity of exact match keywords. When you opt for phrase match, your ads will display when users enter search queries that include the exact phrase of your keyword, or close variations of it, in the exact order. The search query can contain additional words before or after the phrase, providing a balance of reach and relevance.

While phrase match keywords might not be as widely used as broad or exact match types, they can be am effective tool in certain circumstances. For instance, when you have a specific key phrase that is integral to your product or service, and you want to capture all searches that include this phrase, the phrase match type can be a great choice.

To denote phrase match keywords in your Google Ads account, use quotation marks. For instance, "women's running shoes" will target queries like "best women's running shoes" or "women's running shoes on sale," but not "running shoes for women," as the order of the words in the phrase is different.

Phrase match keywords allow you to cast a wide net, similar to broad match, but with a greater level of control. They help you avoid irrelevant traffic from overly broad matches, yet still capture a wider audience than you would with exact match keywords. In this way, phrase-match keywords can provide a higher degree of flexibility and can be an excellent addition to your keyword strategy when used appropriately.

At Driftlead, we often use phrase-match keywords in our negative lists because they can effectively negate a wider group of irrelevant keywords without potentially limiting our exposure to similar but relevant terms.

Exact Match Keywords

Exact match keywords represent the highest level of precision among the Google Ads keyword match types. When you use this match type, your ads are displayed when users enter search queries that precisely match your keyword phrase or very close variations, including different orders, function words, or implied words. This match type provides the highest level of relevance, aligning closely with the user's intent.

Exact match keywords should be reserved for your most high-value and high-intent keywords. Because of their specificity, they tend to drive less traffic than other match types but often result in higher conversion rates. This is due to their ability to closely match the user's search intent, thereby attracting highly targeted and qualified traffic to your ad.

However, this precision comes at a cost. Exact match keywords tend to have a higher cost-per-click (CPC) compared to broad or phrase match keywords. This is because the competition for these specific keywords is often high, driving up the bidding price. Therefore, it's essential to utilize exact-match keywords strategically, focusing on those that are most crucial to your business and have proven to perform well.

When using exact match keywords, remember to enclose them in square brackets in your Google Ads account. For example, [women's running shoes] will target the exact query "women's running shoes" and close variations like "running shoes for women."

By incorporating exact match keywords into your Google Ads strategy, you can ensure that your most valuable keywords are directly targeting potential customers with a high intent to purchase, making this match type an indispensable tool in your PPC arsenal.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords play an equally important role in shaping the success of your Google Ads campaigns. These are the terms that you specifically do not want your ads to appear for. By including negative keywords in your campaigns or ad groups, you can prevent your ads from being displayed when these terms are part of the user's search query, thereby reducing irrelevant clicks and wasted ad spend.

For instance, if you're selling new laptops, you might want to include "used" or "second-hand" as negative keywords. This ensures that your ads don't appear for searches like "used laptops" or "second-hand laptops," which don't align with your offering.

Negative keywords can be set at the ad group, campaign, or account level, offering flexibility based on your unique needs. They can be particularly useful when running broad match campaigns, as they help refine the broad scope by eliminating unwanted traffic and clicks.

Negative keywords also have match types, namely, exact, phrase, and broad. It's crucial to note that, unlike with positive keywords, broad-match negative keywords do not account for close variations, plurals, or synonyms. Therefore, to comprehensively exclude all unwanted queries, you might need to consider multiple negative keywords or variations.

For example, if you're selling high-end watches and want to avoid bargain hunters, you might add "cheap," "affordable," and "discount" as broad match negative keywords. If you want to prevent your ads from showing up for a specific term, such as "fake luxury watches," you could use that as an exact match negative keyword.

Monitoring your search terms report is crucial to identifying potential negative keywords. This report shows you the actual queries users entered that triggered your ads, providing valuable insights into where your ad budget might be wasted on irrelevant traffic.

By using negative keywords strategically, you can fine-tune your PPC campaigns, improve the quality of your traffic, and enhance the overall effectiveness of your Google Ads efforts.

Legacy Keyword Match Types

As Google Ads has evolved over the years, it has introduced and phased out various keyword match types. Understanding these legacy keyword match types can provide valuable context and insights into Google's approach to ad matching and its ongoing evolution.

One notable legacy match type is the Broad Match Modifier (BMM). The BMM was a variation of the broad match type, where advertisers could add a plus sign (+) in front of one or more words in their broad match keyword. This signaled to Google that the marked word(s) must be present in the user's search query for the ad to trigger.

For instance, if you used the BMM keyword +women's +running +shoes, your ad would only appear for search queries that included all three words, though not necessarily in the exact order. This allowed for a level of control over broad match keywords that were more refined than standard broad match but less restrictive than phrase match.

However, as of July 2021, Google has phased out the use of BMM and expanded the functionality of phrase match to include the behaviors of the broad match modifier. This means that phrase match now also considers the order of the words in a search query, which was previously a unique feature of the BMM.

This evolution of keyword match types reflects Google's increasing reliance on machine learning and its move towards simplifying the keyword management process for advertisers. While legacy match types like BMM are no longer in use, their impact on the current keyword match types we use today is significant, and understanding them can help advertisers better appreciate the nuances of Google Ads keyword strategies.

Advanced Keyword Strategies

Mastering the different keyword match types and their uses can significantly improve your Google Ads performance. However, to truly optimize your campaigns and maximize your return on ad spend, consider these advanced keyword strategies.

Using Broad Match Keywords for Keyword Discovery

Broad match keywords, due to their expansive reach, can be an effective tool for keyword discovery. By running broad-match keywords with a controlled budget, you can identify new keyword opportunities that you might not have considered initially. Monitor your search terms report closely to identify these new keywords that are generating impressions and clicks.

