Our Complete Guide On Exact Match Keywords: Tools & Best Practices

Embarque has created this detailed guide on how to level up your Google Ads campaigns with exact match keywords that skyrocket your click-through rate and reduce the cost of your campaigns (plus a bonus section on how to get more traffic from organic search results using exact match keywords).

Table of Contents

Helpful summary

Overview: At Embarque, we offer guidance on leveraging exact-match keywords to enhance Google Ads campaigns. This technique significantly increases click-through rates while reducing campaign costs, helping to attract more organic search traffic.

Why you can trust us: We excel in identifying the right keywords for a variety of clients, ranging from startups and freelancers to agencies and marketplaces. Our approach helped MentorCruise gain over 2 million annual visits and 16x year-on-year growth.

Why this is important: Exact match keywords offer precise targeting, leading to better CTR and lower cost-per-click (CPC). This focus on a specific target audience, though resulting in fewer impressions, yields higher quality leads and better conversion rates compared to phrase and broad matches​​.

Action points: We suggest using exact match keywords for highly targeted campaigns while maintaining a balance with broad and phrase match campaigns to discover new keywords and drive sales.

Further research: To complement exact match keyword strategies, explore various tools for discovering high-converting keywords, and apply SEO best practices to website content. This holistic approach enhances both paid and organic search performance​​.

Need help in finding exact match keywords?

Google's search ad platform, Google Ads, is one of the most powerful advertising channels in the world. You can show your ads to people searching for your products and services and turn them into customers, all via a Google search page.

Sounds simple, right? Well, not so much, mastering match ads on Google or any PPC platform requires a deep understanding of keyword match types and how you can leverage them across your campaigns.

At Embarque, we’re an SEO expert that find the right keywords for online startups, including SaaS, freelancers, agencies, job boards, and marketplaces. That’s why Embarque has created this detailed guide on how to level up your Google Ads campaigns with exact match keywords that skyrocket your click-through rate and reduce the cost of your campaigns (plus a bonus section on how to get more traffic from organic search results using exact match keywords).

Why listen to us?

At Embarque, we know that inspecting keywords you rank for in organic search results uncovers new exact match keywords for PPC campaigns. Our expertise has enabled clients to see over 4,000 monthly clicks from just six articles in two months​​, and another to achieve an 800% yearly revenue boost​​.

Our hands-on experience in integrating exact match keywords into both SEO content and PPC strategies have proven successful. This is evident in a client's 178% increase in blog traffic, significantly impacting their business growth​​. 

Trust us to apply this knowledge effectively for your needs.

What is a keyword match type?

Before we take a deep dive into exact match keywords let’s quickly cover the basics.

Keyword match types give you more control over who triggers your ads. When you set up your first ad you’ll be able to choose from three possible match types.

You can choose whether your ads will show up when someone searches for the exact keyword you're targeting, or if you want to show your ad when someone searches for something similar to the keyword.

The example below shows how the three match types work in action.

Image credit Google Ads Help

Let’s take a look at broad and phrase matches before we dive into exact matches.

What is broad match?

Broad match has by far the largest reach in terms of the audience that can see and click your ad. The image below shows how a broad match works using the keyword low-carb diet plan as an example.

Broad match is the default setting for Google Ads campaigns. It means that your ad can appear whenever a user’s search query includes one or more of the words in your key phrase.

What is phrase match?

A phrase match still allows you to target a wide variety of keywords but gives you more control than broad match.

Image credit Google Ads Help

When you use phrase match for your ads they will only appear when someone types in your target keywords or similar variables in the exact order you enter them but will still show up if they enter anything before or after your keywords.

Why exact match keywords are important

Exact match keywords are critical to a well-structured PPC campaign because they allow advertisers to reach the most relevant audience with their ads. By targeting queries that exactly match the specified keyword, you minimize wasted spending on broad, irrelevant searches and improve the likelihood of connecting with users who have a clear intent that aligns with your offering.

The importance of exact match keywords lies in their ability to:

Enhance ad relevance

By using exact match targeting, you ensure that your ads are displayed only when search queries match your specified keywords precisely—this level of specificity results in a better alignment between user intent and your ad content. When users find exactly what they're looking for, they're more satisfied with the search results, leading to a positive perception of your brand and a higher likelihood of engagement.

