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The Disintegration of Keyword Match Types in Google Ads

Match Types Once Provided Precise Control

In the early days of Google Ads, match types provided advertisers precise control over the search queries able to trigger their ads.


Exact Match

Exact match keywords only showed ads for searches containing that precise term.

Phrase Match

Phrase match requires all words in the phrase to be present without alterations.

Broad Match

The broad match allowed loose associations to the keyword.


Match Types Enabled Nuanced Account Optimisation

This enabled nuanced account structuring and optimisation. Advertisers could rely on match types to restrict searches for higher-cost or higher-priority ad groups. At the same time, granular match-type segmentation was a core strategy for managing spend and exposure.


The Broadening of Match Type Definitions

However, driven by a desire to display ads on the maximum number of queries, Google has aggressively widened the scope of all match types over the years. An exact match term today routinely triggers ads for a far broader range of searches compared to the past.


The New Reality of Match Types

Every day that I check search terms, I'm noticing that exact match operates more like the old phrase match, and phrase match functions as the past broad match. Single keywords now often match hundreds of thousands of unique queries spanning loose associations and alterations to the term.


Advertisers' Control Has Been Diminished

This complete upending of match types significantly diminishes an advertiser's control over the searches that trigger their ads. The original intent behind the match types has been lost. Everything blends into one giant broad match pool.


The Increased Workload Created

Users must now dedicate substantial time to adding negative keywords to restrict irrelevant traffic and prevent budget waste. This reactive approach creates overhead and distracts from proactive optimisation. Like many advertisers, I've simplified my account structure to campaigns for broad vs. phrase/exact match.


Match Types Have Lost Their Distinction

In essence, the clear differentiation between match types that once existed has disintegrated. Advertisers are left with muddled variations of broad match, removing what was once a critical lever for controlling ad exposure and spending.


The steady destruction of match types has been disempowering for many advertisers. But understanding the new fuzzy reality of match types is key to navigating Google Ads effectively. Accepting this paradigm shift enables gaining back some control through diligent ongoing refinement.

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