How Does AdWords Keyword Matching Work?

How Does AdWords Keyword Matching Work?
Mountain View, California, USA - August 15, 2016: Google sign on one of the Google buildings. Exterior view of a Google headquarters building. Google is specializing in Internet services


Keywords / key phrases connect a searchers query to relevant adverts within Google AdWords. Within AdWords we can split keywords into two categories:

  1. Biddable keywords (Keywords that we set within the account)
  2. Matched keywords (Keywords AdWords system matches to Biddable keywords).

When we “build” an AdWords campaign we research and add biddable keywords – in other words, keywords that we believe will be relevant to various search queries. Google will match different keywords (Matched keywords) to these biddable keywords and we can control this process by using different match types.


AdWords Match Types.

Broad Match

Biddable Keyword: Oak Furniture

May show for the following example “Matched keywords”: furniture, oak, furniture reviews, pink furniture, pine furniture

This match type will show your advert for similar variations of the biddable keyword. Broad match keywords are a great method of finding new keyword opportunities but heavily rely on “negative keywords” to reduce wasted clicks.


Broad Match Modifier

Biddable Keyword: +Oak +Furniture

May show for the following example “Matched keywords”: Oak Furniture Reviews, Furniture made from Oak, Oak Dining Room Furniture

By using the “+” modifier we are making the biddable keyword less broad than its broad match counterpart. The words “Oak” and “furniture” will always appear in the matched keywords in any order and additional words may also be matched.


Phrase Match

Biddable Keyword: “Oak Furniture”

 May show for the following example “Matched keywords”: Oak Furniture for sale, cheap oak furniture, oak furniture shops

Phrase match biddable keywords allow your ads to show for terms that include the keywords as a phrase meaning: All words in the order specified.


Exact Match

Biddable Keyword: [Oak Furniture]

 May show for the following example “Matched keywords”: Oak Furniture, Oak Funiture (Misspelling intended).

Exact match shows your ad for search terms that match the biddable term identically (but includes misspellings).


Negative Match

Negative Keyword: -Cheap

Negative keywords avoid your ads showing for keywords that are not relevant / do not convert. In the example about, adding “cheap” as a negative keyword avoids your ads showing for terms that include the word “cheap” or similar variations.


Common AdWords Keyword Mistakes

There are a few misconceptions when it comes to keywords in Google AdWords: When an account is set up, in most cases it is impossible to anticipate an exhaustive list of negative keywords, it is impossible to know, without any doubt which match types will perform better so it’s imperative you set goals and expectations accordingly. Test and measure is the key here.

The following lists detail real examples of AdWords campaigns that didn’t deliver, and why,


Problem: AdWords doesn’t work – It sent low levels of traffic and didn’t convert.

Client had all exact match keywords for keywords he thought were relevant. We all search in different ways: Building keyword lists around what YOU think will work is destined to fail. Start with biddable keywords with various match types and collect data: Adjust keyword list and match types according to what works for your VISITORS.


Problem: I don’t want to be known as a “cheap” supplier but a “quality” supplier yet campaign performs & converts worse when calls to action favour “quality” over “cheap”

Similar to example one, your perceptions of your brand is not as important as the perception of your customers. If a certain type of language in adverts performs better then it is a huge mistake to deviate from this to flatter your own perceptions. The numbers do not lie: if something works, then it works.


Problem: My adverts show for keywords that are not relevant – I don’t even sell XYZ.

Negative keywords will reduce occurrences of this happening, but it needs to happen to learn what negative keywords to add. It is impossible to anticipate every possible search query so it’s crucial negative keywords are added regularly and based on data obtained from “matched keywords”.
This can be further controlled by the use of different match types but a word of warning: If your objective is to scale your advertising as far as possible for the best long term returns then overly restricting match types could “stifle” your ad campaigns. Continuing adding negative keywords and improving performance incrementally to avoid your advertising reaching a premature plateau is the smart option.


Problem: My ad campaigns is profitable but I want more sales however I don’t want to spend more.

Not strictly keyword relevant however, this is a common issue and the reasoning behind it I cannot answer however: If your AdWords campaigns are delivering good ROI then provided there is adequate search volume you should be able to increase your budget and have your conversions increase at the same rate.

Look at your AdWords account and under “Campaigns” check to see if they are “Limited by Budget”. If so, increasing your budget will ensure your ads show and therefore convert more often.