Marketing Terms

Exact Match Keywords


In search advertising, a keyword matching option that lets your ad serve when someone searches for the keyword or a close variant of it.


Exact match is the most restrictive match type in search advertising. Originally, it worked exactly as the name implies, only serving an ad when a search query exactly matched the bid keyword. However, exact match has grown to encompass more variations, to the point where it might be more appropriate to call it exact-ish match.

The goal of exact match is to retain the same meaning of the keyword. According to Google’s latest documentation, exact match now includes the following variations:

  • Misspellings
  • Singular or plural forms
  • Stemmings
  • Abbreviations
  • Accents
  • Word order (Google’s doesn’t have it in their list, but elsewhere uses it as an example.)

What are examples of exact match keywords?

Below are examples for the variations Google mentions:

  • Misspellings (jewelry , jewlry)
  • Singular or plural forms (widget, widgets)
  • Stemmings (floor, flooring)
  • Abbreviations (boulevard, blvd)
  • Accents (hotel, hôtel)
  • Word order (men shoes, shoes men)

Are exact match keywords case sensitive?

No. None of the keywords in Google Ads are case sensitive.

How to create exact match keywords in Google Ads? What symbol denotes an exact match?

Exact match keywords are denoted by square brackets, i.e. [keyword] or [keyword phrase]

What are the benefits of exact match?

Exact match is most likely to retain the intent of your keyword. This becomes especially important on expensive keywords, where even a small loss of intent can mean a sharp drop in profitability.

Are there any disadvantages to exact match?

Yes. If you only use exact match keywords, you’ll have to work harder to get volume, and even then you might miss a lot of potentially profitable queries. In order to prospect for more search queries, you may need to use phrase match, broad match, or dynamic search ads.

When should I use exact match keywords?

Use exact match when looser match types do not retain sufficient intent. Brand searches are a prime example. When someone types the exact words in your brand name in a particular order, that has a different intent (and ROI) than unbranded synonyms.