A Guide to Phrase Match in Google AdWords

This blog is dedicated to Phrase Match in Google AdWords. But, we will start off with a brief revision of match types and their contribution to campaigns.

From our blog on match types in Google AdWords, we understand that AdWords triggers an ad only when a user search query matches a keyword defined by an advertiser. We also discussed how a search query and a keyword need not always be twins This means that AdWords shows ads for a misspelled keyword, a synonym or a related search of the keyword. However, advertisers can control this relationship between a search query and a keyword with the help of match types.


AdWords offers 4 different match types. They are as follows:

  1. Exact Match
  2. Phrase Match
  3. Broad Match Modifier
  4. Broad Match

E.g.: If a user searches for shoes, AdWords may trigger ads that have shoes, black shoes, ski boots, ballerinas etc as keywords. AdWords may even return the websites of Nike, Adidas etc as results to the search query shoes.

In this blog we will discuss:

  • What is a Phrase Match in Google AdWords?
  • How does Phrase Match work?
  • Why is it important to include Phrase Match Keywords?

What is a Phrase Match in Google AdWords?

“With phrase match, you can show your ad to customers who are searching for your exact keyword and close variants of your exact keyword, with additional words before or after. Phrase match is more targeted than the default broad match but more flexible than exact match. It gives you more control over how closely the keyword must match someone’s search term so your ad can appear.” – Google

“Phrase match gives an advertiser the benefit of a wide audience reach, but with a better command over the ad-triggering. 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.” – AdNabu

From the two definitions, Phrase Match is targeted at showing ads to those users whose searches are similar to your key phrase. The additional word that adds to the intent of your offering is also considered. To set a keyword under a phrase match, enclose the keyword in quotes like “sports shoes”.


How does Phrase Match work?

I would like to use a working example to explain how Phrase Match works for campaigns in AdWords.

E.g.: Consider a keyword “sports shoes” which is set under a phrase match. We know that Google would show ads only if the search query has the phrase sports shoes in the same order. However, additional words before or after the phrase sports shoes can be present. What this means is that Google won’t show ads if shoes sports is the search query.

Similarly, 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.

However, a search queries like sports shoes for kids or no cleat sports shoes would trigger the ads. Note the additional words in the queries, they are only adding to the intent, not altering the original keyword.

Even though basketball shoes or football shoes fall into the same category as sports shoes, they won’t trigger ads.

Why is it important to include Phrase Match Keywords?

Phrase Match keywords have a significant importance for your campaigns. They help you limit the irrelevant traffic whilst not reducing the reach. As broad and modified broad match keywords can bring in a lot of irrelevant traffic, they can of a little trouble. Exact match on the other hand will restrict your reach. You might lose out on a majority of traffic. Hence, using Phrase Match is a must to get good clicks.

E.g.: Let’s select the  keyword Sports Shoes. And we use broad match, exact match  and phrase match for this keyword. Now we will make a table of queries that can trigger the ad for this keyword and their relevance.

Query Broad Match Exact Match Phrase Match Relevance
Shoes Yes No No Low
No Lace Shoes Yes No No Medium
Sports Shoes Yes Yes Yes High
Men Sports Shoes Yes No Yes High
Discount on Sports Shoes Yes No Yes Medium
Sports Shoe for Kids Yes No Yes High
Sports Shoes Online Yes No Yes High
Size 16 Sports Shoes Yes No Yes Medium

From the above table we can see that broad match triggers ads for any search query that is remotely related to the keyword. Exact match on the other hand doesn’t let even a relevant one through. But, phrase match is better than broad and exact match both in the number of ads triggered and relevance. Hence, including Phrase Match keywords in your campaigns is a must to garner relevant click that are most likely to convert.


How can AdNabu help you with your AdWords campaigns?

Using AdNabu, you can create campaigns as well as optimize all your existing campaigns. AdNabu measures the performance of your keywords under all the match types automatically. You will the progress overview of all your campaigns on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. AdNabu also suggests you to pause or unpause keywords according to their performance. From helping you choose the right keywords to bid adjustments and everything in between, AdNabu does it all.

Start your free trial of AdNabu today!

About the author

Mantha Sai Praveen

Content marketer by day, a poet by night.

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