Increase quality score

Google's Quality Score is a metric that reflects the relevance and quality of your ads in relation to the keywords you're bidding on. High-quality scores indicate that your ad is more relevant to the user's search query. Exact match keywords contribute to a higher Quality Score because they ensure your ads are relevant to the searcher's intent. A higher Quality Score translates to benefits like lower costs-per-click (CPC) and better ad positions, giving you a competitive edge in the ad auction process.

Improve conversion rates

Users who input exact terms into search engines typically have a specific intent or seek a particular product or service. This level of search precision means that the user has likely done their research and is ready to decide or purchase. By utilizing exact match keywords, you're able to connect with these highly motivated users, which can significantly increase the likelihood of conversions post-click.

Control costs

Exact match keywords allow for tighter control over ad spend by filtering out irrelevant traffic. Without exact matches, you may end up paying for clicks from users who are looking for something only tangentially related to what you offer. By focusing on exact match keywords, you minimize the chances of attracting these less relevant clicks, ensuring that your advertising budget is spent on users with a higher potential for conversion.

Streamline campaign management

Using exact match keywords makes it easier to manage and optimize campaigns. Because you're dealing with a more targeted set of keywords, you can quickly identify which keywords are performing well and allocate more budget towards them. Additionally, this specificity makes it simpler to track the success of individual keywords so you can make data-driven decisions and adjustments to improve campaign performance.

Enhance competitive advantage

With exact match keywords, there is less competition than broad or phrase match keywords because you're targeting a narrow audience. This specificity can be particularly advantageous when bidding on niche or highly specific terms directly related to your unique selling propositions. 

By focusing on these precise terms, you can capture the attention of users looking for exactly what you offer, potentially reducing competition and increasing your ad's visibility.

Delving deeper into exact match keywords

Exact match keywords help you target your ads more precisely. By focusing on your exact target audience you can increase your CTR (click-through rates) and drive down your CPC (cost per click).

Compared to phrase and broad matches, exact matches will receive considerably fewer impressions (eyes on your ad), but those impressions are laser-focused on your offering, typically leading to much better CTR and conversion rates.

How does Google define exact match?

Google defines exact match ads as:

“Ads may show on searches that have the same meaning or same intent as the keyword. Of the three keyword matching options, exact match gives you the most control over who views your ad, but reaches fewer searches than both phrase and broad match.”

Here’s an example from Google.

Image credit Google Ads Help

It’s really important to take note of the section of the quote stating:

“searches that have the same meaning or same intent as the keyword”

This means that if you set up an exact match ad your ad can still appear for keywords that are:

Accounting for all of the above allows Google to still match your ads to potential customers even if their search varies slightly from your exact targeting.

To create an exact match ad in Google Ads you need to enter your keyword within square brackets[.....]. This is called Syntax and signals which keyword match type you would like to use on your ad.

So to create an ad targeting the exact keyword mens golf shoes you would enter your keyword into Google Ads as [mens golf shoes], it’s that simple!

How exact match keywords have evolved

When paid search was in its infancy, exact match was a fairly blunt tool. Ads would only show for your exact keywords meaning marketers had to create gigantic lists of very similar keywords just to cover the market.

By 2017 Google improved exact match to incorporate close variants of your keyword. This meant that ads targeting mens golf shoes could appear for keyword searches that do not exactly match your target but very closely meet the same searcher intent like golf shoes men and men golf shoe.

They made changes again in 2018 to include even more variants to exact match including “close variants that share the same meaning of your keywords” and any synonyms, paraphrases, and search results pages with the same search intent.

Using negative keywords alongside exact match

As exact match started to show up for more and more variables, marketers started to lose the granular control they loved with exact match targeting. To try and remedy this, Google introduced negative keywords.

Negative keywords allow you to select keywords that you DO NOT want your ad to show up for.

With the exact match not being quite as ‘exact’ anymore, it’s important to regularly assess your ads to see if they are appearing for any low converting or irrelevant variations of your keyword. The more regularly you check your ad performance the less risk you have of spending your budget on keywords that don’t convert into customers.

Bonus: How to Google search exact phrase

As exact match evolved in PPC, Google wanted to give search engine users more power over how they search for exact keywords and thus exact phrase was born.

Exact phrase allows search engine users to search for keywords in the exact order they type them simply by containing the keywords in quotation marks (much like Googe Ads). For example, if you want to find content that contains the exact phrase "how to search", you can use the following query in a Google search.

This is incredibly helpful when you’re looking for quotes, lyrics, specific names etc.

Where do exact match keywords fit in with my other campaigns?

