The blog graphic for 'What Is An Infographic'

The Four Types Of Keywords For Paid Search

Ray St. Amand - Director of Search Marketing

Written by: Ray St. Amand

Category: Search Engine Marketing


Whether you are new to digital marketing, own your own business, or are a seasoned SEM pro, it’s important to grasp all of the different types of keywords (and knowing what area of digital marketing do they live). Generally speaking, Pay-per-click (PPC) keywords are different than keywords you are targeting in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns. You have more control over your keywords with Paid Search ads while with SEO you have to continuously optimize, monitor, and update content to show up for the right searches (among other things).

Pay-Per-Click & Paid Search Keywords

The key to successfully nailing paid search is understanding the 4 types of keywords. Bidding on the right keywords will allow you to pop up in the search queries your target audience is using. Google and PPC professionals utilize three (previously four) different types of keywords to target when it comes to Paid Search. Another super important keyword to fully understand is the negative keyword. 

Negative Keywords (ones you select NOT to target)

To start off, it’s important to understand what searches you don’t want your ads showing up for. If you are a wedding venue in the middle of the woods and someone searches “waterfront wedding venue” and your ad pops up and gets clicked, the user will quickly realize that your venue is not on the water but surrounded by trees and nature and bounce from your site.

If you add “waterfront” as a negative keyword, your ads won’t show up for that search. You also may add in your competitors as a negative keyword if that is not your intention. I like to check search terms 2-3 times a week to ensure our keywords are triggering the right searches. Keep a running negative keyword list to reuse in other campaigns such as locations your business does not serve, negative terms (like worst or terrible) and so forth.

Broad Keywords

Broad keywords are considered by many as the default keyword type. There is no punctuation surrounding the keywords when you plug it in to a campaign. Google & Bing tend to push the use of broad keywords in combination with their “smart bidding” campaigns and AI so that they can identify a users intent and show your ads to the right audience. In most cases, broad keywords will give you the widest reach and tend to have a lower average cost-per-click but also may be irrelevant to your business. They will match to search queries that have misspellings, synonyms, related searches, words out of order, and anything else that Google’s AI deems relevant. You want to be careful with broad keywords, though. While they can help you receive a lot of clicks, you want to make sure you’re not getting irrelevant clicks. Always monitor your campaigns, and make a list of negative keywords as you go along.

Phrase Match Keywords

Phrase match keywords are keywords that are put in quotations. For a search query to match a phrase keyword, it must contain all the words, or at least close variants, in the same order without any words in between, with additional words before or after. Close variants include misspellings, singular and plural words, acronyms, abbreviations, and accents. These are my favorite keywords to target because you can target long-tail keywords that show higher commercial intent and that user is closer to a purchasing decision. 

Exact Match Keywords

Exact match keywords have the lowest reach, but the highest relevance. Exact match keywords are put into brackets and only searches that match the keywords exactly will pop up. These types of keywords tend to have a higher average cost-per-click but can also be much more rewarding with conversions. 

Broad Match Modified (No Longer In Use)

Broad match modifier are keywords that have a ‘+’ in front of the keyword. Important to note – you don’t have to put a ‘+’ in front of every word in the query, and the order of the words does not matter. Broad match are right in the middle when it comes to the four types of keywords and can perform pretty strongly. Through the plus sign, you can have better control of where your ads pop up by locking individual words.

Need help choosing keywords for your paid search work? Sperling Interactive would love you to identify the right keywords for your organization.

Contact Us

What can Sperling Interactive help you with?