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Keyword Matching Type with its respective Pros & Cons [Updated in 2021]

There is a very big change on Keyword Matching Type since 2021. There are three matching types left, Broad Match, Phrase Match and Exact Match. Broad Match Modifier will be eliminated and Phrase Match will be updated to incorporate the broad match modifier matching behaviour. The reason for this change is that Google found that BMM and Phrase Match are very similar in use and there is a partial overlap in function. By adding the advantages of BMM to Phrase Match, more suitable target audiences can be reached. 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 Flow

  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! 

3 types of keyword matching

3 keyword matching type

The keyword for all 3 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 ( Not Exist since 2021)

  • +Bastketball+Shoes

From Feb, 2021 Google started matching Broad Match Modifier traffic to Phrase Match keywords, and from July, we will no longer be able to add new BMM keywords.

Phrase Match

  • “Basketball shoes”

We refer to this as the Phrase Match. In the previous time, the ads under phrase match will only show when word orders of the search terms and keywords are exactly the same, even if the sentence contained other words in front or behind the keyword.

Under the updated Phrase Match behavior which expanded to include additional broad match modifier traffic, the ads may show on searches that include the meaning of your keywords. It will still consider the word order when relevant to the meaning.

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

However, if you type in “Sports Shoes”,  your ad will not appear because the keywords are not really that relevant to the meaning.

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 3 types of keyword matching

I will use the diagram below to sum up the pros & cons for the 3 types of keyword matching.

 3 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 keyword matching because it’s a bit redundant, you will get the gist just by looking at the diagram below.

Search vol & CPA of 3 types of keyword matching

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.

Using Phrase Match

In comparison with other two keyword matching types, Phrase Match gives you a better traffic control compared with Broad Match and a better traffic volume compared with Exact Match.

If we only adopt Exact Match in your campaign to maintain the ROI, then you can imagine that you can never discover new opportunities based on their search term. Therefore, you need another keyword matching type for keyword expansion to 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” matches 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!


Over the years, Google has taken away the control that match types once offered, in exchange for the promise of more and better automation.In that regard, this update is no different. The change could, potentially, save advertisers time managing keywords, but there is sure to be a lot of time spent recalibrating campaigns. Traffic may fluctuate as these changes roll out, so advertisers should keep an eye on their performance metrics so they can make the necessary adjustments.

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