A Brief Explanation of Exact vs. Phrase vs. Broad Keywords

by | Aug 16, 2020 | Marketing

It’s asked a lot what the differences are in keywords whether it’s an SEO campaign or a PPC campaign. As most marketers know, the keywords are available in different matchtypes:

Exact Match

These are the keywords a user is searching in Google in the exact terminology and order. For instance, if you were looking for the best price for a new digital camera, you would search “digital camera best price”. As an advertiser, we would set up an exact-match keyword for [digital camera best price] to serve an ad for this specific keyword. It would be set up with [ keyword ] to indicate to Google that we don’t want to match to other types of keywords.

Phrase Match

Now let’s say you’re looking for a Sarasota real estate group but you might be searching this phrase with an additional keyword like “best Sarasta real estate group in Florida”. As an advertiser, we would set up the keyword as phrase-match so Google would know to serve an ad for the exact search you have along with any additional keywords you may add.

Broad Match

Lastly, as you guessed, is broad-match. As its name says, these keywords are very broad. If we look at a keyword like hamstring stretch device, a broad-match setup would allow Google to serve an ad for “hamstring”, “stretch” or “device”. As you can imagine, this means you would be casting a wider net for traffic and it wouldn’t always be relevant.

A trick we like to use with broad-match campaigns is using a + with the keywords to then convert them to broad-match modified – this is a technique that instructs Google to serve an ad for broad keywords, but all keywords must be used. Additionally, broad-match modified keywords allow you to cast your net for people searching keywords out of order. As another example, let’s say you were looking for a bookkeeping company in Sacramento. A broad-match modified keyword could be set up for “Sacramento bookkeeping” and would allow Google to serve an ad for “sacramento bookkeeping”, “bookkeeping sacramento”, “best bookkeeping in sacramento california”, “sacramento company that does bookkeeping near me”, etc. As you can see, this casts a wider net for traffic, but it’s still safeguarded by your main keyword target.

SEO Considerations

When discussing SEO, we most often refer to exact-match keywords. We assess the volume for an exact keyword and identify that as the target. We look to phrase-match keywords (usually from SEMRush) for research purposes and to understand the intent of what people are searching, but report on the exact-match keywords.


If you’re wondering how your PPC campaigns are set up, I would be happy to take a look and see where you might be wasting ad spend on overly broad keywords. Please reach out or email hello@octivdigital.com.

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