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Should You Bid On All Three Match Types in AdWords?

This question comes up time and time again with everyone I chat with who is trying to run a successful AdWords campaign.

[alert-note]Should You Bid On All Three Match Types in AdWords?[/alert-note]

And the short answer is no.

There are three major match types when it comes to bidding. Broad Match, “Phrase Match”, and [Exact Match].

Broad Match

This is the default matching option. With broad match, your ad may show if a search term contains your keyword terms in any order, and possibly along with other terms. Your ads can also show for close variations of your keywords.

“Phrase Match”

With phrase match, your ad can show when someone searches for your exact keyword, or your exact keyword with additional words before or after it. We’ll also show your ad when someone searches for close variations of that exact keyword, or with additional words before or after it.

[Exact Match]

With exact match, your ads can appear only when someone searches for your exact keyword, without any other terms in the search. We’ll also show your ad when someone searches for close variations of that specific keyword.

Here is a great image from Trada illustrating when a certain term will show depending on the match type.

adwords match types

Most inexperienced marketers will add their keyword three times in the same ad group with all three different match types and then not bid any differently on them. If you take a second and look at how broad match works, then you will realize that a broad match will trigger phrase match as well as exact match. Adding them all is really a pointless thing to do and really just clutters up your ad group unless you are treating them differently. This is where the segment feature comes into play.

If you add your keyword once as a broad match it will trigger the two other match types. But how do you know which match type was triggered? Change your segment to “Search Terms Match Type.”

segment search terms match type

Now your view will show you all three match types and you can view clicks, CTR, etc… for each individual one. This is a lot cleaner than adding all three match types with the same keyword.

[alert-note]My suggestion is to add your keyword twice. Add your keyword as a broad match and let it trigger both broad terms and phrase. Then add your keyword a second time as exact match. With your exact match keywords bid higher on them. If you have exact match keywords you should be putting priority on these as they will only trigger on searches that are exactly what you want the visitor to see. These should normally be your top movers or your top converting keywords. Then with the segment report you can adjust accordingly over time your phrase matching based on real data.[/alert-note]

Now obviously sometimes you might not want to use broad match because of how open it is. Usually I recommend using broad match when you want lots of traffic and you have the time to regularly add negative keywords (see step 8 in my increase your AdWords ROI). There are times where using just phrase match and exact match work great. It really depends upon the campaign.

Frederick recently wrote about this on SEJ in his post: 7 Hidden Features In AdWords To Make Your Life Easier“I recommend you only use multiple match types if you plan to treat them differently. If you would just do it for reporting, use the segment instead.”

As always feel free to leave your comments below!

Brian Jackson

I craft actionable content and develop performance-driven WordPress plugins. Connect on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter (twice a month, no spam).

3 thoughts on “Should You Bid On All Three Match Types in AdWords?”

  1. Brian,

    I am currently using exact match and modified broad (broad with “+” signs before each word). I used to bid on broad terms but found that Google was sending me a lot of garbage impressions based on the more insignificant words within my phrases: I sell lingerie… The broad keyword: sexy lingerie would generate impressions for sexy teddy bears, sexy toe nails, etc. You can imagine the impossibility of creating a negative list just for this! Instead, now I use +sexy +lingerie and I cut down on a lot of the garbage. What do you think of my strategy?

    • Hey Mark! Yes that is also a good strategy. Broad match modifiers can be a great way to still get a decent amount of traffic and yet clean up some of the junk that general broad match usually brings with it. Most of my campaigns are in the health niche and while I do have negative keywords, most searches are fairly close. I can see how yours could be way off the mark :) Topic/niche and keywords you are bidding on definitely matter if broad match is a good fit.

      And of course you can’t go wrong with exact match. I always always recommend exact match… You just won’t generate a ton of traffic with them normally. That is why broad and or broad match modifiers are a good pairing. Sounds like you got a good handle on it!


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