HomeBlogComplete Guide to AdWords Matching Options, Part 2

Complete Guide to AdWords Matching Options, Part 2

Author: Elisa Gabbert
Last Updated: November 15, 2021 | Paid Search Marketing


Complete Guide to AdWords Matching Options, Part 2

August 7, 2019
Paid Search Marketing


Click here to read Part 1 of our Complete Guide to AdWords Matching Options (covering broad match and modified broad match).

Phrase Match

The phrase match keyword option offers a much more targeted approach than broad match, but still allows flexibility for Google to match your ads to more queries than your exact keyword phrase. When using the phrase match option, your advertisement will appear for searches that include your keyword phrase in the correct order, but can still display for queries including additional words.

To use the phrase match option in AdWords, enter your keyword phrase in quotation marks. Entering your phrase as “Gel Batteries” indicates to Google that your advertisements should only appear when someone has entered a search term that includes this exact phrase, but additional terms in the query are OK. For example your ad might match against queries such as “gel batteries for motorcycles” or “used gel batteries.”

Phrase match allows you to be more targeted with your search terms but still capture additional traffic from keyword phrases that you did not think of when building your list. It’s one of the best ways to expand your keyword lists and find more targeted phrases to use in your campaigns. This match type will not usually bring in quite the volume of traffic that the broad option does, but it is more targeted to your niche. It can also be handy when bidding on keywords that change in meaning depending on the order of the terms (such as “book store” and “store books”).

Exact Match

exact match

When using the exact match option, you enter your keyword phrase with brackets around the words: [Gel Batteries]. The exact match option is the most targeted option available and will only let your ad display when people search for the exact phrase in the exact order in which the phrase is entered. For example, if you bid on [Automotive Gel Batteries] your ad would not appear for “auto gel batteries” or “gel batteries.”

Using this technique imposes strict limits on your ads and will drastically reduce the frequency that your ad is displayed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though; by only showing your ad to people who are searching for exactly what you are offering, you can dramatically increase your chances of a conversion. You can also reduce your overall costs, since you’ll be paying for fewer clicks.

The drawback to using this match type is that you will not be able to capture long-tail data to expand your keyword list. In addition you may miss a lot of traffic that is relevant to your keyword.

Negative Match

Negative keywords are not a stand-alone match type; rather they are used in conjunction with the broad and phrase match options. As mentioned above, when using broad and phrase match keywords, there is a risk of generating a large amount of traffic that is not truly relevant to your offering and unlikely to convert. These clicks can quickly become costly and deplete your budget. So it’s crucial to use negative keywords to keep ROI high while employing the broad and phrase match options.

Designating a negative keyword prevents Google from ever displaying your ad in response to that keyword. To create a negative keyword, place a minus sign in front of the term. For example, if you only sell new gel batteries, setting “used” as a negative keyword (-used) will prevent your Gel Batteries ad from displaying when someone searches for “used gel batteries.” Setting “disposal” as a negative keyword will prevent you from paying for clicks from people looking for “gel battery disposal services.”

Businesses frequently add words like “free” to their negative keyword lists, since they indicate non-commercial traffic that won’t convert. However, it’s impossible to think up all the possible terms that are irrelevant or useless to your goals (just as it’s impossible to create a complete keyword list by brainstorming). To find negative keywords, regularly consult your search query reports in AdWords to see what your ads are matching against.


Each keyword matching option in AdWords has its purpose. We recommend using all the available options, depending on your goals and budget for each keyword. Always monitor your campaign performance carefully and make adjustments to match type as necessary to maximize your returns.


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Meet The Author

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream’s Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.

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