We love digital - Call
03332 207 677Circle Info
and say hello - Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm

Call 03332 207 677Circle Info

Alec Sharratt

Keywords, Match Types and Triangulation for AdWords

3rd Oct 2011 Paid Search, Google AdWords, Paid Search 7 minutes to read

One of the most common mistakes I see in an AdWords campaign setup by your average guy is the misuse of keyword match types. Google seem to make the process of building a campaign very easy for an average small business owner looking to buy some digital advertising space on the Google high street. It is pretty obvious why it is made this easy in my opinion; it makes Google a lot of money.

In the same way, buying a chainsaw is easy; using it without making a mess requires some knowledge and foresight and can be dangerous. Paying Google the token £5 for the account and then adding a few keywords is easy, but setting up a well structured campaign that will deliver you a return on investment does require a little more knowledge.

It would be easy to make the mistake that a keyword is a keyword, when in fact there are different types of keyword which can be used in a multitude of ways and for varying reasons. In most campaigns I see set up by someone with no experience in managing AdWords, I see the same thing; a whole load of keywords, if not all keywords, set to ‘Broad match’ and spread over a couple of ad groups. This is in fact an almost acceptable mistake to make, I mean Google have set the default match type to ‘Broad’.


Match Types

Essentially there are three different match types for keywords; these are ‘Exact’, ‘Phrase’ and ‘Broad’.

  • Exact = the keyword must be written exactly as you have written it when someone searches for it in Google.
  • Phrase = the keyword must be within a “phrase”, before or after another word or phrase and must be written exactly as you have written it.
  • Broad = your keyword can be substituted for other words Google feels are relevant, it can be within a phrase, the order of words can be changed and other words can come before or after it.
match types in adwords

To offer a real world example I will use the keyword “dog leads” as an example.

Exact Match would mean that the keyword has to appear exactly as you have written it, so only people who type in “dog leads” will trigger your ad being displayed. “dog lead” for example would not trigger the ad, neither would “extendable dog leads”.

A Phrase match would mean that your ad could be triggered if someone searched for “extendable dog leads”, “blue dog leads for small dogs”, or “dog leads uk”… It could also display if someone were to type “dog leads” on its own even if you have an exact match version of the keyword in the ad group or campaign. Ads would not show though if someone searched for “dog retractable leads” as the original keyword needs to be embedded within a phrase intact.

Broad match type could trigger ads for the largest possible amount of variables, it would display for both of the above match types regardless of whether they already exist within the campaign as well as many more. For example; “extendable dog lead uk”, “dg leeeds”,  and “leads for small dogs” could potentially trigger your ads.

So Exact match keywords are good for keeping a tight lid on when ads are displayed, Phrase match expands the scope of that considerably and Broad match opens it up to the largest possible audience. As a result phrase and broad match types are great for catching those searchers who misspell the term or type in long strings of terms as well as helping to identify new opportunities.


Negative Keywords

Negative keywordsBroad match and Phrase match keywords need to be restricted in terms of what search terms will trigger the ads; because Google may think that “sales leads” is an acceptable variant of “dog leads” or “blue dog leads”, and this may not be something that you stock. In order to restrict the display of keywords you will need to use ‘negative keywords’. Keywords like this are often added at the campaign level, because campaigns should not be too broad in there scope of products or services; although the same result can be achieved through adding them at ad group level.

Negative keywords use match types in the same way that normal or positive keywords do. So continuing the example above, by adding “sales leads” as a broad match negative keyword, you’ll prevent your ad from being displayed if anyone searches for “sales leads” or a variant of it. Adding “blue” as a phrase match negative keyword will prevent your ads from being displayed if the word “blue” is used within the search term.

Using the ‘Keyword Tool’ in AdWords will highlight the importance of proper and thorough negative keyword research; a quick search brings up 800 broad match variations of the keyword including “dog seat belt harness” and “bicycle dog carrier”.

