Wednesday, 29 November 2006

AdWords Matching Options Explained

There are currently 3 main types of keyword matching options in AdWords. I'll describe them from most targeted to least targeted. Note, I shall also use the term "keyword" to describe what should probably really be described as "keyphrases," i.e., keywords comprised of more than one word.

Exact Match

An exact match keyword is a word, or words, that you enter surrounded by square brackets. For example: [google adwords]. Exact match keywords only trigger the display of your ads if the person searching on Google (etc.) enters that exact search term, i.e. the same words as your keywords, in the same order, with no other words. Thus, the only search on Google that would trigger your ads for this keyword would be "google adwords"

Phrase Match

A phrase match keyword is created as above, only this time surrounded by double-quotes. For example: "google adwords". Phrase match is basically the same as exact match with the important exception that the person searching can enter additional words in their search query. However, they must still enter your keywords in the same order and with no additional words between them. For example, in this case, someone searching for "useful google adwords tips" would trigger your ad but these searches would not: "google tips for adwords," "adwords google tips."

Broad Match

Broad match keywords are simply keywords with no additional brackets, quotes, etc. For example: google adwords. Broad match keywords trigger your ads if all of your keywords are contained in the user's search query, in any order, regardless of any other words in the query. For example, all of the following would trigger your ads: "adwords by google," "adwords google information," "google tips for adwords."

One additional thing about broad match keywords that you need to remember. Broad match keywords will also match search phrases using similar terms to the ones you've entered, such as synonyms, plurals, different verb endings, etc. For example, if you created a broad match keyword - bike shelter - it could (at least in theory!) match all of the following searches: "bike shelters," "bicycle shelter," "bike shed," etc. Google refers to this as "expanded matches." Indeed, using the google adwords example above, depending on just how broad Google is prepared to go, in theory, even the search term "Yahoo search marketing tips" could trigger your ads!!

As a general rule, exact matches are more relevant, targeted keywords and tend to produce higher CTRs (click-thru rates). However, if you only use exact matches you may miss getting clicks for searches that you did not think of. On the other hand, if you only use broad matches, the clicks you get are less likely to lead to conversions and lower CTRs, which, in turn, results in you having to pay more per click. Thus, over time your campaign should include more and more exact match keywords in order to maximize your CTRs and minimize your costs

Negative Keywords

Finally, you can also create negative keywords. By adding a hyphen/dash/minus sign ("-") to the front of a keyword (whether a single word, phrase, broad or exact match), you can exclude certain searches from triggering your ads that otherwise would do so.

For example, suppose I am advertising a cheap web-based email service, I could create the keyword: web based email. Without a negative keyword, anyone searching for "free web based email" would bring up my ad. However, if they are looking for a free email service, and mine is just "cheap," it is unlikely to lead to a conversion. Thus, I can enter a negative keyword: -free. Now if any searches that would normally trigger my ads contain the word "free," they will no longer do so. A well optimized campaign should generally have several negative keywords as well as exact matches.

Note, negative keywords combined with phrase or broad matching is known as embedded matching and "is a sophisticated form of keyword matching that allows you to prevent your ad from appearing in relation to certain phrase or exact matches." (Google AdWords Learning Center: Keyword Matching Options).

To summarize:

broad match -- includes those words, in any order, or similar words, and may include other words
"phrase match" -- includes those words, in order, and may include other words
[exact match] -- must only include those words and in that order
-negative -- must not be contained in the search term

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June said...

Thanks for this great article. I have purchased no less than THREE much hyped Adwords marketing products, as well as studying Google's own help sectio. This is the first time anyone has explained these keyword options in a way I can understand. Kudos.

Ian F. said...

June, thanks for the positive feedback, I'm so glad you found it useful.