Keywords: Research and match types

When you’re just getting started with PPC, it’s usually not necessary to do exhaustive keyword research. Looking back at your campaign goals, consider the ways people will be searching for your products or services based on where they are in the customer journey, from broad informational to pain point-based to solution-based to product name and brand keywords. Then group these keywords into themes, which will then become your ad groups.

Negative keywords

Also consider the words you don’t want your ads to show for, and list them as negative keywords. Negative keywords can be set at the account, campaign or ad group level. There will be words you never want your ads to trigger for, so you will also add a keyword as a negative in another campaign or ad group to keep a search query from triggering ads in multiple campaigns or ad groups.

Keyword research tools

As discussed in the previous section, Bing Ads and AdWords have Keyword Planners for conducting keyword research that provides search volume, cost per click and conversion estimates within your account. Bing Ads Intelligence is a powerful, free Excel-based tool.

There are many other free and paid keyword research tools, as well as many other places to get ideas, such as the related searches shown on Google and Bing search results, Amazon, Pinterest, customer reviews and more. Talk to people in other areas of your company, too. What words do sales reps hear from prospective customers? What words do account managers hear from customers? What problems are they looking to solve? What words are your competitors using?

Match types

One of the best ways to manage budget and qualify traffic in Search is through keyword match types. The search engines give advertisers even more control over when their ads will be triggered by a search query with keyword match types. There are four match types, in the order of most to least restrictive:


Exact match keywords are formatted with brackets around them: [bicycle chain], [bike chain]. Despite the name, exact match isn’t exactly exact. Google allows close variants, including misspellings, plural/singular, changes in word order and function words to match to an exact-match keyword unless the meaning is changed. Google still prioritizes identical matching keywords, though.


Phrase-match keywords are formatted with quotes around them: “bicycle chain,” “bike chain.” With phrase match, word order matters. Google will only trigger your ad if the search query uses the same word order as the keyword. However, it will also match to queries that have other words before or after the phrase. For example, a search for “my bicycle chain broke” will trigger the phrase match keyword “bicycle chain,” but a search for “new chain for bicycle” will not.

Broad Match Modified (BMM)

This is a great match type for prospecting new keywords while maintaining some control over what queries trigger your ads. BMM allows you to signal to Google which words in a keyword phrase with modifiers really matter. You do this by adding a plus sign (+) in front of those important words. For example: gourmet +blueberry +jam.

The keywords +blueberry and +jam can match to plurals, misspellings and very similar words, but gourmet may be ignored entirely. If you removed the plus sign in front of blueberry, your ad could trigger for any flavor of jam, for example.


With BMM, there are few reasons to use broad match keywords (and notice, this is the default when you add keywords). Broad match keywords can trigger ads on search queries that Google deems relevant, even if they aren’t keywords in the ad group. This can yield some good insights and lots of data on the ways users are searching for your products or services. It can also make for some pretty wacky matching and requires you to keep a close eye on your search term reports. However, in addition to keyword research, broad match can be useful if your keywords have low search volume because the product or service serves a small audience or you’re targeting a limited geography.

How to use match types

You can use any and all of the four match types available for the same keyword, even within the same ad group. Google will show the keyword with the highest Ad Rank, so you want to structure your bids accordingly, with exact set the highest, then phrase, followed by BMM, and finally, broad.

If your budget is tight, you’ll likely want to use exact match more heavily. BMM and broad match keywords are going to trigger for more search queries, and thus spend more. So take your budget into account when considering what match types to use.


Read more of The Search Engine Land Guide to PPC: