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The 4 Kinds Of Keyword Matching Offered By Google Ads

What started as a simple fix for too many websites for people to remember turned into the most important website in the history of the internet… If you haven’t guessed yet… it’s Google. Big surprise, I know!

Seems easy enough, you type in a thing into the bar that says search and Google spits out exactly what you are looking for AND a collection of ads for products or services you might be interested in. Have you ever taken a moment to consider how those matches are made? How those ads are delivered and why what you typed fit into the parameters? If I were to dive into the full explanation of why and how you’d have a full novel on your hands, so instead I’ll just focus on the 4 different varieties of matching the Google uses to serve ads. 

These keyword matching varieties are important to consider both as a consumer, but also as a marketer using the Google Ad platform to reach potential customers.


The broad match is a match type that, like it’s name, can show ads on a wide variety of searches. Google makes this match type the default when adding new keywords, in order to capture as much traffic as possible in a short period of time. It triggers your ads on close variants of the keywords, related searches, other relevant variations. The words in the keyword don’t have to be present in a user’s search, they just have to be related. 

While Google recommends this type of matching for many different purposes, we use it rather sparingly because it can sometimes also show your ads on searches that have nothing to do with your product thus creating spend and traffic that is most likely not going to result in a conversion. Although, it may seem like just getting your product in front of anyone is the goal, in the case of Google, being a bit more targeted usually leads to better conversions.


The close relative of the broad match search term matching system is the broad match modifier, which can be easily recognized by the “+” sign in front of the word. When you use a broad match modifier, you tell Google to only show ads on search terms that contain the words that have a “+” sign in front of them, regardless of the order of the keywords. The search term also has to have all the keywords you used with the broad match modifier. 

For example, all 3 words with a “+” sign: +maternity +workout +leggings 

As you can see, in the example above, Google will also return our ads for synonyms (e.g. “best workout leggings for pregnancy” & “maternity workout pants”).

Unlike broad match, which captures everything and then some, the broad match modifier allows you to get more specific with a collection of words that must all be included for the ad to display. A step closer than the broad match, yet still pretty loose as far as matching is concerned.



Phrase match, unlike broad match, does have requirements as far as order is concerned. It can also show synonyms and search terms with additional words before or after the phrase but not in the middle. If you would like to allow for additional words at the beginning or at the end, you must use the  “...”  symbol, in the space where you want to leave room for additional matching.

As you can see, the order of “vegan chocolate” is highly respected in all searches that triggered our ads. This is a much more specific and targeted approach, unlike the broad matching that just brings in anything even remotely related. This type of matching allows you to still have the freedom for additional search terms, but with the confinement of keyword order which depending on the keywords, can really alter the meaning of the phrase.



Exact match, which can be easily recognized by straight brackets [....] surrounding it, shows ads for exact matches of the term or close variations of that exact term with the same meaning.

Here you can see that each of these search terms were a variation of the exact keyword that was input for the ad. Although we see that the words are not always in the same order, or the actual word choice slightly deviates from the exact phrase, you can see very clearly that each one of these means pretty much the same thing, and would be relevant for anyone searching for gluten free chocolate.

Having a closer understanding of these match techniques is very important in harnessing the true power of Google Ads. If your question is which one should you use? That is a much more difficult question to answer, and something that we here at Slicedbread specialize in and can help you with. Each matching process has its own benefits and each brand requires a different combination of all of these match types to deliver the most optimized ads to the most closely matching audience. Let’s not even start on the negative keywords which are meant to specifically keep away unwanted traffic… we’ll save that for another post!


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