What is a Match Type in Google AdWords?


In the previous blog, we got a basic insight on what a keyword is in Adwords, and we also defined what a match type is. In this blog, we will discuss more match types in Google AdWords.

What is a Match Type?

Match Type
Match Type in AdWords

We know that only when a search query matches a keyword defined by an advertiser, an ad is triggered. But it is also true that a search query need not always match the exact keyword. A misspelled keyword, a synonym or a related search could be a search query. This relation between a query and a keyword is controlled by an advertiser with the help of match types.

AdWords provides 4 match types:

  1. Broad match
  2. Broad match modifier
  3. Phrase match
  4. Exact match

In AdWords, the default set match type is a broad match. An advertiser can reach a wide range of audience, be it relevant or otherwise. A broad match triggers an ad even when a search query remotely implies the keyword defined by an advertiser. A synonym or a misspelled keyword can be the search query. The search query need not match the order of the keyword either.

E.g. :

Let’s say that the keyword for an ad is sports shoes. When using a broad match type, search queries like sports shoe, shoes for trekking, sports drink, casual shoes etc can trigger the ad. A search query like footwear for outdoor games can trigger the ad too. Here, in the search query, the synonym of the keyword is used even when the actual is missing.

Broad match modifier has the same benefit as a broad match in terms of audience reach, but it enables an advertiser to control the triggering of an ad better. An advertiser can add a plus sign (+) before a word in the keyword/phrase. This means that only when the search query contains that specific keyword on which we used broad match modifier with a plus sign (+), an ad is shown. When a keyword is set under broad match modifier, the order of words in the search query is not a priority.

E.g. :

For the keyword sports shoes and we use sports +shoes, the ad would only be shown if the search query has the word shoes. A search query dance shoes can trigger the ad. Similarly, if we used +sports +shoes, the ad would be shown if the search query has both the words. A search query reebok sports shoes can trigger the ad.

Phrase match gives an advertiser the benefit of a wide audience reach, but with a better command over the ad-triggering than a broad match modifier offers. Phrase match is order specific, a search query can include more terms along with the defined keyword/phrase, but words in the query must be in the same order as in the keyword. ┬áTo set a keyword under a phrase match, enclose the keyword in quotes like “sports shoes”.

E.g. :

For an advertiser defined keyword “sports shoes”, the ad would only be shown if the search query has the phrase sports shoes in the same order. For instance, the ad won’t be triggered if shoes sports is the search query. And if a search query is sports and shoes, again the ad won’t be triggered because the query isn’t the same as the phrase match keyword. But if a search query is pink sports shoes, sports shoes for kids or sports shoes in black for trekking, the ad would be triggered. Jogging shoes or football shoes won’t trigger the ad even though they fall into the same category as sports shoes.

Exact match enables an advertiser to target audience very specifically. It refrains from triggering an ad when a search query isn’t literally the same as the keyword defined by an advertiser. To use exact match on a keyword, wrap the keyword in square brackets like [sports shoes].

E.g. :

If an advertiser defines [sports shoes] as a keyword for an ad, search queries saying sports shoes only will trigger the ad.


For broad, phrase and exact match types, AdWords shows ads for close variations too. Close variations include misspellings, singular/plural forms, acronyms, abbreviations, accents and stemming (ex: shop and shopping or play and playing).

At AdNabu, we recommend an advertiser to use Broad Match Modifier, Phrase Match and Exact Match but not a Broad Match as it might attract a lot of irrelevant clicks. However, to minimize the irrelevant clicks, advertisers can use Negative Keywords. More about Negative Keywords is discussed in the next blog.

About the author

Mantha Sai Praveen

Content marketer by day, a poet by night.