How Are Exact and Broad Match Searches Different?Posted: October 1, 2011
When doing keyword research on the Google Keyword Tool, you’ll see the Match Types section with Broad (pre-selected), Phrase and Exact match types which each return different results. The most common types looked at are Broad and Exact match, and I commonly see people misunderstand what the search volumes for these different match types really indicate.
What is the difference between broad match and exact match?
Exact match indicates the amount of searches on the exact keyword phrase, in exact order, not containing any other words. ’s are used to designate exact match. Car insurance exact match results would contain searches only on the exact keyword phrase car insurance.
Broad match indicates the amount of searches on keyword phrases that contain all the words of the inputted keyword phrase, in any order, with or without other words. Car insurance broad match results would contain searches on car insurance, insurance car, Nashville car insurance, buy insurance on your car, Progressive car insurance policy, and thousands if not millions of other searched phrases that include both car and insurance.
What do you learn from these different metrics?
Exact match results would indicate how commonly searched the exact phrase is, which is vitally important for keyword targeting in SEO. It’s important to make sure you target a commonly searched exact match phrase since domain name, link anchor text, header tags, site title and other things are looked at by Google in an exact match context for relevance. If Google sees the domain GoldenRetrievers.ext with site title Golden Retrievers, h1 tag Golden Retrievers and several inbound links with anchor text golden retrievers, it has plenty of evidence to suggest the site is about golden retrievers.
Broad match results would cast a wide net instead of pinpoint the inputted phrase and can give a potential indication of total search traffic in a niche or category. Insurance for instance has an exact match count of 301,000 searches per month and a broad match count of 55,600,000 searches per month. So while the ~10,000 searches per day on the exact term insurance might not seem very high considering the billions of search queries Google processes, the broad match shows there are many more searches on related terms, indicating huge overall strength of insurance as an industry/category.
Is it useful to look at both exact and broad match?
Looking at the ratio of broad match to exact match for a given keyword phrase can also yield important information – how targeted and precise the term is.
The results for insurance showing a high ratio, nearly 200:1 would indicate that most searches contain additional words, and as such it may be hard to tell what someone searching for simply “insurance” is looking for exactly. Note that a term like insurance car would similarly show a high ratio because the vast majority of searches are for the reverse order.
On the contrary, a phrase like cheap car insurance quotes is highly precise and consequently has a broad to exact ratio of only 2:1. This indicates it to be a good niche keyword and targeting it for SEO would be easier as you know that people searching for those words don’t often include additional words or search them in a different order. This makes serving up content much easier as you know what the searcher is looking for.
So which match type(s) should you look at?
If you’re looking for the amount of search traffic a particular keyword could bring, look at exact match. If you’re evaluating the strength of a more general category, industry or phrase, look at broad match. Consider looking at the ratio of broad to exact match to help determine whether the keyword would be easy or difficult to target and serve relevant content for.