AdWords – A Guide to Keyword Matching

Keyword matching is an AdWords tool that helps you control the distribution of your ad. It allows your keywords to become even more targeted, so you can precisely manage who sees your ads. This is important because every click to your ad costs you money, and the more targeted your ads are the higher your chances are of turning that website visitor into a paying customer.

There are five different keyword settings in AdWords. To use a keyword matching option, you just add the appropriate punctuation to your keyword (when you are adding the keyword to your keywords list).

1. Broad match: keyword

Allows your ad to show on similar phrases and relevant variations.

Broad Match is the default 1matching option for all your AdWords keywords and therefore requires no punctuation to be added to the keyword.

Example: If one of your keywords was ‘flying lesson’ then your ad would be eligible to appear when someone searches for either or both of the words ‘flying’ and ‘lesson’ in any order. The search query could also include other terms, and your ads could also show for plural forms like ‘lessons’, synonyms, and other variations.

2. Phrase match: “keyword”

Allows your ad to show for searches that match the exact phrase.

Example: By putting your keyword into quotation marks, the keyword “beginner flying lessons” would only be eligible to appear when a user searches for these three words in that exact order. It can also appear for searches that contain other terms as long as it includes the exact phrase you’ve specified. So someone could search for ‘cheap beginner flying lessons’ and your ad would also be eligible to appear.

3. Exact match: [keyword]

Allows your ad to show for searches that match the exact phrase exclusively.

Example: By surrounding your keywords in square brackets, the keyword [flying lessons] would only be eligible to appear when a user searches for that exact phrase, in that exact order and without any other text before or after. So if someone entered the search term ‘cheap beginner flying lessons’ then your ad would not appear. It would only be eligible to appear when someone searched for ‘flying lessons’ only.

4. Negative match: -keyword

Ensures your ad doesn’t show for any search that includes that term.

By putting a minus symbol in front of your keyword, ‘-helicopter’ would mean that your ad would not appear for any searches that contained the word ‘helicopter’. This works really well when you consider your broad match keywords.

Example: If you use the broad match keyword ‘flying’ and combined this with ‘-helicopter’ in the same ad group then any time a user searches for ‘helicopter flying lessons’ they will not see your ad.

5. Broad match modifier: +keyword +keyword

Allows a mix of both broad match and exact match.

Broad match modifier allows keywords to have the versatility of broad match (match search queries in any order, misspellings, singular/plural form, abbreviations and acronyms, and stemmings (like ‘fly’ and ‘flying’), but also keeps them confined, so synonyms and related searches won’t trigger your ads.

Example: If your keyword was ‘+flying +lesson’, your ad could be triggered by many variations, such as ‘fly lessons’, but for example it would not be eligible to appear for searches of ‘flying schedules’. In this example we are also able to target users searching for ‘lessons in advanced flying’, ‘beginner flying lessons’.


The AdWords keyword matching options make your keywords even more targeted and helps drive the right customers to your website.

It is tempting for AdWords beginners to make all or many of their keywords broad match type, however this is not advised as you can end up targeting many users that don’t fall into your target market. However, combining broad match keywords with negative match keywords can be a recipe for success. Also, it’s important to use the keyword search tools to discover negative match keywords.

Once you are more experienced with AdWords you should then experiment with broad match modifier, which is very flexible and is a great way to further target the right audience for your product.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.