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This question is asked a lot within the SEO industry about the different match types on Google’s keyword tool. Whilst this is a very basic piece of SEO knowledge, it is worth covering for the benefit of any beginners. I’m sure everyone has come across this tool before which shows you how popular different search terms are, as shown in the image below.



When researching the popularity of different keywords you will notice different search volumes when selecting either ‘Broad’, ‘Exact‘ or ‘Phrase’ match types on the left hand side of the tool. Each of these different match types will generally show you totally different results in terms of how popular those keywords are.



So which one do you trust? Well for SEO, it is always best to use the ‘Exact Match’ search volume as the more realistic figure of the potential. It is important to know that you will never receive all of the traffic even when ranking number one for that keyword, so use this data as more of a guide. Below I will run through what the different match types mean so you can see why it is best to use only the Exact match estimate.


What is Broad Match Keyword

Broad match keyword is showing you all of the people who have broadly searched for something remotely related to your keyword. The order of the different words in this scenario does not make any difference. So in the example above, “London Hotels” and “Hotels in London” would be grouped together under the broad match type for both of these queries as you can see in the image below



Google’s official description of the broad match keyword is;

“The sum of the search volumes for the keyword idea, related grammatical forms, synonyms and related words” 


What is Exact Match Keyword

Exact match keyword is showing you people who only search for that specific keyword, so someone searching for “London Hotels” and another person searching for “Hotels in London” would show up in either one of those buckets when choosing data for exact match types.

The reason why this is the best guide to go off and is the best option to decide how to tweak your on-page optimisation is that you can see exactly how people are searching for different keywords and optimise accordingly. For example, in the screenshot below you can see that people search more for “Bangkok Hotels” than they do for “Hotels in Bangkok”, so if you were optimising a site for this content then you would choose to target “Bangkok Hotels” as the main phrase.



Google’s official description of the exact match keyword is;

“The search volume for that keyword idea” 


What is Phrase Match Keyword

Phrase match keyword is somewhere in between the two mentioned above. So where the broad match type was extremely flexible about what it would accept to be classified under ‘broad’, well ‘phrase’ match type is a little more choosy about what it will allow into the ‘phrase match type’ bucket.

When matching keywords on the phrase, the order of the keywords is important. So phrase match type has to include all of the keywords within your query within the exact order.

It is a little difficult to get a good example using the Google keyword tool, but luckily Google provide a nice example on the AdWords guides. As you can see below, the phrase match type includes still includes a lot of keyword variations within the traffic estimate which is shown within the tool. So best not to take much notice of this when using the tool for SEO purposes.



Google’s official description of the phrase match keyword is;

“The sum of the search volumes for all terms that include that whole phrase”



Hope that helps explain the different match types within Google’s keyword tool and why you should only really bother with the exact match type when using this tool for SEO.

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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael has been running Contrado Digital for over 10 years and has over 15 years experience working across the full range of disciplines including IT, Tech, Software Development, Digital Marketing, Analytics, SaaS, Startups, Organisational and Systems Thinking, DevOps, Project Management, Multi-Cloud, Digital and Technology Innovation and always with a business and commercial focus. He has a wealth of experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, across a wide range of specialisms, helping them achieve awesome results. Digital transformation, performance and collaboration are at the heart of everything Michael does.