How to choose keywords to buy with Google Ads

Do you want to know how to choose the keywords to buy with Google Ads for an efficient and waste-free advertising campaign? Read this guide and by the end you will have a clearer idea of ​​the best choices to make in order not to waste your precious media budget .


  • Introduction
  • Broad match keywords
  • Modified broad match keywords
  • Phrase match keywords
  • Exact match keywords
  • Negative keywords
  • Generic reverse match
  • Reverse phrase match
  • Reverse exact match
  • Tips for choosing keywords
  • Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
  • Use specific keywords to reach specific customers
  • Use broad keywords to reach more users
  • Group similar keywords into ad groups
  • Use the right number of keywords
  • Also use related keywords in the display network for websites and apps
  • Conclusions

First of all, it is important to explain the concept of matching that is used in Google Ads. Keyword match types allow you to control the searches that trigger your ad serving. For example, you might use broad match to present your ad to a large audience or exact match to reach specific customer groups.

As a general rule, the more generic the keyword match option is, the more traffic it will generate. Instead, the more specific the keyword match option is, the more relevant it will be to a user’s search. Understanding the difference between a volume-based and a relevance-based campaign can help you choose the most appropriate options to maximize the return on your Pay Per Click investment.

To choose the right match type for a keyword, it’s generally a good idea to start with broad match which maximizes your ad serving potential for broadly related searches. You can also use the search terms reports to track which keyword variations triggered your ads and especially with what result.

The search terms report, available on the Google Ads keywords screen, is a list of the search terms that users typed before viewing and clicking the ad. Based on your keyword match options, your search term list may show different terms than the keywords you are purchasing.

Use this report to refine your keywords so that your ad is only shown for relevant searches. Broad match keywords are triggered by many related terms, due to the associations that Google Ads links with search intents . Some keywords shown in this report can be very relevant and interesting and you could put them on your list, while others will not be relevant and will be excluded with negative matches.

With Google Ads, you can work with 5 types of keyword matches: broad , modified broad , phrase , exact and reverse . Let’s see the differences.

Broad match keywords

Buying broad match keywords causes your ad to appear when someone searches for that keyword or a variation of it . The broad match keyword “table lamps” is triggered when someone searches for similar variations such as “table lamp”, “buy a table lamp” and “cheap table lamp reviews”. The associations made by Google Ads on broad match keywords are very broad, generate a lot of traffic but of not always optimal quality.

Broad match causes a keyword to trigger your ad to appear whenever someone searches for that phrase, similar phrases, singular or plural forms, misspelled words, synonyms, similar root words (e.g. floor and pavement), related searches and other relevant variations.

For example, if you add “windows” as a broad match keyword, you are telling Google Ads to try to run your ad for searches that contain that term or a similar term. Your ad may appear for searches that contain the terms “window” and “frame”. Broad match keywords help you reach the widest audience possible.

Broad match is one of five keyword match options that allow you to determine how well a keyword matches the search term the user is using. Of all the options, broad match is the one that will associate the term you want to purchase with the greatest number of variants. This means that the generic keyword generates more traffic than other matches, but it is often less specific and targeted traffic.

You can choose one or more match options for a keyword; broad match will be used by default if you don’t specify a particular match option.

Broad match is generally suitable for newly launched campaigns , when you want to build a database of specific keywords and find out what terms the user types into Google to find your products or services.

Modified broad match keywords

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Modified broad match modifiers allow you to target searches that include at least one of your keywords . This can help increase the relevance of traffic to your ads and therefore improve your click-through rate (CTR) , Quality Score and conversion rates.

Broad match modifiers ensure that ads are shown only when a user’s search matches your keyword exactly or is a very similar variation of it. Similar variants include:

  • spelling errors
  • singular and plural forms
  • abbreviations
  • acronyms
  • words with the same root

Synonyms (such as “fast” and “quick”) and related searches (such as “phones” and “smartphones”) are not always considered to be similar variants from the modified broad match.

Modifiers make broad match keywords more specific and therefore limit their reach. As a result, while using a broad match modifier can increase keyword relevance and improve visitor quality, it can reduce campaign traffic at the same time.

