A Beginners Guide to PPC Keyword Matching Types

A proper understanding of the four main keyword matching types is essential to running an effective PPC campaign, but their meaning is not immediately obvious.

For those just starting out, here is my beginners’ guide.

What are matching types?

If you’re using Google AdWords (which you will be in you’re running a PPC campaign) there are four types: broad, exact, phrase and negative.

The way AdWords treats the search terms you input (either to view approximate traffic levels or to bid on) is determined by which matching type you’re using. Essentially, they are search filters.


Broad is the default setting for keyword matching. When you bid on a keyword under the broad setting, you will also be bidding on terms considered related by Google.

This can be useful for catching misspellings, synonyms and related terms you haven’t thought of, giving your ads a wider reach. However, it also means you may end up spending money on ads for completely unrelated terms.

Traffic data under broad match is also radically up-scaled and much less useful than with a more specific matching type.


Under exact matching, your ad will only appear for the precise wording and spelling you type in. So if you only bid on winter shoes, that’s the only search your ads will appear for. If someone searches for winter shoes you won’t show up.

Using only exact keywords is a good way to save money on wasted clicks, but confines you to the terms you can think of yourself. It’s also incredibly time-consuming to input every possible misspelling and variation manually.


Phrase match is a compromise between broad and phrase. It takes the term you input and will then bid on every term containing that phrase.

To take the winter shoes example if you bid on the phrase winter shoes your ad would also appear for red winter shoes, cheap winter shoes and so on.

You may still end up with wasted clicks, do you really sell winter shoes for cats? But the scope for completely unrelated terms is dramatically reduced compared to using broad.


Negative keywords are words you definitely do not want to bid on. They’re particularly useful when you start a campaign on broad or phrase match – if you monitor every search term your ad appears on you can use negative keywords to block the unrelated terms that show up.

This way you can achieve the greater reach of broad or phrase match, but gradually narrow it down so as not to waste money on unrelated terms.

If you have any questions about PPC advertising or keyword matching types, please leave them in the comments section below.