2 min read

Keyword match types in 2021

Keyword match types in 2021

In paid search, a keyword match type is what dictates how closely a keyword has to match with a search term for an ad to be considered for the auction.

But how these match types work has changed.

Advertisers on Google Ads will likely know match types to work as follows:

  • Exact match gives you the most control over when you want your ads to show by triggering your ads when a user searches your keyword exactly or close variants of your keywords e.g. the keyword “tennis shoes” could be triggered by the search terms “tennis shoes”, “tennis shoe” or “shoes tennis”.
  • Phrase match bridged the gap between exact and broad, by giving you greater reach than exact match, but without giving complete control to Google to decide what is relevant to your keyword. Phrase match therefore could trigger your ads as long as a search term included your specific keyword phrase, allowing for additional words on either side. E.g. the keyword “tennis shoes” could be triggered by the search terms “tennis shoes for sale”, “best tennis shoes” or ‘best shoes for tennis”.
  • Broad match gave all the control to Google. Not only could your ads trigger on your keyword, but it also allowed your ad to show up on search terms related to your keyword, including synonyms. E.g. the keyword “tennis shoes” could be triggered by the search terms “tennis trainers” or “sports shoes”.

What’s changed?

So far in 2021, broad match modified has been binned, with phrase match being adapted to capture BMM searches. But how the classic three match types work has also changed.

There’s a much bigger focus now on the meaning and intent behind a search term – as determined by Google’s AI.

Here’s what’s changed for each match type as per Google’s help page:

  • Exact match will now trigger your ads when a search term has the same meaning or intent as your keyword. E.g. the keyword “lawn mowing service” can be triggered by the search terms “lawn mowing service” and “grass cutting service”.
  • Phrase match will now trigger your ads when a search term includes the same meaning or intent as your keyword. E.g. the keyword “lawn mowing service” can be triggered by the search terms “lawn mowing service near me”, “hire company to mow lawn” and “landscaping company to cut grass”.
  • Broad match still triggers your ads when searches relate to your keyword, however, it now takes into account a user’s previous search activity, your landing page, and other keywords within an ad group to better determine keyword intent. E.g. the keyword “lawn mowing service” can be triggered by the search terms “lawn aeration prices”.

What does this mean for advertisers?

As Google explains, exact match will offer the tightest matches, phrase match will offer moderate matches and broad match will offer loose matches. This is a premise that we’re pretty used to already as advertisers, given that we are seemingly getting less and less data transparency with every passing day.

With that said, the actual impact of these changes, just as with the collapse of BMM into phrase match, will likely be pretty minimal.

The changes to broad match are of particular interest. Handing Google total control by using broad match keywords was never considered best practice, given the high chance of wasting spend on irrelevant search terms.

But the new parameters given to broad match to help determine meaning and intent does seem to be some sort of resolution for that problem. Given that a broader pool of keywords is recommended when using automated bidding strategies, these changes to broad match are welcome.

The AI for broad match keywords may now pick up on search terms that don’t otherwise seem relevant to the naked eye. So one way this might influence advertisers is that maybe we shouldn’t jump the gun when deciding what search terms are relevant or not.

A broad match search term that would usually look irrelevant to us may actually have come through based on previous relevant searches from the user. As always, conversion tracking will be very important to determine which search terms are driving qualified traffic to our campaigns.

Stay up to date with the latest Google Ads updates and Paid Media news on our LinkedIn.

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