Keyword Matching Type with its respective Pros & Cons

Three years ago, we wrote a brief chapter about <<keyword matching type>>. Looking back at it today, the article was a bit crude to say the least. The article was too general and only scratched the surface. This time, with all my recent years’ experience tucked in my belt, whether it is the knowledge learned during the start of my career in a multinational company, or the conclusion I reached via my management of more than 40 company accounts or the feedback for my three years career of class-teaching, I would very much like to share with you guys the types of keyword matching alongside its respective pros and cons.

For the final dish, I would also share with everyone my own keyword comparison/matching strategy. I would like to give everyone a heads-up that I will start from the most fundamental aspect so please bear with me if you notice the beginning of the article to be oddly familiar. But believe me, please take your time and read them slowly. Before I talk about the different matching of keywords, I would like to ensure that everyone here truly understands the entire concept of keywords.

What is Keyword and Search Term?

Many people just assumed that the word we punched in the search engine is the Keyword. As shown in the following photo, it may not be entirely wrong to refer to this as the Keyword, but from the perspective of keyword advertising, we only refer to this as the Search Term. We will only call the words we entered on the keyword advertising platform as a Keyword. A bit too abstract and not exactly easy to understand, right? Don’t worry, I will use examples to elaborate my story.

For example, if you search for ‘Film production’ now, I believe you will see a lot of ads,
correct? (影片製作=film production)

Search Term


Now try searching for “Film production 456”, you will also see a lot of ads, right? (Sometimes, when you search for similar wordings in a short span of time on the same device, Google won’t display ads during the second search. If you failed to see any advertisements this time, please change another device/computer to try it again.) [影片製作123=film production 123]


search term


Let’s try another one with “Education of film production”, and you will still see a lot of ads shown. (影片製作教育=Education of film production)

search term

Hence begs the question, if I am the owner of the ad and I want the ad to surface on all 3 occasions above, do I have to key in all these keywords of “Film production”, “Film production 123” and “Education of film production” into the Google Ads platform? Or even better, if I want more coverage, should I also buy “Film production 456”, “Film production 789” and “Film production 084”? Of course not, allow me to briefly explain the logic and flowchart of keyword advertising (In this case, we need to ignore the interference of Quality Score or CPC Bidding)

Keyword Matching Flow

keyword matching type


  1. You bought the keyword “film production”
  2. Someone searches for “Film production” or “Film production 456”
  3. Google will conduct its own matching and conclude that your keyword matches the search term
  4. Google will show your ad.

So exactly what criteria does Google uses to match your keywords or words? I mean obviously, the criterias are set to be as loose as possible.


keyword matching type


Of course, that’s a bit exaggerated! It’s about as loose as the scenario of Terrence (search term) and Shawn Yue (keyword) being paired together, hahahahahaha!!!! Sorry sorry, I am just kidding! However, the one thing we can’t deny is that it will be a lot looser if we let Google does its own matching. With that, Google can make more ads, attract in more clicks, and consequently, earn more money!


Does this mean that we are at the mercy of Google’s hand are there is nothing we can do? I am here to tell you that doesn’t have to be the case because we can regulate ourselves the looseness of the matching criteria, and this looseness regulation is a very important part of optimizing keyword advertising! 

4 types of keyword matching


The keyword for all 4 types are actually the same, however they all have different punctuations in between them, and this is what separates the various matching type.

Broad Match

  • Basketball shoes

We called this the Broad Match, it’s also Google’s preset keyword matching/pairing. It includes a wide range of typos, synonyms, related search terms, and other related word variations.

Assuming I type in “Basketball Shoes”, “Basketball Shoe”, “Basketball Sneaker”, “Basketball wear”, “Basketball equipment”, “Basket Shoes”, “Basket Sneaker” or “Basketball”, your ad will show up every time.

Broad Match Modifier

  • +Bastketball+Shoes

We refer to this as the Broad Match Modifier. For Broad Match Modifier, the words are marked with a + sign in no particular order, hence as long as all the words (or very related synonyms) show up at the same time, the ad will pop up.

