June 6, 2018

Beginner Adwords: Phrase Match in Adwords

by Collin Slattery

Continuing with our Beginner Adwords series, we’re going to look at phrase match in Adwords, which is one of 4 keyword matching options available in adwords. The 4 keyword match types are: broad match, broad match modified, phrase match, and exact match. Phrase match is a powerful and popular match type, and is one of our favorite match types.

What is Phrase Match?

In adwords, phrase match keywords are displayed in quotes like “new dress shirts”. Phrase match means that your ad shows only when a user searches for a phrase that contains “new dress shirts”. A few examples include:

  • Buy new dress shirts
  • Pink new dress shirts
  • New dress shirts online
  • The absolute best new dress shirts in the world hands down no matter what

As you can see from those examples, it doesn’t matter where or how long the search query is, if it contains the phrase “new dress shirts” your ad is eligible to show. In addition to all of the examples above, there are some situations where the ad will show where the phrase isn’t exactly there. These close variants are considered to be the same by google, so a search like “buy dress shirts new” will still trigger your ad.

Phrase match "golf store" triggering search queries

So what about phrases that won’t trigger it? Here are a few:

  • Buy dress shirts
  • The best new way to wear dress shirts
  • Buy new tee shirts

The second search term above is worth noting because it does contain all three words in our example phrase. But because the query isn’t in phrase order, “way to wear” is in the middle, Google won’t show your ad.

How To Use It

Using phrase match is easy. When you are in your adwords account adding keywords to your campaign--or you want to change keywords you already have to phrase match--you simply need to put quotation marks around your keyword phrase.

phrase match keyword

A phrase match keyword in the wild!

In practice, you neither want your phrase match keyword to be too long or too short. If the phrase is too short, it will be too broad and trigger for too many things. On the flip side, if your phrase match keyword is too long, you won’t be getting any longtail traffic. Two to four words is an optimal length.

You can use phrase match keywords to replace broad or broad match modified keywords that are resulting in too much wasted budget, or as part of a Single Keyword Ad Group strategy.

Why To Use Phrase Match Keywords

So why is phrase match one of our most recommended adwords matches? Phrase match offers versatility that is not found with exact match while limiting the suboptimal queries that are triggered by broad match keywords. It gives us access to long-tail keyword phrases that we want to show for.

Great for Ads

Phrase match is great for writing ads. Query and ad copy agreement are important for both quality score and ad performance, and phrase match works wonders here. When your ad headline has “New Dress Shirts” in it and serves for a query “Buy New Dress Shirts Online” it will perform well. It also can help with setting up Dynamic Keyword Insertion.

Great for Landing Pages

The keyword consistency is equally important on your landing pages as well. By using the phrase match keyword in your heading and copy on the body of your landing pages, you are not only going to improve your quality score, but increase conversions as well.

Using Phrase Match As A Negative

Another extremely powerful use for phrase match is as negative keywords. I never recommend people use exact match when adding negative keywords, as it is too limiting, despite exact match being the default negative option.

Instead, I recommend people use phrase match and find short phrases they do not want to rank for. Phrases like “free trial” for example.

negative phrase match keyword

Phrase match doing work as negative keywords!

Taking It Further

Knowing how to use phrase match is an important skill to building a successful Adwords campaign; however, it is just one small part of a successful Adwords strategy. Use other targeting strategies to succeed!

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