Google Ads Keyword Matching by An SEM Expert [Guide] Skip to content

Master Keyword Matching to Increase Your Sales on Google Ads

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When you create Googles Ads campaigns, each of your keywords has to be associated with a keyword match. There are currently three types: exact keyword, expression, broad query (which is divided into two subcategories, with or without modifier). Explained in a simple way, each keyword match allows you to either grant or restrict Google’s freedom to display your ads based on the search terms entered by users. This choice is therefore crucial because it determines the quality of your traffic and the reach of your ads.

We will review each type to help you select the type of keyword that best suits your area of business. Limiting your expenses to relevant searches will increase your number of qualified clicks and therefore your sales.

Broad match keywords

Broad match without modifier

The keyword planner tool, which is available free of charge from Google, can be used to find ideas for your keyword list.


Campaign keywords are set to broad match by default. This means that you give Google complete freedom to publish your ads when someone searches for your keywords or variants that the platform considers to be similar. This allows you to appear and pay for clicks on terms that do not appear at all in your keyword lists, either because they are synonyms or concepts that Google thought were similar.

The main purpose of this keyword match type is to save time when creating campaigns, since a small list is enough to start and quickly generate many impressions. Another advantage is that you will appear on a large number of queries, especially if several different words are used to search for your products and services.

On the other hand, this keyword match type is the least accurate in Google Ads, in the sense that you depend on the platform’s interpretation and sometimes imperfect knowledge, which can involve many pointless expenses. Broad match can very quickly become the least profitable for you, because your ads may appear on searches that have absolutely nothing to do with your business and many users will click on them even if the ad does not match their search terms.

Here is an example with a keyword and the searches that could trigger the ads:

  • Broad match keyword: hair salon
  • Searches that could trigger the ads: hair salon near me, haircut, hairdressers near me, mens haircuts, beauty salon, men’s shampoo, blow dry hair, hair dye

The other two keyword matches for the same term, namely “hair salon” in phrase match and [hair salon] in exact match, avoid the appearance of the last three requests (those related to shampoo, blow drying and hair dye), but also “mens haircuts” which would be relevant. In order to overcome this, Google gives you the option of adding a modifier to the keywords in a broad match.

Broad match with modifier

When building your keyword lists, you can add a “+” in front of one or more terms of your keyword if it is broad match. This lets Google know that you want all terms with this symbol in the Internet user’s search to trigger your ads.


Doing this prevents Google from spending money on synonyms, for example. However, it is still less precise than keywords in phrase or exact match keywords, since the order of the terms is irrelevant. Therefore, there are also unqualified clicks registered with this method.

Below is an example of this:

  • Broad match keyword: hair salon
  • Searches that could trigger the ads: montreal hair salon / men’s hair salon / women’s hair salon / dog hair salon / hair salon chair
  • Searches that would not trigger the ads: haircut salon / dog salon

Phrase match keywords

Another keyword match type is the phrase match, which is similar to the case we just mentioned. The main difference with broad match is that Google maintains the established word order. This means that you can be displayed on a search that contains your keyword, along with other terms placed before or after the query.


Here is an example to illustrate the dissemination with phrase match:

  • Phrase match: hair salon
  • Searches that could trigger the ads: montreal hair salon / men’s hair salon / hair salon chair
  • Searches that would not trigger the ads: hairdresser’s salon / haircut salon / dog salon / dog salon hairdresser

As you can see, this keyword match type is more precise, but can lead to lost display opportunities (you will not appear on “haircut salon” for example), and can also generate unnecessary expenses (with potential displays on “hair salon chair”.

Exact match keyword

The “exact match” keyword type is the most accurate of the three. Your ad will only be published when an Internet user performs a search that strictly corresponds to your keyword, or a close variant.

Close variants allow some flexibility to take into account the different ways individuals type. This also applies to other keyword match types, but it is particularly useful for this type because dissemination would be extremely limited without it.

Here is the list of close variants accepted by Google Ads:

  • Spelling errors
  • Singular or plural forms
  • Related words
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents
  • Expressions in which the words have been reorganized, but which have the same meaning (the latter case does not apply to phrase match keywords)

So, for the same hair salon example used until now, here are the searches that could trigger the ads:

  • Exact match keyword: hair salon
  • Searches that could trigger the ads: hairdresser / hair salons / salon hair / hairdresser salon / hair sallon
  • Searches that would not trigger the ads: montreal hair salon / men’s hair salon / women’s hair salon / hair salon chair / haircut salon / dog salon / dog salon hairdresser

Here is what it looks like in Google Ads:


The biggest advantage of this keyword match type is that the distribution of your ad will be very targeted. You will then have perfect control over your expenses, because you can be certain that you will only be displayed on searches that meet your preferences. However, you can still miss business opportunities because Internet users enter numerous queries that you might not have thought of in the search engine.

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Optimize your budget with keyword matches

Align your budget and keyword matches

As shown, the choice of keyword matches directly influences your number of clicks, since it determines the impressions of your ads. But this is not the only factor to take into account since the ads also depend on your bids.

An important element to consider is that generally, an exact match keyword is more expensive than its broad match equivalent. This is because broad match allows you to be placed on terms that are less competitive. However, this is a generality, since in other cases the opposite effect can be observed. Indeed, keywords that are highly relevant to your business can have a very low cost. Especially if you are in niche markets, since they will only be slightly targeted by others, while their broad match equivalents may be more expensive. Indeed, Google would place you on broader and potentially more competitive terms. The best approach is to test and compare what is most effective for your sales.

Exclude search terms


One of the most useful methods of avoiding unnecessary expenses is to review search terms. This makes it possible to see what Internet users have entered in Google and above all to check which keywords have cost money so you can exclude anything irrelevant.

The more you do this, the more qualified your clicks will be. We recommend doing this very regularly to avoid having to sort through thousands of search terms!

Here again, the three keyword match types apply for the keywords you decide to exclude. Only the broad match modifier (i.e. adding a + sign) is not useful for exclusion.

So, if we take our hair salon example, it would be very helpful to exclude the terms “chair” and “dog” in phrase match.

Reduce costs with a high level of quality

In addition to being associated with a keyword match type, each keyword also has its own level of quality. This is calculated by Google and you cannot change it directly. However, several actions can be taken to improve it, which is in your interest to lower costs because it allows you to be better positioned, even with a lower bid than your competitors, since Google uses this metric to measure your relevance.


To achieve an excellent level of quality, we recommend creating relevant ads and directing users to pages on your website that reflect your keyword lists. To go further on this subject, take a look at our article dedicated to improving the quality score.


Building your keyword list on Google Ads is not as simple as it sounds. There are several factors to take into account, such as their keyword match type, as well as your objective, your budget, the competition, and the quality of your ads. You need to test and make adjustments, continuously analyzing your performance to improve results. This all takes time and you have to be meticulous. You can also work with Google Ads advertising experts to save time and help boost your sales!

Feel free to contact us at 514 572 7758 or via our contact form if you would like to speak to an expert who will answer all your questions.


Cofondatrice et Spécialiste SEO-SEM

Eugénie a commencé sa carrière en marketing Web chez Microsoft auprès de partenaires tels que Hewlett-Packard et Dell. En 2013, elle co-fonde My Little Big Web avec Maxence afin d'aider les PME à optimiser leur marketing Web. Ses compétences en SEO, publicité en ligne et expérience utilisateur permettent aux clients de My Little Big Web de se positionner rapidement et durablement en haut des résultats de recherche. Le partage de connaissances fait partie de ses priorités. Elle donne donc de nombreuses formations internes et externes ainsi que des conférences sur de multiples thèmes relatifs au marketing numérique.

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