Assuming I type in “Where can I buy a pair of basketball shoes?”, “Shoes of basketball”, “I want a pair of Kobe shoes for basketball”, your ad will appear on every search.  

Phrase Match

  • “Basketball shoes”

We refer to this as the Phrase Match. If the user searches a sentence that exactly matches your keyword, even if the sentence contained other words in front of behind the keyword, your ad will still surface.

If I key in “Buy Basketball Shoes”, “Basketball Shoes Recommendation”, “Kobe Basketball Shoes”, your ad might have a chance of surfacing.

However, if you type in “Basketball Kobe Shoes”, “Basketball Best Shoes”, or “Shoes for Basketball”, your ad will not appear because the keywords are not entered sequentially.

Exact Match

  • [Basketball Shoes]

We refer to this as the Exact Match. Basically, the keyword the users entered and the one you entered must be identical for your ad to appear.

If you entered “Basketball Shoes”, “Basketball Shoe”, or “Baskeball (the user’s typo), your ad has an equal chance to show up. (Honestly, the Exact Match we are discussing here is becoming less and less exact in recent years. It is slowly accepting synonyms, now theoretically even “Basketball Sneaker” has a chance of showing up in this instance.)

The pros & cons for the 4 types of keyword matching

I will use the diagram below to sum up the pros & cons for the 4 types of keyword matching.

Reference from: AdWords Keyword Match Types: Explained by Ex-Googlers

In short, Broad Match can bring you the most traffic, but due to its extremely loose traffic, matching scenario such as myself to be mistaken as Eddie Peng is possible. Imagine if the client is hoping to locate Eddie Peng and Google matches me to the client, how on earth would this satisfy the client? Now obviously, I cannot rule out the possibility of the following scenario: The client wanted Eddie Peng, discover my photo instead, decided that I would worth a fortune and proceed to auction me off. But in normal instances, this pairing usually leads to a higher cost per acquisition (Cost Per Acquisition).

Exact match is precisely the other extreme. The cost per unit will be lower with an apparent reason which can be summarized with one word, accuracy! You want Eddie Peng, I will give you Eddie Peng!  If it’s Shawn Yue that you desire, then Shawn Yue is what you get! You are giving the clients exactly what they want so of course the conversion rate is higher.

But the downside is that the traffic is relatively low, because the search word has to be exactly identical to your keyword for the ad to appear, resulting in the limitation of your ad’s appearance which will gradually lead to the loss of some business opportunities and connections.

I would not get into the remaining two keyword matching because it’s a bit redundant, you will get the gist just by looking at the diagram below.

Keyword Matching Diagram

My keyword matching strategy

Many would ask, if each keyword matching has its own pros & cons, then how should I choose then? Broad Match has a high traffic and CPA; Exact Match has a lower CPA, but its traffic seems less satisfactory, so should we choose the remaining two choices? Clearly everyone is entitled to make different choices, but if I were to choose based on my personal experience and the teachings of my European mentor, I will pick the following options:

Avoid using Broad Match

Relatively speaking, keyword ad is a controlling game. You control your bids, control your budget, control the flow of traffic. With high-return keywords, I push in more traffic and with low-return keywords, I will reduce the traffic, to the extent that I will completely cease the traffic for some bad-performing keywords. As opposed to a type of advertisement that entails this much control, broad match is similar to a runaway horse that has slipped its tether and can’t be contained.  

The spectrum of his word variations is too broad, sometimes completely beyond your imagination. Have you in your wildest imagination, ever consider that the keyword of “spot removal” will be matched to the search words of “grouper”? (Grouper is known as stone spot fish if it were to be translated directly from Mandarin to English.) I am speaking from my past experiences, and compared to those dark days, the current traffic is relatively better. But generally speaking, if your priority is to pursue a higher ROI (return on investment), broad match is not a good choice.

