Broad vs Phrase vs Exact Match

When it comes to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on Google, you have three options for your keywords: broad match, phrase match, or exact match. So, what combination works best? For most businesses, you’ll want to use a combination of phrase and exact match. Here’s a closer look at each option to help you determine what will work best for your business.

broad vs phrase vs exact example

What is Broad Match?

Broad match is the most flexible option, allowing your ad to show up for a wide variety of searches that are related to your keywords. Your ad might even show up for searches that don’t include all of your keywords. This option gives you the most exposure but might also result in your ad being shown for searches that aren’t relevant to your business. This is the default option in Google Ads. A keyword like ‘sneakers’ could appear for search terms like ‘purchase basketball shoes’, ‘how can I buy athletic shoes’, and more. If you're new to Google Ads, it may be helpful to review the differences between keywords vs search terms.

What is Phrase Match?

Phrase match is slightly more restrictive as it allows you to show your ads on searches that include the meaning of your keyword and your keyword’s meaning. 

You can spot a phrase match keyword as it has quotation marks at the beginning and end of the keyword phrase (“keyword”). For example, if your keyword is “red fence,” your ad could show up for a search like ‘buy red fence’ or ‘red fencing options’. Google states that “The meaning of the keyword can be implied, and user searches can be a more specific form of the meaning. This allows you to reach more searches than with exact match and fewer searches than with broad match.”

What is Exact Match?

Exact match is the most restrictive of Google Ads’ keyword matching options, but also the most effective in terms of controlling who sees your ad. You’ll be able to spot exact match as it has brackets at the beginning and end of the keyword phrase. (If you want to make keyword match types fast, use this keyword match type generator)

With exact match, your ad will only show when someone searches for your exact keyword, a close variation of it, or if the search term has the same meaning as your keyword. If you exclusively use exact-match keywords, it can be hard to scale and grow your account as your search terms report won’t be as full as compared to phrase and broad, but when you use exact match, you can save money as you’re not paying for impressions that are irrelevant. Using our previous example, if your keyword is [red fence], your ad would only show up for a search like ‘red fence’, ‘red fences’, or ‘red fencing’.

Which Option Should You Choose?

For most businesses, you’ll want to use a combination of phrase and exact match. You can bid a little higher on the exact match terms if those are in fact, the most important keywords in your campaign. As far as broad match goes, use sparingly when you are looking to find new opportunities, or you can consider using it when you have Google’s SMART bidding set up.

By being smart with your keyword match type selections, you can ensure that your ad reaches its intended audience without wasting money on irrelevant clicks. 

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