Phrase match keywords

With phrase match, you can show your ad to customers who search for your exact keyword and similar variations of your exact keyword with additional words before or after .

Phrase match is more targeted than the default broad match, but slightly more flexible than exact match (which we’ll see in a moment). This match gives you more control over which associations Google Ads can link to your keyword.

With phrase match, your ad appears when users search for the exact phrase, even if it is preceded or followed by one or more words. Google Ads will also show your ad when someone searches for similar variations of the Phrase Match keyword. Similar variants include:

  • spelling errors
  • forms in the plural and in the singular
  • acronyms
  • variants derived from the same root
  • abbreviations
  • accents

Word order is important in phrase matching as your ad will not show if an additional word is entered in the middle of your keyword or if they are searched in reverse order.

Phrase match is more flexible than exact match and is more targeted than the default broad match option, it comes in the middle. With phrase matching, you can achieve good volumes while maintaining good relevance.

Exact match keywords

With exact match, you can show your ad to customers who use your exact keyword or similar variations in their search .

Similar variants can include:

  • Ortographic errors
  • Forms in the plural and singular
  • Forms derived from the same root
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents
  • Words with identical meanings but with different sequential order, for example and
  • Presence or absence of functional words, such as prepositions (such as in or from), conjunctions (such as and or but), articles (such as a or the) and other words that do not affect the purpose of the search. For exampleit is a similar variant of where the functional word “from” has been removed.

Exact match allows you to have maximum control over who will see your ad and generally gets low traffic but high clickthrough rate (CTR).

When using exact match, you may not get many impressions or clicks, but you likely get an important CTR. This is because ads can be shown to people who use terms in searches that are almost exactly related to your product or service.

Negative keywords
Negative keywords allow you to exclude search terms from campaigns and focus only on keywords that are most meaningful to customers.

With more precise targeting, you have the ability to show your ad to interested users and increase your return on investment (ROI). With negative matching you basically avoid spending money on words that have nothing to do with your intent. For example, the broad match word “reed” can be activated by “fishing rod” and “water reed”, with the inverse we exclude words that we do not want.

One of the secrets to running a highly targeted campaign is determining what not to target . When selecting negative keywords for Search Network campaigns, look for search terms that are similar to your keywords, but that may meet the needs of users looking for a different product.

Suppose you are a hotelier with a hotel in Bellagio on Lake Como. You may find it helpful to add a negative keyword”las vegas”

If you’re using display or video campaigns, negative keywords help you avoid showing your ads on unrelated sites or videos. Negative keywords work differently in display and video campaigns than they do in the search network. Depending on the other keywords or targeting methods in your ad group, your ad may sometimes appear on sites or videos that contain the excluded terms.

You can add up to 5,000 negative keywords in display and video campaigns. To avoid running ads on unrelated sites or videos, you can use the site category options and content exclusions. In any case, negative keywords are always considered broad match in display and video campaigns.

For Search Network campaigns, you can use broad, exact, or phrase negative keywords . However, these negative match types work differently than they do with positive keywords. The main difference is that, to exclude them, you have to add any synonyms, singular and plural versions, misspellings and other similar variants (which Google Ads instead associates in generics, the sly …).

Generic reverse match

This type is the default for negative keywords. For negative broad match keywords, your ad won’t show if the search contains all the terms in the negative keyword, even if the terms are in a different order. Your ad can still run if the search contains only certain terms of the keyword.

Reverse phrase match

For negative phrase match keywords, your ad won’t show if the search contains the exact terms of the keyword in the same order. The search may include additional words, but the ad won’t serve as long as all the terms in the keyword are included in the search in the same order.

Reverse exact match

For negative exact match keywords, your ad won’t show if the search contains the exact terms of the keyword in the same order, with no additional words. Your ad can still run if the search contains the keyword terms with other words.

Choose your negative keywords very carefully. If you use too many negative keywords, your ads may get low visibility.

Tips for choosing keywords

Selecting the right keywords for your campaign can help you show ads to the right customers, to those who are actually looking for what you have to offer, thus avoiding clicks and wasted money. Ideal keywords should match the terms your prospects would type in Google to search for the products or services you offer.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

Define the main categories of your business and the terms or phrases that might fit into each of these categories. Include terms or phrases your customers would use to describe your products or services.