Some might argue that they can start by securing a lot of traffic via broad match, so that they can accumulate the most searched words in a short time, and then create corresponding keywords or other matching algorithms this way. Technically speaking this sort of mentality is not wrong. But personally, if you have taken the time to understand the nature of the business and the structure of the website, whether or not it is necessary to use this kind of matching to collect search terms remains debatable.

Using exact match

In you are after ROI, then exact match will most definitely benefit you. Since we already explained in detail above why the CPA of Exact Match is lower, hence we would not be repeating those here. The point is that if your entire advertising account consists of only exact match, you will have what is known as Below-Spending. There is a metaphor I often used in class: Imagine if you are a businessman, would you rather pay for a lead which cost 50 bucks per lead and ended up with 100 leads per month, or pay for a lead which cost 1 buck per lead but ended up with 1 lead per month? Due to this reason, the use of Exact Match usually need to pair up with another keyword to increase the overall traffic.

Needless to say, the other downside for exact match is that you cannot create more keywords based on the report, because those search words in the search report are actually your keywords. So, let’s say if you want to scale up the number of keywords, you will have to imagine them out of thin air.

Broad Match Modifier vs Phrase Match

In comparison, the preference regarding these two choices varies widely even among foreign countries. Some like to use Phrase Match + Exact Match, while others fancy Broad Match Modifier + Exact Match. The former’s point of view is that Phrase Match is a lot more accurate as opposed to Broad Match Modifier and the ROI is relatively higher also.

I myself prefer the latter choice more. Although I agreed that the ROI for Phrase Match would be higher, but its ability to find new words is comparatively lower (If you are having trouble understanding this part, please scroll up to read up on the part of various keyword matching types and its looseness.) My two cents on this is, if my exact match is dedicated to maintaining the ROI, then the other pairing keyword should be more aggressive (although unavoidably the ROI is lower), so that we can achieve a balance between volume and efficiency.  

Does the above paragraph seem too complicated? No clue on what to do after reading it right? Allow me to explain the concept of maneuvering it via the following examples. Before starting, there are two pre-existing settings that everyone should be aware of:

  1. If the matching conditions are met, then exact match will be paired first. (keyword matching sequence)
  2. The longer the keyword, the lesser the traffic, but the higher the ROI will be.


Assuming I am running an online store selling contact lens:

And I bought two keywords

[contact lens]

+contact +lens

When someone searches online for contact lens, theoretically both keywords will match. But in reality, the matching keyword would be [contact lens] (exact match). Next thing you know that someone would see your ad (an ad with an extensive explanation of your contact lens), click into your website and buy it! 

Another instance is when someone searches for “color contact lens”, only +contact +lens match with it. Your Ad (an ad with an extensive explanation of your contact lens) will show to potential client who will click into your website and then make the purchase! Again, that’s how you get it done! (But the relative ROI may not be as high as the former situation, because it is not a precise match and the ad is not tailor-made.)

What if you discover in the Search Term Report that the return rate for “color contact lens” is quite promising, then what’s your next step?

You construct two more keywords:

[color contact lens]

+color +contact +lens

It is also advisable that you create another Ad Group, and then set up a tailor-made ad for them (an ad with an extensive explanation of your color contact lens). When someone searches for “color contact lens” again, then [color contact lens] will be paired with it. Given that it is an exact match and a tailor-made advertisement, the ROI will elevate again.

If someone searches for “Bausch Lomb color contact lens” ……. Given how smart you guys are, I am sure I don’t need to exemplify anymore!


A keyword ad account will continue its optimization all on its own. You will gradually discover that the percentage of exact match in your conversion keywords will be higher and higher yet it is impossible to ensure a 100% exact match. This is because as the company slowly develops, the increase in products, the change in the market, and the discrepancy in the form of the searchers will result in different variation of search words appearing. Bear in mind that there will always be a small portion of converted keyword acting as Broad Match Modifier as well.

I hope that today’s sharing can help everyone understand more!

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