Broad, Phrase, & Exact – An Overview of PPC Match Types

In your paid search or pay per click campaigns, there is little that is more important than your keyword selections. Keywords are the driving force behind your PPC advertising; no matter what other tactics you employ to optimize your paid search program, if the keywords are not properly representing your product or service, your program will ultimately fail.

The process of choosing and grouping the appropriate keywords for your pay per click advertising program cannot be summarized into a single article. It is a detailed, experience and research-driven skill that takes time to develop: time dedicated both to hands-on application and knowledge-gathering, sharing between industry professionals. 1matching That said, there are several fundamental aspects of selecting the appropriate keywords for your PPC ad program that need to be understood before moving deeper into the process.

One of the most important distinctions for pay per click managers to fully understand is the differences between the three common keyword match types: broad, phrase, and exact.

Broad Match

Unquestionably, the most commonly-used keyword match type by PPC analysts across each of the major paid search engines is broad match. Broad match is the default match type selection in most of the search engine platforms, which also makes it more possible for inexperienced or rushed pay per click analysts to neglect to switch to Phrase or Exact match for keywords, even when more appropriate.

Broad matched keywords enable an ad to show for common variations keywords you have chosen, as well as keywords & keyword phrases that are similar in spelling and user-intent. For example, if you have chosen to include the keyword ‘doctor’ as a broad match term in your paid search account, your ad may show for search queries on ‘doctors’, ‘find a doctor’, ‘local doctor’, and of course, ‘doctor’. Your ad may not show for these variations, however, depending on competitors’ use of more closely-matching keywords within their accounts, and additional factors.

Phrase Match

Selecting Phrase match for your keywords offers more control than broad match over user intent regarding whether or not to display your PPC ad for a particular query. Phrase match keywords are visually represented in your advertising campaigns with quotation marks surrounding the keyword or keyword phrase. In essence, by incorporating phrase match keywords in your program, you are allowing your ad to show alongside search results for phrases that include your keyword in the exact order you set.

Building off the previous example, if you were to include the Phrase match keyword ‘medical doctors’ in your PPC campaign, your ad may show for the search queries ‘find medical doctors’, ‘local medical doctors’, and ‘Chicago medical doctors’; but, would not show for ‘medical doctor’, ‘medically trained doctors’, or ‘medical licensed doctor’.

Exact Match

Exact match keywords and keyword phrases are represented in PPC campaigns as being surrounded by square brackets ([ ]). These keyword selections are utilized to capture specific user intent and only show ads for search queries that exactly match the ones you have included. While narrowing the scope of user intent, Exact match keywords also limit the potential impressions your ad will receive dramatically, which depending on your advertising goals, may be a positive or negative result.

Using ‘medical doctors’ once again, if you were to select this phrase for Exact match only, your ad would only show along with search queries for ‘medical doctors’- your ad would not show for searches on ‘medical doctor’, ‘Chicago medical doctors’, ‘find medical doctors’, or ‘local medical doctors’.

The Right Match Type To Use

In the end, selecting the most appropriate match type for your paid search campaign is entirely dependent on your advertising goals. Broad match will garner the most impressions for your ads, but will also likely cause them to show for unintended search results. Exact match is excellent for limiting the scope of user intent, but will also greatly diminish the overall impressions your ad will serve, thereby effectively reducing your target audience. Phrase match is nice to utilize in situations where keyword phrases are incorporated in your PPC campaign, but is mostly a non-factor for single-word keyword selections.

It is best to know the differentiation between the various match types before choosing any keywords to be representative of your paid search advertising program. More often than not, testing each of the match types in the early stages of your pay per click campaign will be the most qualified method of determining which match type aligns best with your goals.


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