What Phrase Match Modifier is and Why You Should Use It

If you’re using AdWords, chances are you’re familiar with keyword match types. It’s a fundamental part of AdWords targeting that helps you manage which searches can trigger your ads. But recently, there’s been a shake up going on. Advertisers have discovered a new match type that could yield greater improvements on their campaigns and it’s called phrase match modifier (PPM). It is imperative that any AdWords specialist you engage with is aware of how to best utilise the PPM match type.

Here we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about phrase match modifier and why you should consider using it.

Why match types are important

For an advertiser, choosing match types strategically is a crucial aspect of a successful AdWords campaign. Match type are parameters that can be applied on your keywords and allow you to control the relevancy of a search term to match your keyword and triggering your ad. Optimised match types have the ability to influence your:

  • Reach – You want to reach as many relevant users as you can, no matter your budget and how large your target market is.
  • Relevance – You can choose to show ads on very specific searches. This can also be applied to people who widely search for a specific topic.
  • Cost per click (CPC) – Broad match types allow you to enter auctions with relatively low competition, thus leading to lower cost per clicks.

The power of the Broad Match Modifier

While using broad match modifier can lead to a wider reach, it can be a bit difficult to control which search terms can trigger your ad. This is due to the fact that broad match includes search terms with similar words or synonyms, ultimately allowing Google more control over your ad appearance than you do.

Advertisers turn to broad match modifier to regain control over their ad appearance. This gives you more flexibility in terms of which search terms can trigger your ad. Each keyword/phrase must be included but can be set in any order along with other words if you so choose.

For example: the keyword +blue+basketball+shoes could trigger an ad appearance based on search terms such as:

  • Blue basketball shoes for sale
  • How to tie blue basketball shoes
  • Are basketball shoes available in blue?
  • Blue laces for basketball shoes

How phrase match modifier is different from broad match modifier

Phrase match modifier is an upscaled version of broad match modifier that grants advertisers more leeway in terms of reach and ad appearance. This allows you to merge phrase match with broad match modifier in a single keyword and link certain words together. It sounds confusing at first, but we’ll break it down so you can have a better understanding of how it works.

To recap, here are the current match types advertisers use:

  1. Broad match – Triggers an ad when close variants, synonyms, similar phrases, and additional words are present in the search term.
  2. Broad match modifier – Allows close variants of the search term but not synonyms. All words must be present in the search term. Additional words anywhere in the search term are allowed.
  3. Phrase match modifier –  All words must be present in the search term and should be set in order. Words can be included before or after the phrase.
  4. Exact match – Reaches uses who search for a specific keyword or close variants of it.
  5. Negative match – Ads can appear on search terms phrased another way or stops your ad from appearing based on a specific term.

How phrase match modifier works

Phrase match modifier (PMM) allows you to chain together a specific set of words inside a keyword you’re bidding on. This is done by stringing phrase match words that start with a plus symbol and separated by a period. If you’re using broad match modifier, other words can be added with a plus symbol while no symbol is required for broad match. Basically, PMM is a perfect mix of relevance and reach. This can prove quite useful when the specific order of words drastically changes its meaning.

For example, if you’re using broad match modifier for a new phone charger, you’re wasting money by showing searches from users looking for a new charger phone. The order of these words changed the intent of the search. The key takeaways are:

  • With phrase match modifier, the word order on search terms are important.
  • With broad match modifier, the word roder on search terms aren’t as important.

Finding the happy medium on PMM

If you do a lot of AdWord management, by now you’ve come across some pretty wacky search terms. You’re also aware how important it is to create negative keyword lists so that your ad appears for relevant searches. Managing spend efficiency is about making sure only the most relevant searches trigger your ad. The thing is, it can be quite challenging to strike the perfect balance when using match types. Phrase match and exact match could exclude plenty of relevant searches while broad match modifier contributes a higher level of irrelevant searches. This is where PMM comes in, a match type that blends in reach and relevance without sacrificing one over the other.

PMM gives you the freedom to string some words together and leave others free to be placed anywhere in the search term. Both broad match modifier and phrase match are powerful match types that are essential for optimising your AdWords accounts. But when used together, it transforms into a new match type that greatly benefits even the most opportunistic advertisers. If you find that the search terms triggers lots of irrelevant clicks when using broad match, then PMM could be the answer you’re looking for.


Phrase match modifier merge two match types into one adds an extra level of relevance. When used correctly, it can help improve commercial metrics like your CPA (cost per acquisition) and avoid losing potential leads or sales. Make sure to leverage the power of PPM to improve the overall performance of your AdWords accounts. It is also imperative to speak with an AdWords specialist to help guide you through the ins and outs of AdWords.

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