Google Ads Keyword Matchtypes: Why Separating Your Keywords by Match Type is a Bad Idea

google ads keyword matchtypes

We review a lot of PPC accounts, and we recently had to audit seven accounts for a large organization. Every one of them had an account structure that separates keywords by match type, and we have to say, this way of organizing drives us nuts; here we’ll detail why organizing that way is a bad idea.

Why This Approach Sprang Up Early On

Early in the SEM industry, the implementation of Google Ads had a massive influence on how people organized their keywords and campaigns. Keywords had match types – [exact], “phrase”, and broad; it was an interesting concept. The industry enjoyed thinking about how to leverage keyword match types properly.

Google Ad’s auction-like mechanism was a fascinating aspect of this new field, and people obsessed about how to set bids properly. Keyword match types played into this and a method of organizing campaigns by isolating your keywords by match type evolved. This method allowed you to easily bid differently for each match type and write different ads for them. Early on in the industry, vendors hawked “bid optimization engines” and it seemed to many that getting the human out of the bidding process was the biggest problem to solve.

The Keyword Match Type Approach

The combination of the fascination with keyword match types plus the obsession with bid optimization resulted in people creating ad group or campaign-level negatives to “force” traffic from one campaign to another. For instance, when bidding on phrase match on “squeaky floor”, you might negative out [squeaky floor] to force that traffic over to another campaign that handles the exact match version of that term. It’s some pretty funky complexity that feels kind of cool to implement, and account managers often enjoyed explaining this approach to others. To ensure Google will send the exact match traffic it is typical to bid higher on that version of the keyword rather than the broad match version. This ensures the perfect ad will be shown to the traffic causing your ad Quality Score to go up.

Overall, the scheme sounds attractive and presents well. It makes the presenter sound intelligent and leaves the audience in awe at the possibilities. But, while this scheme looks and sounds great, in practice, it may not always yield the results you want.

Why Separating Your Match Types is a Really Bad Idea In Reality

This approach assumes that there are large gains to be made by separating your keyword match types. It promotes keyword match type management to one of the most important items that should drive your account structure. We vehemently disagree with this. This method requires that you keep track of negatives all over the place, worry if you’re bidding correctly against not only your competitors but also yourself.  It adds a layer of complexity that is not necessary.

This approach also assumes bidding control and creative optimization are some of the most critical issues facing account managers. Again, we disagree vehemently. After examining numerous accounts, we can tell you from experience that the biggest problem in most accounts is not inefficiently set bids or bad creative. The biggest problem in most accounts is that they’re not showing for the right queries. The bid and creative don’t matter if you’re bringing in the wrong traffic.

The Only Two Things That Should Drive Your Account Structure

In our opinion, the only two things that should drive your account structure are budget control and audience intent, not by keyword match type.

Budget Control

Google Ads is organized by campaigns, and within each campaign is typically a different marketing effort. For example, one campaign may focus on remarketing, and one might be promoting Spring 2019 products, etc. For each campaign, a budget must be set at the campaign level. Paying attention to this set number for each campaign and taking into consideration that Google may spend up to two times your average daily budget is critical. We recommend organizing your campaigns based on your budget; this will ensure budget control and account structure.

Audience Intent

Some keywords vary by purchase intent types. There are high, medium and low purchase intents. To correctly budget for these, you should have them organized into separate campaigns. When they’re organized this way, you can perform attribution analysis on them. We recommend doing this in Google Analytics because the attribution analysis available in Google Ads does not give insights into other channels such as organic or email. In Google Analytics, you can examine campaigns or individual keywords and see how many assists it has garnered. This can be very helpful in setting bids and budgeting. Segregating keywords by intent essentially establishes a “funnel” approach; often, we use the scheme outlined in this Search Engine Land article

Google Ads Keyword Match TypesFig 1 – Campaign Organization by Audience Intent

If you organize the keywords well, you’ll notice that CPCs tend to be higher towards the bottom of the funnel and lower at the top. If a keyword doesn’t match that pattern, that can be a good signal that you’ve categorized it wrong.

With this strategy implemented if your boss asks you to cut the budget by two-thirds for this month, you can simply turn off all the upper funnel campaigns and still get the lion’s share of conversions to come through. You can see where this method of account organization makes it very easy to figure out where to take away, and where to add as budget grows or shrinks.


1.Use the funnel approach or organizing your keywords, either one similar to what we’ve outlined above or something like it with three steps.

2. Over time, break out your top 20 or 40 search queries as exact match ad groups and stick them all in one campaign. Give this campaign a name like “core” or “performers” and then make sure it doesn’t run out of budget

Setting a campaign up this way can make sure the keywords have hyper-optimized ads. With this in place, you can do a lot of testing to drive CTR up and see high-quality scores.

While the incremental gains from moving further down the “long tail” keyword curve will peter out pretty quickly, you’ll do just fine with the top 20 or 40 terms. Let competitor do the next 200 or 400 terms and spend their time on those ads for a small incremental improvement. Meanwhile, you will put all your eggs in a smaller basket and then carefully watch that basket. Put your attention and effort into those top terms, and you’ll get more of a payoff than the effort to develop the rest of the tail.

If you want, you can go back and add the top exact match keywords as negatives in all the other campaigns. In theory, this will force the traffic over to them and allow you to bid differentially on them, but we recommend using a shared list for that. Then the next PPC to take your place will be able to figure out what you did.