But why is this so vital to the success of the campaign? Because no matter whether the searcher clicks or doesn’t click on, your ad it will have a negative impact. The obvious one is that someone clicks on the ad and find that you do not sell what they are looking for and you have paid good money for the privilege. If this were to happen, you can see what people had searched for in the ‘Search Terms’ for the keyword and preclude this from occurring again by adding it as a negative keyword.


The less obvious impact and one much harder to detect is if they do not click the ad. This means that you cannot see what search term triggered the ad, so you cannot exclude it later. But moreover it will count as an impression, and the ratio of clicks to impressions determines the Click through Rate (CTR). The CTR is a major factor in determining the relevance of your ads to the searcher; as such, a poor CTR will affect your Quality Score. A reduced Quality Score will affect the Cost per Click making it more expensive, meaning the Cost per Conversion is higher. Once the Cost per Conversion is greater than the value of a conversion, you are officially making a loss.


Triangulation and Ad Group Level Negative Keywords

Triangulation-methodThe restrictive capacities of negative keywords and the increasing broadness of match types can be used in conjunction with one another to create an effective strategy beyond simply improving CTR. Using a method called Triangulation, ad groups can be constructed based on match types to create highly targeted campaigns.

I will maintain the example of dog leads as a keyword in the next illustration. Three ad groups will need to be created; each contains the keyword “dog leads” and each is set to a different match type. So now you have an Exact, Phrase and Broad match version of the same keyword each in its own ad group.

  • In the Broad match ad group; add “dog leads” as a Phrase match negative keyword (at ad group level).
  • In the Phrase match ad group; add “dog leads” as an Exact match negative keyword (at ad group level).

No negative keywords are required when using Exact match keywords because no variation of it can trigger an ad to be displayed. The effect this has is that:

  • When someone searches for the exact term, the ad in the exact match ad group will be triggered.
  • When someone searches for the term within a phrase, the ad in the phrase match ad group will be triggered.
  • When someone searches on a broad match variant of the keyword, the ad in the broad match ad group will be triggered.

This means that the ad text for the exact match ad group can be targeted specifically for the exact keyword. Similarly the phrase match ad groups ad text could use keyword insertion or be designed to be slightly broader such as “Many Different Types of Dog Leads”. The broad match ad group will also have its own slightly broader ad text or a keyword insertion.

The primary benefit of this is greater relevance to the search term / searcher through relevant ad text. Also, this allows you to identify new opportunities brought about by the use of broad match keywords without compromising on relevance. It should be noted that proper keyword research should / must be done in order to prevent your ads from being displayed to irrelevant search terms as described in the “Negative Keywords” section above.

profitBreaking your ad groups down into match types and having unique ad text for each will help especially when split testing your ads. In an ad group, any given ad with mixed match types will likely perform at varying degrees of success depending upon the search term, but you will be unable to determine how or why. Triangulation removes that unknown and replaces it with more easily quantifiable measures of success.



As I have hopefully explained, simply adding 100 keywords on broad match to a campaign, setting a budget and putting it live is far from a well constructed campaign. Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is a Return on Investment (ROI) strategy, but in order to generate ROI, the campaign needs to be targeted properly and effectively. Bear in mind that your competition is probably successfully using negative keywords, triangulation, targeted ad text and subjecting the campaigns to constant optimisation. Unless you compete at the same level you can be left behind or end up paying more for irrelevant traffic and achieving little more than increasing Google’s profits.

Share this post

Download Your Free Whitepaper

AdWords PPC Beginner’s Guide


What do you think?

Stacey Cavagnetto

KoozNews: September 2020

Stacey Cavagnetto
15th Sep 2020
Joe Johnson

The Best SEO Chrome Browser Plugins For 2020

Joe Johnson
14th Sep 2020

Digital Ideas Monthly

Sign up now and get our free monthly email. It’s filled with our favourite pieces of the news from the industry, SEO, PPC, Social Media and more. And, don’t forget - it’s free, so why haven’t you signed up already?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Unlike 08 numbers, 03 numbers cost the same to call as geographic landline numbers (starting 01 and 02), even from a mobile phone. They are also normally included in your inclusive call minutes. Please note we may record some calls.

Circle Cross