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Matches Made in Heaven

By Rachel Anderson

I get to manage a lot of pay-per-click accounts for my clients and have learned some great ways to use keyword match types to my client’s best advantage. I’d like to share some of my favorite ways to use them with you today.

 Striking the Best Match


For the sake of making this useful let’s do PPC for a pretend business we’ll call “Placemat Perfection”. This company specializes in providing the largest variety of placemats at affordable prices.

Let’s say we just got the account and the pay-per-click advertising has been running for the last 2 years. We start taking a look at the account structure and decide to take a closer look at a campaign titled “Plastic Placemats”. We open it and see that there are many ad groups including:

  • Solid Print
  • Natural Print
  • Geometric Print
  • Graphic Print

We open the first ad group “Solid Print” and see keywords like:

  • red placemat
  • +red placemat
  • red +placemat
  • “red placemat”
  • [red placemat]

Each of these keywords has the exact same two words and spelling. However, they are each different because of their match type.

If you are unfamiliar with keyword match types, they are how advertisers customize when they want their ads to show.

A keyword with no symbols (just words) is broad match. A plus sign + means broad modified, “quotation marks” around words indicates phrase match and a keyword with [brackets] is exact match.

I have found that it is best to repeat keywords in several match types. In the above example, the same keyword is repeated in all match types. While this may be good for starting off an ad group, it likely would be better to evaluate the kind of traffic each match type generates and only keep match types that bring the most qualified visits.


To understand the benefits of each and why we would use them, let’s walk through each match type and see them at work.



Broad Match: this is the default match; it is also the most broad option meaning that keywords with this match type will trigger your ad to show the most times.


It will trigger your ad if your keyword term/terms are included in a search in any way or in any order. This accounts for misspellings, synonyms and related searches. You can capture the highest possible ad traffic with this match type.

The following example illustrates the reason this match type provides the highest traffic.



Ads Show For Searches On

red  placemat

red placematred placematsbuy red and pink placemats

red flower placemats

red table cloth

red place setting

red place with stairs



blue placemat

placemat for child


Broad match is a great way to get a high volume of traffic and awareness but it can also generate useless visits and few sales if your ad appears for searches that have nothing to do with your product or service.


I’ve found it most useful to use broad match at the beginning of a campaign so that I can build up enough data to begin to understand how people search and what produces qualified traffic. Once I have this information I can create better, most specific keywords that create meaningful clicks.



Broad Match Modifier: this is the newest edition to match types. You can narrow in on your target market by adding a plus sign + to the beginning of any word in your keyword.


The plus sign means that the word following it is required in the search in order for the ad to show. The required word/words must be exactly as the keyword specifies; synonyms or related searches aren’t accepted.



Ads Show For Searches On

Ads Won’t Show For Searches On

+red +placemat red placematred placemats

placemat red

red placemat with flower

placemat that has red and blue

placmat for red table setting

red plates and white placemats

red table clothplacemat for child



You can see that the searches triggering keywords in this category are much more specific than broad match.

This is one of my favorite match types because it allows more control over when your ad will show, helping to narrow down a target market.

It also allows you to make the keyword as custom as you’d like since you decide which words to use the + and require.

This is a good second step in creating a great keyword list. If you already know a word that determines relevancy, start creating keyword terms that use that word with a plus sign in front. It will narrow down your target market and show your ad to a much more interested audience.



Phrase Match: signified by the quotation marks, this match type triggers ads only when someone searches for your exact search term, or your exact search term with extra words before or after. (extra words in the middle of the term however, are not eligible)



Ads Show For Searches On

Ads Won’t Show For Searches On

“red placemat”

red placemat

buy red placemat

red placemat for 4th of July

red placemat with flowers

pink and red placemat

plastic red placemat

red and white placemat

placemat red

colored placemat


Phrase match is even more specific than broad match. This is my favorite match type because it nails your target market while allowing for a variety of possible searches. You determine what must be included in the search and in what order making it very difficult to generate clicks from unrelated or uninterested customers.

Start to use phrase match when you determine that certain words in a particular order are frequently used to find your product or service.



Exact Match: this match type requires that the search be exactly the same as the keyword for an ad to show. There cannot be any extra words. This match type will trigger for very close variants of the keyword. Brackets around the keyword indicate exact match.



Ads Show For Searches On

Ads Won’t Show For Searches On

[red placemat]

red placemat

red placemats

red placemat for table

plastic red placemat

red and white placemat

colored placemat


Exact match generates the most precise traffic.  It’s great to use exact match if you notice that a large number of customers search a particular way for your product or service. You are able to reach them directly with this match type.

Often times, exact match keywords are the least expensive because they are so specific. It’s worth your time to find out if there are any you can add!


 Start Making Your Matches!


You can do a lot with match types to increase qualified traffic, revenue and actually save on pay-per-click advertising. It takes some work and practice but going through the steps and research to find the best match types for your business does pay off.

If you have any ideas on how to use match types or want to share your favorite, leave a comment! 🙂

Rachel Anderson is a Pay Per Click Advertising Strategist at Off the job she enjoys photography, good food, being outside, and spending time with her husband. Share your thoughts with Rachel on Twitter @gladygirl, Google+ or Facebook- she’d love to hear from you!