Exact, Phrase and Broad Keyword Match Types for Keyword Research

When using tools for keyword research, it’s important to remember the differences between the keyword match types of Exact Match, Phrase Match and Broad Match, when determining search volumes and competition levels.

When you use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, or the excellent Market Samurai keyword research product, you can get an indication of monthly or daily search volumes for a keyword term based on the three keyword match types as follows:


Keyword Match Types

Broad Match – indicates the number of searches made where all the words in the keyword term are present in the search query. They can be in any order, and may have any other words included.

For example: The number of broad match searches shown for ‘keywords research’ would include searches made for the terms ‘keywords research’, ‘research keywords’, ‘how to research keywords’, ‘keywords research tool’ etc…


Phrase Match – this indicates the number of searches made where all the words in the keyword term are present in the search query. Unlike broad match, they must be together and in the right order, although they can have other words before and after.

Using the same example above, the number of phrase match searches shown for ‘keywords research’ would include searches on ‘keywords research’ and ‘keywords research tool’ but not ‘research keywords’, ‘how to research keywords’.


Exact Match – indicates the number of searches made that only include the words shown and in the right order. This time, only searches specifically for ‘keywords research’ would be included in these results.


Notation for Keyword Match Types

The standard notation for the different match types is:

Exact Match uses [square brackets] around the search term – e.g. [keywords research]

Phrase Match uses “parentheses” around the search term – e.g. “keywords research”

Broad Match uses nothing around the search term – e.g. keywords research


exact phrase broad match keywords research exampleDifferent Search Volumes by Match Type


For relatively short keyword search terms (e.g. 2-3 words), as shown in the image above, the total of all the searches made on the phrase match variations will be higher than those for just the exact match. The total number of searches on all the broad match variations will usually be higher still.

As the length of a keyword phrase increases, you may notice these differences reducing as the number of alternative options for broad and phrase matches variations of a phrase also reduces.

The “Phrase to Broad Ratio” or PBR, is the percentage of Phrase match searches out of Broad match services made for a keyword and is a useful indicator to the degree of focus a keyword has. A keyword with a high PBR suggests that most searches are made on close variations to the keyword, while a low PBR suggests a much wider variation in actual search terms involving the keyword.


Keyword Match Types and Keyword Research

Typically, as the length of a keyword phrase increases, so the number of searches made for it decreases. The flip side is that there are also likely to be fewer sites competing for the phrase.

Additionally longer tail keywords are also likely to have a higher PBR and so are likely to be more focused keywords. That is to say, people searching on them are more likely to be looking for the same information. For example, people searching on ‘blue extendable dog leads’ are searching for something very specific and more particular than just ‘dog leads’ or ‘lead’ or ‘dog’.

A page or post that is optimized around the the keyword ‘blue extendable dog leads’ is likely to be easier to rank for initially than ‘dog leads’.

As more content is added to a site over time, using other related keywords on additional pages and posts, the number of closely related keywords for which Google will rank the site grows. So a site will be generating more traffic based on “Phrase” match queries as well as [Exact] matches.

Again, as more pages and posts are added using more related keywords, and the site gains more authority, it will rank better for broader search terms based around the keyword selections and start generating more traffic from Broad match queries.

One way of thinking of this is that:

  • [Exact] match is the short term traffic potential for the keyword
  • “Phrase” match is the medium term traffic potential
  • Broad match is the longer term traffic potential


Keyword research is vital to the success of a site.

Two great tools to assist with keyword research are the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool and the commercial product Market Samurai which greatly automates the process and includes a whole raft of additional functionality to make keyword research much more effective.


You can access the Google Keyword Tool here


You can access Market Samurai here.

It’s well worth a visit to check out their fantastic training Dojo on keyword research alone.

In addition, unlike many other products, Market Samurai is a one off licence fee and here’s a tip (valid at the time of writing) – take the free trial first. If you then buy it within 7 days you’ll get 35% discount on the regular price! 😆


Try Market Samurai now for free!

About David

One Response to “Exact, Phrase and Broad Keyword Match Types for Keyword Research”

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  1. holly uttley says:

    Researching longtail keywords can be a bit tricky. I have found that most keyword tools use keyword phrases that are not entirely what someone would normally type into a search engine. Sometimes regular longtail keywords are anywhere from 5 to 7 or 8 keywords which is too many words. I like longtail keywords that are about 3 to 5 keywords long.
    I really enjoyed reading your blog about longtail keywords!

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