Creating a paid ad campaign in Google Ads can be a pretty daunting task. There are so many variables and statistics to familiarize yourself with —  and on top of that, building out an effective keyword list that generates positive ROI requires a lot of time and effort. Thinking of which keywords to bid on for your site can be especially daunting, because it is not only a practice in understanding what you sell, but also how your customers search for it. That, in turn, impacts how Google and other search engines assign value and relevance to your site. So really you’re not just required to be an expert in your field, but an expert in human behavior and machine learning as well. That’s scary! Luckily, there are lots of tools and resources out there to help you.  

In order to build that great keyword list, we should probably take a step back and look at the bigger picture first. What exactly is a keyword, and how does it work?  

What are Keyword Match Types?

Keyword match types are defined as parameters that can be set for your keywords that help you control which search terms trigger your ads to appear. There are four different keyword match types, each designated with different special characters to call out which type you’d like to use. Proper understanding and utilization empowers advertisers to take charge and control the type of traffic that comes to their site. We’ll breeze through each type here to give you a general understanding of how they work.

Broad Match 

Broad match is the default keyword match type, and is thus considered the most vague and far-reaching. This keyword match type will include variations and misspellings of your keyword, as well as singular and plural variants and words appearing in any order.

Let’s go through a little exercise to better understand exactly how broad match keywords work. Let’s say you are an apparel store and you want to create a campaign that really pushes your selection of running shoes. When creating your campaign, you try to target as many search terms that relate to running shoes as possible. 

Keyword Match Type Search Queries

Running shoes Broad Nike running shoes

red running shoes

shoes for running

Generally speaking, broad match keywords are statistically less relevant than other match types and can trigger your ads often, resulting in a spike in spending with possibly less in return. For these reasons, broad match is most used when you want to cast as wide a net as possible and are not as concerned with keyword relevance or your advertising budget. However, utilizing a few broad match keywords can help you gather data for making important decisions or adding new keywords later, so they do have their place. 

To add a broad match keyword to your campaign, simply add the keyword to your keyword list without any special added characters and it will automatically default to broad match. 

Broad Match Modified

Broad match modified keywords allow you to specifically designate words that are essential and must appear in a user’s search query. By putting a ‘+’ sign in front of these important words, you will guarantee that your ads show only when the specific word appears in a search. This can go a long way in reducing any irrelevant or unwanted traffic to your site. With our shoe store example, with broad match keywords our ads could potentially show up in searches for leather shoes or dress shoes, when we really want to only show up for people interested in buying running shoes. 

Keyword Match Type Search Queries

Nike +running +shoes Broad Modified shoes for running

+running +shoes +sale Broad Modified running shoes on sale

Phrase Match

Phrase match keywords are (as the name implies) used to target specific phrases in a search query. Where phrase match differs from broad and broad modified match types, the ordering of words is taken into account with phrase match, meaning advertisers will have to have a good idea of what types of phrases users search for to find their products. Phrase match will also take into account common misspellings and plural or singular versions of the phrase, or any words appended before or after the phrase. In part due to the level of specificity phrase match keywords offer, they often lead to much more relevant searches and are more likely to result in higher click-though and conversion rates. To denote a specific term as phrase match, wrap the applicable words in quotation marks (“). 

Keyword Match Type Search Queries

“running shoes” Phrase nike running shoes

“running shoes” Phrase running shoes size 10

Exact Match

As you can probably guess, this match type is best used when you want a specific keyword or phrase targeted exactly. This match type provides the most precise data and should be used when you know exactly the term you want your ads to show for. When adding exact match keywords, add brackets ([ ]) around the phrase.

Keyword Match Type Search Queries

[Nike running shoes] Exact Nike running shoes

[running shoes] Exact running shoes

[running shoes size 10] Exact running shoes size 10

Tools You Can Use

So now that we have a firm understanding of what keyword match types are available, we still need to figure out exactly which keywords to use for your campaign. This can seem pretty daunting, especially if you’re just relying on your own brain to come up with the possible hundred or thousands of keywords you could be using across all campaigns. Fortunately, there are a few great tools out there that can help! 

Google Ads 

Google Ads has a great and easy to use keyword planner tool that will help you build out your campaigns, right there in the Google Ads interface. Best of all, stats like competition and target bidding prices are listed, so you can get a good idea of what it takes to be competitive. To use the tool, simply type in a word or phrase that’s related to what you’re selling – keeping with our example store, we’ve put in the phrase “running shoes”, which you can see below. Google automatically offers ideas for refining your term, here offering ideas such as adding words like “sports shoes”, “trail running”, and “athletic shoes”, among others. Below that is a breakdown of not only the term you typed in, but several other related terms along with stats on average monthly searches and how competitive the term is (how many other sites are also bidding on the keyword). It’s often a great idea to type in a relatively common, broad term like “running shoes”, and to then look and see if you can find any related keywords that are less common and have a lower target bid. Try to have a good mix of high, medium, and low competition keywords. As your campaign runs and you collect data, look at how these different keywords are spending and return metrics – you could stumble upon a diamond in the rough with a keyword that is not super competitive that yields a nice number of conversions.


UberSuggest works much in the same way as the Google Ads Keyword Planner Tool. Simply type in a search term and UberSuggest will spit out a nice long list of similar words and phrases, complete with a few competitive metrics. You will have to create an account in order to take full advantage of UberSuggest, but creating an account is 100% free. 

While UberSuggest functions extremely similarly to the Google Ads Keyword Planner, the information and suggested terms it provides will differ. Diversifying and cross-referencing your keyword tools in this way puts you in an advantageous spot and can give you a larger list of great performing keywords, as each resource will offer slightly different insight. Think of it as asking a second friend for advice! Two heads are always better than one, after all.


SpyFu is a competitive keyword research tool that, among other things, lets you view information related to your competitors and their marketing campaigns. Unlike UberSuggest and the Keyword Planner tool in Google Ads, SpyFu is not a free service. However, the information it provides can be extremely beneficial in building out your campaign strategy. If you type in the name of a competitor (here, we went with, SpyFu gives an estimate of the number of keywords, clicks, and monthly budget for that site. You can even download keyword lists that they’re using – along with cost and search information – into a .csv file for your own research. Finding specific areas where your campaign overlaps with a major competitor can be a huge boon, seeing areas where they’re able to outspend you, or possibly another area they may have overlooked and you can plant your flag on some quality keywords. By typing in your own site into the search bar, you can also see which sites most overlap with yours, thus possibly identifying a competitor you hadn’t heard of before and see how they’re doing as well. 

Use What You Have

Finally, don’t be afraid to use some more rudimentary tools at your disposal! Doing your own searches in Google can be a surprisingly great way to get ideas for new keywords. Search for keywords related to your business and see what kind of ads show up. The headlines and descriptions of these ads can be used for other keywords. Additionally, it’s a good idea to mirror the language you use in your product titles and descriptions and other pages of your site, so don’t be afraid to use your own pages as a keyword mining factory!