Back2Basics

Back2Basics: Google AdWords Keyword Types

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This post is the first in an ongoing series beginning on the Search Marketing Standard website. The series is aimed primarily at those just beginning to learn about marketing online, but also will serve as a refresher course for others and an introduction to some aspects that even experienced marketers may not have delved into. Sit back and prepare to go “Back 2 Basics” …

Google AdWords Keyword Types

Google AdWords is the most popular pay-per-click advertising program on the Internet. It’s fairly simple to use but can accommodate anything from a one-ad-one-product setup to a complex arrangement of multiple products with multiple ads targeting different geographic regions, different times of the day, different times of the week, different languages, and various other factors.

One of the basics of the AdWords system is choosing keywords for your ads, since these dictate when your ad will be shown. If a searcher enters a keyword you have chosen, your ad may then be shown in the sponsored ad position on the search engine results page. Therefore, choosing appropriate keywords is of primary importance. To understand how your choice of keywords can affect when your ads will be shown to searchers, you need to know a little about the different keyword match types that Google uses.

There are four basic keyword match types used in Google AdWords. As you explore the various keywords that you want to use as triggers to show your pay-per-click ads on Google, you need to keep these four options in mind to get the most out of your choices and ensure that you don’t waste your bidding dollars on keyword combinations that will not be as effective as you need. We’ll show some examples with each definition, to illustrate how each type can be used most efficiently.

1.  Broad Match

Broad match is the default option for keywords in Google AdWords. It will be assumed that you wish all of your keywords to be assigned the broad match type. What exactly is “broad match”? Basically, it means that your ads may be shown when searchers enter any of the keywords you have chosen, in any order, and potentially if your keyword is part of the search phrase. Ads may also appear when searchers use other variations on your keywords, such as plurals and synonyms.

Let’s look at an example of how broad match basically works. If you are selling premium dog biscuits, you obviously will want your ad to be shown when dog owners search for those products, so the broad match keyword you first choose may be, in fact, “premium dog biscuits.” Because broad match is …. well …. broad, here are some of the search terms that may result in your ad being shown:

  • premium
  • dog
  • biscuits
  • make premium dog biscuits
  • dog biscuit recipes
  • dog cookies
  • pet treats

Some of these options may be perfectly acceptable to you, and will help bring in searchers who use other words to describe the same product as you are selling, but others may wind up showing your ad in inappropriate search results (e.g., when someone is looking for a premium cookie for a special afternoon tea they are planning for a human group). There can be a lot of strategy involved with using broad match, and we’ll delve into some of that in another post in this series, together with pluses and minuses and some practical tips.

2.  Exact Match

The Exact Match keyword type is just what it sounds like — your ads may appear when a searcher enters the exact keyword you choose to bid on. If your keyword has more than one word in it, the searcher must have entered those exact words in that exact order. Let’s see how this would work.

  • premium dog biscuits — ads will only show if searcher enters this entire phrase with the words in this order.
  • buy premium dog biscuits — your ad will not be shown because the searcher added the word “buy” to their search phrase.
  • premium dog biscuit — your ad will not be shown because the searcher used the singular of the word “biscuits”
  • dog biscuits — your ad will not be shown because the searcher used just part of the keyword phrase

3.  Phrase Match

With Phrase Match, your ad may appear when searchers enter the entire phrase, with the words in the order indicated. If the searcher has additional words in their search text, your ad may appear if that text has the keyword phrase as part of it. Using our example, let’s see how this works.

  • premium dog biscuits — your keyword/phrase
  • buy premium dog biscuits — will appear since the keyword/phrase is exact and in order
  • carob premium dog biscuits — also will appear
  • premium dog biscuits container — also will appear
  • premium biscuits for dogs — won’t show because the words are out of order
  • premium dog biscuit — won’t show because “biscuit” is singular
  • homemade dog biscuits — won’t show because one of the words (“premium”) has been replaced (by “homemade”)

4.  Negative Match

Negative keywords can be added to your keyword list. They represent words that your ads should not appear for. If a searcher has one of the negative keywords you have chosen as part of their search text, your ad will not be shown on the accompanying search engine results page. Negative match keywords can be helpful in controlling costs of advertising, since they limit the chances of irrelevant words triggering a showing of your ad and resultant clicks that have no chance of resulting in a sale. Some examples of possible negative keywords for “premium dog biscuits” might be:

  • organic — you would likely add this negative match keyword if your product cannot be called “organic”
  • homemade — add this negative match keyword if your product is mass-produced

Concluding Thoughts

Of course, there is a lot more strategy to keyword choices than just the match types and knowing when to use each. But that’s for another lesson, as is a longer explanation of broad match. For now, don’t forget that sometimes it makes sense to go “Back 2 Basics”!

About the Author

Frances Krug has worked in market research since graduating from UCLA with an MA and CPhil in Latin American history. As an editor and online content provider for the last 7 years, she currently is Associate Editor at iNET Interactive, where she also directs Search Marketing Standard's email marketing program.

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