Google Search & Keywords

Different Ad Networks use keywords in different ways, and nowadays Google is the only Ad Network that still uses Keywords in their traditional sense.  With other Ad Networks using interests, demographics, and personal data to target individuals. 

Keywords are words or phrases chosen by you to help determine when and where your adverts can appear.

For instance, with someone carrying out a search on Google,  weather or not your advert appears in the results is based on the similarity of your keywords to the words the person has used in the search.

Google also provides us with additional control over when we want, and do not want, our adverts to be considered for display. It does this by allowing us to choose a Keyword Match Type.

Match Types

Keyword Match Types come in 4 different options; broad match, broad match modifier, phrase, and exact. 

These different match types affect the reach and relevance of your advert in response to the users' search terms.  By default, all keywords use a Broad match.  To 'activate' a different match type for individual keywords or phrases you use specific symbols as defined by Google and shown below. 


Broad Match

As mentioned, Broad match keywords will give you the widest reach, but the least relevance.  No symbols are needed as this is the default match type.  It will match to misspellings, synonyms, related searches and other close variants.  For example, the term Bike Shop would return results for Cycle StoreMotorcycle Store, and Mountain Bike Shops.

Broad Match Modifier

If you wish for a particular word (or words) to be returned in search results then you can use a Broad Match Modifier by placing the + symbol before the word(s) you want to be returned.  This will also return close variants of that word.  

If you put the + symbol in front of just one word in your search term then the Broad Match Modifier will apply to that single word only, and any other words in the search term will use a broad match.

When multiple words are used with a Broad Match Modifier, they do not need to appear next to each other in the returned results.

For instance, +Bike +Shop may return Bike Frame Shop or Bike Repair Shop whereas +Bike Shop may return Bike Store or Mountain Bike


When you want the search results to contain all the words (or close variants) of your search term in the exact same order you entered them you would choose a Phrase match type.

Set a Phrase match type by surrounding your search terms with the "" symbols.  The returned results must have the words contained within the quotes next to each other, with nothing in between.  Notice how this is different to the example above using Broad Match Modifiers. 

For instance, "Bike Shop" would return "Bike Shop In London" or "Retro Bike Shop".


Exact match keywords provide the lowest reach but highest relevance and are activated by surrounding your words of phrase with the [ ] symbols.

When you use exact match, you might not receive as many impressions or clicks because the number of matches will be fewer, and therefore so will the number of times your ad is displayed, but you'll probably see a higher click-through rate (CTR).

In an exact match Google will show results with reordered words as long as they have the same meaning, for instance [Bike Shop] and [Shop Bikes].  But it would not be shown for the search term Red Bikes For Children.

Close Variants

Close variants, as mentioned above, refers to including any misspellings, plurals/singulars, stemmings, acronyms, abbreviations, and accents of chosen keywords.  It is worth noting that close variants do not include synonyms.  


By default, they will always match to Broad and Broad Match Modifier types, but if you wish them to also match to Phrase and Exact matches then this has to be selected manually in the advanced settings of Google Ads.


The diagram below by Cardinal Path is a great visual representation of how using the various match modifiers effects the relevancy of returned keywords for the search term Bike Shop.

Note that any outer ring match types will also match the search terms in the inner rings. So a broad match of bike shop would match to all the search terms on the target.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords let you exclude search terms from your campaigns and help you focus only on the keywords that matter to your customers.  

As with positive keywords, negative keywords also use the match types of broad, phrase, and exact.

Learning when and how to use negative keywords can increase your return on investment by ruling out your ad from being shown to unsuitable users.

Study the table below to understand how negative keywords `running shoes` exclude the ad from being shown to the various search terms.


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