Match types make it much easier for advertisers to display their adverts for a range of search terms, without having to add every possible search term variation to their account. However, for someone new to the world of Pay-per-click (PPC), understanding which match types you should use can be like navigating a mine field. Getting it wrong could see your ads being shown for irrelevant search terms and your budget being wasted. This article will explain exactly what match types are and which are the ones you should be using.

What are match types?

A match type is used when bidding on keywords, it tells the platform (Google or Bing) how aggressive or restrictive you want to be with the search terms that your keyword can show for. Whilst, each match type has its own pros and cons, match types should be used in conjunction of each other, as part of an overall keyword strategy.

Match types explained

Keyword Type

Identifying Symbol

Example Keyword

Ads Show On

Example Searches



Black Shoes

Misspellings, synonyms, related searches

Black Trainers

Broad Modifier

+example +keyword

+Black +Shoes

Search terms that include all words within the keyword.

Black Men’s Shoes


“Example Keyword”

“bike shop”

Search terms that include all words, in same order.

Local bike shop


[Example Keyword]

[bike shop]

Search term must match keyword.

Bike shop

Which keyword is best for you?

Broad Match

This is the most un-restrictive keyword match type and therefore should be used with caution. Here at Avenue, we regularly audit accounts which heavily rely on Broad keywords, when digging in to the traffic these keywords are delivering, there’s usually a large amount of wasted spend through irrelevant clicks.

We recommend using broad keywords alongside a comprehensive negative keyword strategy. Broad keywords require regular search query mining to ensure only relevant terms are coming through. They do however offer the powerful opportunity of being able to identify new keyword opportunities which may have been missed by Phrase or Exact.

Broad Match Modifier (BMM)

BMM is slightly more restrictive than standalone broad, however, still offers the flexibility and reach of broad keywords. You can specify which words you want to be included in search terms b prepending a ‘+’ to the front of the keyword.

We find BMM to be less time consuming than Broad for identifying new keyword opportunities as you don’t have to constantly monitor the search query reports.

Phrase Match

Providing a little more restriction, phrase match keywords are a step up from BMM. Traffic generated through this keyword match type tends to have a higher intent to convert as the keyword must be included in the search term in the exact same order, other words can be added before of after.

Depending on how open you want to be with your search queries, we’d recommend using either BMM or Phrase Match. If you have the budget to allow your keywords to show for higher funnel searches, then go with BMM. However, if you’re restricted by budget, then phrase match is for you.

Exact Match

As the most restrictive match type, exact match requires the exact keyword to entered to trigger an advert. Because of this, these keywords tend to generate the highest click-through rates and conversion rates.

The downside of Exact Match is that due to the high level of restriction, volumes can be lower through these keywords except for head generic terms such as [home insurance] which can drive a high % of traffic if allowed.


There’s a lot to take on board when deciding which match types are best suited for your keywords. The main things to consider are:

  • Your objectives

If you’re looking to just build awareness of a product or service, then Broad or BMM can be great for generating low cost traffic. Whereas if you’re looking to drive sales then Phrase or Exact would be best as these tend to drive higher intent searches.

  • Your budget

If you’re restricted for budget and want to target some high volume keywords, going for phrase or exact match would be your best bet as this would allow you to only drive high quality, relevant traffic through to your site.

  • Your time

Running keywords on Broad or BMM require daily checks to ensure no irrelevant traffic is slipping through the net. Phrase or exact match keywords require much less time and can be left for longer without having to be monitored.

We always recommend testing different match types. Exact match should be built out regardless, however, the more open match types should be tested to see which deliver the best results.

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