Layering in Audience Segments

Another strategy for more effective and affordable keyword targeting is layering audience segments onto your campaigns. This is particularly helpful when using broad match keywords as it can considerably lower the number of irrelevant clicks you earn by adding a filter of some sort to the keyword delivery. For more details on this, be sure to check out our article or retargeting lists for search ads (RSLA)ion-to-rlsa-and-why-you-should-be-using-them/.

Leveraging Exact Match for High-Performing Keywords

Reserve your top-performing and most high-intent keywords for exact match. Despite their higher CPC, these keywords are likely to drive highly targeted traffic and lead to conversions. It’s an investment in reaching potential customers who are explicitly looking for what you offer.

Layering Different Match Types

Rather than sticking to one match type, consider layering different match types within your ad groups. For example, you could have your high-performing keywords as exact match, while also running them as phrase match or broad match to capture a wider audience. This layered approach helps you secure your most valuable search queries while also reaching users who might express their intent differently.

Using Negative Keywords Strategically

Negative keywords are crucial to eliminating irrelevant traffic and conserving your ad budget. Regularly review your search terms report to identify irrelevant search queries that are triggering your ads, and add them as negative keywords. Consider using different match types for your negative keywords to ensure comprehensive coverage.

Optimizing for Quality Score

Quality Score is Google's rating of the quality and relevance of your keywords and ads. It influences your ad rank and CPC. To improve your Quality Score, ensure your keywords, ad copy, and landing page are highly relevant to one another and to the user's search intent. Use your match types strategically to maintain high relevance.

Impact of Goggle's Machine Learning on Keyword Matching

Over the years, Google has increasingly incorporated machine learning into its ad-matching algorithms. This shift has had significant implications for advertisers and the strategies they employ in their Google Ads campaigns.

Google's machine learning algorithms work to understand the intent behind a user’s search query, rather than just matching the exact keywords. This means the system doesn't just look at the exact words the user types in, but it also tries to understand the meaning behind those words. For example, even if a user types in a more general term, Google's algorithms can discern if the intent behind the search is more specific, and match the ad accordingly.

This increased reliance on machine learning has led to changes in keyword match types, as seen with the phasing out of the broad match modifier and the expansion of the phrase match type. The intent is to make it easier for advertisers to reach their target audiences without having to manage extensive lists of keywords.

However, it's worth noting that this shift towards machine learning also means advertisers have less control over exactly when their ads will appear. In some cases, ads may show for search queries that the advertiser considers irrelevant, leading to wasted ad spend. This underlines the importance of regularly monitoring search term reports and strategically using negative keywords to exclude irrelevant traffic.

While the move toward machine learning can seem daunting, it also presents opportunities. With the right strategies and ongoing management, advertisers can leverage Google's machine learning capabilities to more effectively reach their target audiences and achieve their campaign objectives.

Best Practices for Keyword Research and Selection

Now that we've delved into the different keyword types and strategies, let's round it off with some best practices for using Google keyword types effectively.

Regularly Review Your Search Terms Report

The Search Terms Report is a goldmine of information. It reveals the actual queries that users typed into Google that triggered your ads. Regularly reviewing this report can help you identify new keyword opportunities, as well as irrelevant queries that you need to add to your negative keyword list.

Use Match Types Strategically

Each match type serves a specific purpose and has its strengths and weaknesses. Broad-match keywords can help with keyword discovery, while exact-match keywords should be reserved for your most valuable, high-intent keywords. Phrase-match keywords can capture a wider audience while maintaining a certain level of control.

Monitor and Adjust Your Ad Budget

Different keyword match types can impact your ad budget in different ways. Broad-match keywords may lead to more impressions and clicks, but not all of them may be relevant. Exact match keywords may have a higher CPC but can drive more qualified traffic. Keep a close eye on your ad spend and adjust your budget allocation as necessary to maximize your ROI.

Don't Neglect Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are crucial to eliminating irrelevant traffic and conserving your ad spend. Regularly add irrelevant search terms to your negative keyword list to ensure your ads are only being shown to your target audience.

Consider User Intent

Google's shift towards understanding user intent means advertisers need to think beyond exact keyword matches. Consider the intent behind different search queries and how your keywords, ad copy, and landing pages can best meet that intent.

Conduct Regular Keyword Research

The effectiveness of keywords can change over time due to factors like seasonality, changes in consumer behavior, and increased competition. Regular keyword research can help you stay on top of these changes and adjust your keyword strategy accordingly.

By following these best practices, you can make the most of the different Google keyword types and optimize your Google Ads campaigns for success.

Closing Thoughts

Navigating Google's keyword types can seem like a daunting task, but understanding each match type's functionality and strategic use is paramount to the success of your Google Ads campaigns. From the expansive reach of broad match keywords to the precise targeting of exact match keywords, and the crucial role of negative keywords, each has its unique place and purpose in your PPC strategy.

But remember, the foundation of a successful Google Ads campaign is not just about choosing the right keyword match types. It's about understanding your audience, their search intent, and how your products or services meet that intent. And, as Google's machine learning continues to evolve, this focus on user intent will only become more critical.

In the dynamic world of PPC advertising, staying adaptable and continuously refining your keyword strategy is key. Review your search terms report regularly, adjust your ad budget as necessary, and never underestimate the power of negative keywords.

Finally, remember that you're not alone in this journey. If you need expert guidance to maximize your Google Ads performance, our team at DriftLead is here to help. Contact us today for a free marketing planored for your unique needs and goals. Let's work together to make your Google Ads campaigns a resounding success.

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