Too often, Google advertisers are so keen to adopt a new hack or strategy that they forget the basics. Having reviewed thousands of accounts, we know that you cannot jump in with bid management or AI without first getting the basics right. Without fixing the basics, accounts never perform. In these series of blogs, we’re focussing on helping you to get the foundations built, before moving onto more advanced strategies.

If you know anything about Google Ads, you’ll probably have heard of keywords. These are the main words or phrases that you want to be found for. For example, if you sell garden furniture, you’ll want to be found when a user searches ‘garden tables’ or ‘outdoor seating’, so you would add these terms as keywords.

Simple, right?

Well, there’s actually four different types of keyword. These are: broad match, broad match modified, phrase match and exact match.

When you understand and fully utilise each type of keyword, you have more control over which search terms trigger your ad, helping you show your ad to the right people. We’re a helpful bunch here at Click Convert, so we’re giving you a rundown of each type of keyword and how they can be used.

Broad Match Keywords

Broad match keywords allow your ad to be triggered by a wider audience than other keywords.

Summer weather has finally arrived here at our UK office, so we’ll be using some summer-themed examples throughout this blog. Let’s say that you’re running an online store that sells garden equipment, so you add garden chairs as a broad match keyword. Your ad would be triggered if a user searched this term, as well as any close variations, such as synonyms, misspellings, plurals, singulars or abbreviations.

So, your ad would show when a user searched garden chairs, but it could also show for singular versions, such as garden chair, or synonyms such as outdoor seating.

This type of keyword can attract large volumes of traffic, which can push up costs unnecessarily. Someone searching outdoor seating could be looking for a fold-up camping chair, which you might not sell. In this situation, the user might click on your ad (which will cost you!) but it’s very unlikely that they’ll go on to buy one of your products.

Before the days of Click Convert, our founder John ran a company that sold promotional gifts. An agency was used to manage the company’s Google Ads, which used keywords such as branded mugs. It was only when John analysed the account for himself and explored its keywords that it became apparent why the ads weren’t working. When users searched for specific brands, that the company didn’t sell, the ads were appearing and the click costs were stacking up. Hello Kitty was the main culprit, with searches such as hello kitty branded mugs costing £3000 in a single year.

Clearly, attracting traffic that’s too broad can needlessly cost money. To narrow down the search terms that trigger your ad, you’ll need to understand how to use other types of keywords.

Broad Match Modified Keywords

Broad match modified keywords are identified with the ‘+’ symbol. This type of keyword is more specific than broad match, but still allows your ad to get a large reach.

If you add +flat+sandals (we’re sticking with our summer theme here) as a keyword, your ad would be triggered when a user searches flat sandals, or a misspelt, plural, or abbreviated equivalent of this. All of the words in the keyword have to be used, and crucially, this variety of keyword doesn’t show your ads when the user searches a synonym. So, if someone searched flip flops, your ad wouldn’t show.

With your keyword +flat+sandals, both the words flat and sandals must be included in the search term, but they can be used in any order, and other words can also be included in the search term. So, if a user searched pink flat sandals or flat pink sandals, your ad could show in their search results.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using each type of keyword. Because broad match modified doesn’t include synonyms, your ad for flat sandals wouldn’t show to users searching flat shoes, but you might want to appear for this search term. Using a combination of keywords is usually the best way to manage the balance between attracting relevant traffic without becoming too specific.

Phrase Match Keywords

Phrase match keywords are identified by quotation marks surrounding the term. Unlike broad match modified, a phrase match keyword has to be searched as it’s entered as a keyword. There can be words before or after the keyword phrase, but NOT between the words in the keyword phrase.

For example, you add ‘’garden parasols’’ as a phrase match keyword. The ad will appear to users who include additional words in their search term, such as large garden parasol. Your ad won’t show if a word is added between the phrase, with a search term such as parasol for garden.

Just like broad match and broad modified, phrase match automatically includes misspellings, plurals and abbreviations.

Exact Match

To enter an exact match keyword, square brackets are added around the term. Exact match keywords will show your ad when the meaning of the search term matches the keyword. This includes paraphrases, synonyms, misspellings, plurals and abbreviations.

Words can’t be included alongside the keyword, so your ad will only appear when the search uses the exact keyword, or a term that Google deems to have the same meaning.

If you add [suntan lotion] as a keyword, then your ad would NOT appear when a user searches factor 50 suntan lotion. Exact match keywords don’t allow for additional information, such as the type of suntan lotion, in this case. If a user searched sun cream, your ad would be triggered, because although this search is phrased differently to your keyword, its meaning is the same.


Identified by Includes
Broad match None Synonyms, misspellings, plurals
Broad modified + ____+ ____ Misspellings, abbreviations, plurals
Phrase match ‘’ _____ ’’ Misspellings, plurals, abbreviations
Exact match [ _____ ] Plurals, misspellings, synonyms, paraphrases

Hopefully, you now feel a little clearer on the differences between each type of keyword, but if you think you would benefit from further advice, we’re here to lend a hand. Contact us below for a free review of your Google Ads account.

John Langley

John Langley


I am the founder of Click Convert, an Award Winning agency, here to deliver great marketing for Small and Medium Businesses. We’ve created over $1.1 billion in sales for clients. We’re one of the top digital marketing companies in America and the UK for small and medium businesses digital marketing. We’re a Google Premier Partner, a Google Top 50 agency and our work was recommended by Google’s CEO in 2020. Outside of family and Click Convert, Cars, Adventure and Pizza are my passion. Our vision is to Inform, Empower and Deliver to help both clients and readers.

Contact The Team