Use the Search Query report in Google Search Console for ideas on suitable terms for your pages. If you are selling shirts, you may want to start with some basic categories that customers might use, such as “men’s sports shirts” and “botton down shirts”. You could also add “men’s casual shirt” and “men’s short sleeve shirt” if you find these terms are commonly used for your products. Expand your list further by including the names of your brands and products. You may also be interested in the guide to generating an effective keyword list .

Use specific keywords to reach specific customers

Is your goal to maximize the yield of the media budget? If you want to reach customers who may be very interested in a particular product, select very specific keywords directly related to the theme of your ad and landing page. The use of more specific keywords, also known as long tail keywords, ensures that your ad is only published in relation to terms that are closely related to your business. Remember that if your keywords are too specific, you may not reach as many users as you want. If you sell men’s sports caps, you may want to choose specific keywords such as “basketball cap”, “Lakers cap”, “Chicago Bulls cap”. In this way, for example, your ad could be published when a user searches for exactly this type of hat on Google (search network) or when they visit a site dedicated to basketball (display network).

Use broad keywords to reach more users

Is your goal to generate traffic volumes regardless of quality? To reach as many users as possible, select more general keywords. Keep in mind that adding very broad keywords may make it difficult to reach potential customers, as your ad may run for searches not strictly related to your business. Additionally, more general keywords can be more competitive and require higher bids .

Try experimenting with generic keywords to find the most effective ones. Regardless of the level of generality, keywords should always be relevant to your ads and website .

Avoid using duplicate keywords in your account as Google only shows one ad per advertiser for a given keyword.

Group similar keywords into ad groups

To show more relevant ads to potential customers, group keywords and ads into ad groupsbased on products, services or other well-defined categories. On the other hand, if you add all of your keywords and ads to just one ad group, a customer looking for “running shoes” can see your basketball shoe ad. If you’re a shoe store owner, you might create two ad groups, one for running shoes and one for basketball shoes. The ad group for running shoes may include keywords such as “running shoes” and “running shoes”. The basketball shoe ad group may include keywords such as “basketball shoes” and “high sneakers”. This way, your ad is shown to potentially more interested customers.

Use the right number of keywords

I recommend that you use between 5 and 20 keywords for each ad group, although in fact, you can enter a lot more keywords per ad group. Keep in mind that each ad group must contain keywords that are closely and directly related to the theme of the group and the landing page.

Keywords associated by Google Ads with yours will automatically include variations, such as possible misspellings or plural versions. Therefore it is not necessary to add them. If your ad group contains the broad match keyword “running shoes”, your ad may be seen by people searching using that keyword or any variations, such as “buy running shoes”.

Also use related keywords in the display network for websites and apps

On the Display Network, keywords allow you to serve ads on relevant websites or apps. Choose keywords related to what you want to promote.

PS: All keywords used for Display Network campaigns are considered broad match .

To optimize keywords, you can exclude certain keywords from ad groups targeting the Display Network. Let’s say you have created a keyword list that includes terms related to ping pong rackets. Ping pong websites will be targeted by the keywords in your list. You may also want to exclude the terms “tennis” and “trekking” to prevent your ads from appearing on websites dedicated to other sports that use rackets.


The choice of keywords depends a lot on the phase your campaign is going through:

  • new campaign:choose specific terms for your business, do not be too generic so as not to raise the dispersion of spending too much. Use broad match so you can archive a list of related terms that you can analyze and possibly implement in the future. Don’t overdo the number of keywords you buy and organize them well into strictly thematic ad groups;
  • campaign that is at least 6 months old:Use the search terms report to evaluate which terms to add to the phrase match list and which to negatively match. Start using sentence matching on terms that have converted the most and have good CTR;
  • campaign with at least one year of life:remove the terms that have spent more than your CTA and that have not converted, start using the exact match on the most effective keywords.

As you can see it is not easy to manage Google Ads, each option has its pros and cons. Remember that the goal is always to improve the quality score so always use keywords that are as relevant as possible with your ads and with your landing pages

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