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Adwords: Understanding Exact Match, Broad Match and Phrase Match

When running an Adwords campaign, you can and should define when your keywords will appear in search results. To do this, Google provides four different matching options for each of your keywords so that you can effectively target your ads at a broad audience or just a niche.

With some options, you will enjoy more ad impressions; with others, you will get fewer impressions (but potentially more clicks). By applying more focused matching options to your keywords, you can reach the most appropriate prospects, reduce your cost-per-click (CPC), and increase your return on investment (ROI).

The four keyword matching options:

Broad Match

Broad match is the default setting for an Adwords campaign. Broad match means your ad will appear in search results when any combination of the words in your keyword phrase are used in a search.

If you include general keyword or keyword phrases (phrases should contain at least two descriptive words each) eg 'web design' in your keyword list, your ads will appear when a user's query contains 'web' and 'design', in any order and possibly along with other terms. Your ads will also automatically show for expanded matches, including plurals and relevant variations.

Be warned though. Broad match may bring you lots of traffic (and cost you lots in clicks) but that traffic will generally be of poor quality and result in poor conversion rates. However they are especially useful in the early days of a campaign as an examination of your log files will provide you with information about the actual phrases your visitors have used to trigger your ads.

You should also keep in mind that other advertisers may have bid for the same broad-matched keyword combinations that trigger your ads, increasing your actual CPC amounts. Using exact, phrase, or negative matches (see below) can help you keep your costs low.

Phrase Match

Phrase match is a keyword matching option which gives you a bit more control over when your ads are displayed. Phrase match tells the Adwords platform to only show your ad when a search contains your phrase-matched keyword ie the search may have additional words before or after your phrase but not in between.

For example, using the phrase match option for 'website design' an ad would appear when someone searched for a phrase with 'website design' in it eg 'affordable website design', but not if the search was for 'design website' or 'website affordable design'.

To use phrase match, you simply place quotation marks around the keyword phrase eg "website design".

Phrase matching is more targeted than broad matching, but slightly more flexible than exact matching (see below). To ensure your ads are as targeted as they can be, you may want to include at least two descriptive words in your keyword phrases.

Exact Match

Exact match is just that. The most targeted option, your ad will only appear when someone types in your keyword phrase and nothing else.

For example, if your exact match keyword is 'website design' then your ad will only appear when someone searches for that specific phrase. To select the exact match option, simply place square brackets eg [website design] around the keyword phrase.

Although you will not receive as many impressions with exact matching, you will likely enjoy the most high quality clicks, because users searching for terms in this manner typically want precisely what your business has to offer.

Negative Match

Used in conjunction with the other keyword matching options, negative matching allows you to choose which terms do not specifically apply to your service. For example if you have a range of keywords around 'web design', you may not be interested in traffic generated by searches for 'web design templates', in which case you can enter 'templates' as a negative match keyword.

To enter negative keywords precede the keyword in your list with a dash eg '-templates'. Negative keywords will reduce your impressions and clicks, benefiting both your CTR and conversion rate.

For best results, you should try out a combination of the various keyword matching types to see what works best for you. Manage your keywords effectively and watch your campaigns' CTR climb.

You can easily change the match options for multiple keywords throughout your account with Google's find and edit keyword tool which is located in the Tools section of the Campaign Management tab.

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