Google Ads / Marketing / SEO

Broad, Phrase & Exact Match: What’s The Difference Between Keyword Types

June 17, 2021 , 5 minutes
difference between keyword types

Many marketers and business owners know they should be purchasing ads online to increase their traffic and conversions. But without understanding the difference between keyword types, you can waste a lot of your ad budget without getting enough sales to turn a profit.

So let’s break down the difference between keyword types so you can create an effective advertising strategy and increase your ROI. But first:

What is a Keyword?

A keyword is a word or phrase that a user types when looking for something online via search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. 

Through PPC (Pay-Per-Click) platforms like Google Ads, you can bid specific keywords. This way, your website’s advertisement can be shown in the search results, putting your brand in front of users most likely to want what you’re offering.

For instance, if you sell guitar lessons, you might bid on a keyword like learning guitar. However, there is more beneath the surface when it comes to bidding on the right keywords. So next, let’s look at the types of keywords you can bid on and the key difference between keyword types.

Types of Keywords

We’ll focus on the types of keywords found within Google Ads because Google claims 92% of the search engine market share worldwide. And there are three primary keyword types you can bid on in Google Ads:

  • Broad Match
  • Phrase Match
  • Exact Match

Difference Between Keyword Types

Broad match keywords, phrase match keywords, and exact match keywords uniquely shape your Google Ads strategy. As you might have guessed by their naming, they range from most broad to most specific. But let’s dive deeper:

What is a Broad Keyword?

Bidding on a broad keyword allows you to cast the widest net when displaying your ads to users. Broad match enables your ad to be shown anytime your keyword appears anywhere in the search query (and in any order).

For instance, if your broad match keyword is learning guitar, your ad will appear for search queries such as learning guitar fast and guitar learning tips

Your ads may also appear on queries with synonyms related to the keyword, such as guitar training or guide to playing the guitar

What is a Phrase Keyword?

Phrase match keywords are more targeted than broad match while being less targeted than exact match keywords. With phrase match, Google still takes some liberties in displaying your ads to searchers who typed keywords without the precise spelling, as long as the query has a similar meaning.

So if your phrase match keyword is “learning guitar”, your ad may still be up in search queries for guitar courses, but not guitar stands

What is an Exact Match Keyword?

The exact match keyword type is the most specific of the three, giving the greatest level of control over who sees your ad. 

Initially, an exact match meant precisely what it sounds like — ads would only show for the exact keyword you were bidding on, in that precise order. So in the case of [learning guitar], only users who typed in that specific phrase (with no other words) would see your ad.

But Google has since expanded the reach of exact match, meaning that they will show your ad to users who have a similar enough search intent. This includes:

  • Misspellings – e.g. learning guitra
  • Plural – e.g. learning guitars
  • Acronyms
  • Stemmings -e.g. learn guitar
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents

While Google’s AI has gotten smarter, many marketers are upset with the changes to exact match keywords. 

So what should you do if you only want to bid on a genuinely exact keyword without additional words or variations?

It turns out it’s not so easy, but there is something you can do:

Bonus Round: Negative Keywords

Google allows you to specify negative keywords, which are words or phrases for which your ads will absolutely not display.

For instance, let’s say you don’t want your ads to display for learning guitars. Perhaps, based on your market research, you’ve found that a large number of searchers using this term are interested in learning about the history or particular brand of guitars instead of learning how to play.

In that case, you simply make learning guitars a negative keyword, and your ad will not display for that query under any circumstances.

This means if you want to have the highest level of control over which keywords you bid on, negative keywords are an essential part of your strategy.

In a perfect world, of course, an exact match would actually be an exact match. But if you have the time, the patience, or the team to do it, you can create an extensive list of negative keywords. Eventually, this can approximate the effect of what exact match keywords once were.

Want help optimising your keyword strategy and supercharging your ROI? Book a free training session today or check out our outsourced marketing services.