What is the difference between Keyword and Search Term?

Keyword are words or phrases that advertisers add to their ads which helps to show the ads to the right target audience.

Search Term (or search queries) are what users type into Google to find information.

Users searches for information in different ways. Keywords help advertisers convey to Google the idea of what they want to advertise for. When you specify a keyword, Google displays your ad for search queries that match the keyword.

For example, specifying the keyword Indoor painting service, can help advertise on the following search terms:

  • indoor painting companies near me
  • How to paint walls
  • Common house painting problems
  • How much does a bucket of wall paint cost?
  • Instructions on how to paint house walls
  • indoor wall paint colors that pop

If you were advertising for your indoor painting service, these search terms may be covering a broad set of keywords. You might not want to be advertising on instructions for indoor painting if you are providing indoor painting services. Because the search term indicates they are coming from users who want to DIY their painting. Keyword research can help explore search terms, but advertisers cannot possibly guess every search term that users search for and use them on your campaigns.

This is where keyword match types come in. Keyword match types help broaden or narrow the search term combinations that your campaign’s ads are served for. This directly impacts the reach of the campaign. Let us see how different match types can help with this.

Exact match

Exact match displays your ads when users enter search terms that have the same meaning or intent as the keyword. Due to the nature of Exact match, it will cover fewer search terms, and that impacts the maximum impressions that your ads be shown for.

On the bright side, if you have spent some time on keyword research, you know what search terms you want to target. This is the best match type to maintain a fairly tight control over the search terms for your ads.

For example, specifying the keyword indoor painting service can help advertise the following search terms:

Phrase match

With phrase match, your ad can show when users use search terms that include the meaning of your keyword.

For example with the same keyword indoor painting service as above, search terms can be:

Phrase match is useful when you want to explore keywords and audiences beyond the initial set of keywords you have. Given that this match type gives the ad platform a certain degree of freedom to show ads on new search terms, we recommend reviewing the Search Terms Report. Review it at regular intervals to identify search terms that matter (or not).

If you come across search terms that matter, you would add them as keywords. Else you could consider adding those irrelevant search terms to your negative keyword list. We have a detailed guide to help you link to search terms report article

Broad match

Broad match keyword will your ads for search terms that are related to the keyword, but do not include the direct meaning of the keyword. This seems less useful at first, but in certain scenarios, this is a very powerful tool.

For example with the same keyword indoor painting service as above, search terms can be:

Situations when Broad Match can help

Broad match helps if you intend to cast a wide net. Valid reasons for using broad match could be the following:

  • The campaigns are for a brand with a large budget.
  • The business has a large set of products, services, and physical stores to manage advertising campaigns for.

In these scenarios, underspending is a bigger problem for the PPC manager than a small number of irrelevant search terms that could creep in. The business needs as many meaningful impressions as they can get for the budget.

The above scenarios are rarely the care for most of us advertisers, and that is where the other keyword match types can help.

What is the right match type to use?

If you are starting with your first search campaign, then start with exact match. This will help keep you experiment with search campaigns on a tight budget.

When you have run your campaigns with satisfying results for a month or two, consider spending some more time on keyword research to help you explore your keyword list. Phrase match can help with this exploration.

While doing these experiments, ensure to review the search terms report at regular intervals. We have a nifty guide about the Search Terms Report for you.