Google Adwords Keyword Options Explained

Google Adwords is an excellent digital marketing solution for people needing quick coverage across Google and for those who wish to complement their natural search activity by extending their coverage across a broader range of keywords. Some organisations also use Google Adwords to conduct keyword research prior to developing their natural search campaigns.

Google Adwords is a complex system that is built on the relationship between keywords, adverts and landing pages. It is advised to create groups of roughly 10-15 related keywords which are complemented by adverts that also contain elements of those keywords. Users are then sent to related landing pages. For many users, understanding the different keyword options and when to use them can be a little confusing.

Keyword types

  • Exact Match – indicated by surrounding the keyword with [brackets]
  • Phrasal Match – indicated by surrounding the keyword with “quotation marks”
  • Broad Match – indicated by nothing – this is Google default
  • Modified Broad Match – indicated by including a +plus +sign before +keywords you want to appear in the query string
  • Negative Match – indicated by putting a –minus sign before the keyword

What happens if I sell Equipment for Tropical Fish Tanks?

Broad Match is Google’s default option and your Equipment for Tropical Fish Tanks keyword phrase will be displayed for people searching for Equipment for Tropical Fish Tanks. But also for Tropical Fish Tanks, Equipment for Fish Tanks and other similar phrases. This is useful for some businesses but not those who do not sell USED or SECOND-HAND Equipment for Tropical Fish Tanks. This is where Negative Match comes in – if I do not sell second-hand or used stuff I put them into my negative keyword lists. This allows me to filter out unwanted traffic that is not looking for my offering.

A limitation with Broad Match is that it is not always possible to filter out unwanted traffic because Google uses word stemming to find similar words to the keywords – fish will be interchanged with shark, shrimp, marine fish etc. To exercise more control it is possible to set the system to pick up keywords in a phrase i.e. Equipment for Tropical Fish Tanks so that your advert only appears in searches that contain this phrase – this is known as Phrasal Match. Please note that with Phrasal Match, Negative Match still filters out used, second-hand, etc. which makes this a very effective way to filter out traffic that is unlikely to convert.

A limitation with Phrasal Match is that it will not display if the words are in a different order so for a the key phrase Equipment for Tropical Fish Tanks a search on Tropical Fish Tanks Equipment will not display. I could try to anticipate the different phrase combinations but I would still most likely miss a lot of traffic. I don’t want to waste money on unrelated traffic with Broad Match so I could use Modified Broad Match i.e. Economical +Equipment for +Tropical +Fish +Tanks which means Equipment, Tropical, Fish and Tanks must be in the search query but Google might substitute Economical with its word stemming system. This is a great advancement.


So this is my strategy:

  • I develop a targeted campaign with Modified Broad Match and related Negative Match categories
  • As I get clicks I filter out to Phrasal Match and Exact Match for the high volume traffic to pin point target my audience

Remember Adwords is about the relationship between keywords, ads and landing pages. My recent article on how to refine your PPC ads demonstrates a sustainable approach to improving ad click through rates which make a significant improvement to the performance of an Adwords account.

About the author – Geoff Andrews is a prolific blogger offering current strategic Internet marketing tips  that make a significant impact to campaigns across multiple industries. Follow him on Twitter @SEM_Freak.