Exact match is an incredibly powerful tool but shouldn’t make up all of your PPC campaigns. Despite Google’s best efforts to increase the reach of exact match, it still doesn’t provide the flexibility of other match types.

The best approach is a healthy balance of match types that compliment each other. Use broad and phrase to find previously undiscovered keywords that can help drive more sales while using exact match for laser-focused keywords with buying intent.

How to find exact match keywords

Finding exact match keywords for your ad targeting is crucial to getting the right eyes on your products or services. Equally, creating content on your website that targets specific keywords can help drive traffic from search engines without needing to pay for clicks.

With that in mind here are some free and paid tools you can use to uncover high-converting exact match keywords that can grow your brand today.

Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool you can access via Google Ads. You can start by entering a stem keyword that will generate other relevant keywords or by entering a website.

Pro tip: If you have a competitor that offers similar products or services, by entering their website address, you can often uncover high-converting exact match keywords that drive their traffic and sales.

You’ll be met with a list of potential exact match keywords you can use for your next PPC campaign. You can easily sort by search volume to help allocate your budgets and they give you a handy indicator of the CPC for any given keyword.

You can either export all of your keywords into a sheet or select them using the tick-box on the left to start deploying your campaigns right away.

Don’t forget these keywords aren’t just for PPC campaigns and can be great content ideas for your website or social media.

While you can get access to Google Keyword Planner without running ads you do receive considerably more accurate search volumes when you’re running live paid ad campaigns.


Ahrefs is a powerful marketing tool that allows its users to find new keywords and track competitors’ organic and paid search strategies alongside lots of other tools.

You can take advantage of the keyword magic tool to uncover new keywords or dive into the organic research section to spy on your competitors' paid and organic keywords.

Google Search Console

Another Google tool that offers you an insight into the keywords that power your own website. Google Search Console is a gold mine of keyword ideas. It’s simple to set up and starts gathering keyword data right away.

To make the most out of Search Console you’ll need to head over to the performance report as pictured below.

Scroll down to see a list of the queries your website ranks for in Google organic search. It should look just like the example here.

Here you can order keywords by impressions (how many people viewed your listing on search results) or clicks (how many people clicked from a search results page through to your website).

Inspecting the keywords you rank for in organic search results is a great way of finding new exact match keywords for your PPC campaigns. You can easily export up to 100 keywords at a time directly from Search Console.

Critical thinking

Not necessarily a tool but invaluable either way. While all of the tools above are a fantastic way of discovering new keywords they are just that, tools.

The primary factor at play here is you and how you use the data these tools provide. Just because a keyword works for a competitor doesn’t mean it will work for you if it doesn’t relate to your particular products or services. 

No tools will be able to ascertain how a keyword relates to your business or how well it will perform other than you. Take all of the keywords you find and think ‘would I use this keyword to find my products or services’ if the answer is no, it’s probably not the keyword for you.

Broad and phrase PPC campaigns

Broad and phrase campaigns are constantly uncovering new exact match keywords.

Don’t forget to consistently monitor your broad and phrase campaigns for high-performing exact match keywords that can be split off into individual campaigns.

How to use exact match keywords in your website content to rank on Google

Organic Google search results don’t give you the same granular control you get with PPC campaigns. Unlike Google Ad’s virtual auction house the order in which websites are shown for any given keyword is controlled by an algorithm and exactly how it works is somewhat of a mystery for obvious reasons.

As with all systems, there are some pioneers who have taken the time to test different techniques and their effect on Google’s organic search results. The findings and best practices derived from these ongoing tests are used to help individual web pages rank higher on search results, this is commonly known as SEO (search engine optimisation).

Thanks to this we have established some best practices that allow you to target exact match keywords using the pages on your website. Let’s run through how you can optimise your web pages to appear on page one of Google.


Your H1 is the title of your web page and is possibly the most powerful signal you can provide to search engines. 

To rank well in search results it’s critical that your H1 contains your exact match keyword. It can appear anywhere in the H1 alongside supporting copy but it needs to be there.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should go changing all your H1’s to exact match keywords with no context. Include words that help convey what the page is about like in the example here.

Anyone visiting the page knows exactly what they're being presented with and the exact match keyword orphan pages is there for search engines to decipher the content and meaning of the page.


A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator or a web address. It's the unique identifier for a resource available on the internet.

When you create a new page on your website you’ll be able to select the words that are included in your URL. Try to keep your URL short and where possible only include the exact match keyword as shown above.

Start of content

Always include your exact match keyword somewhere in the first four sentences of your blog or article.

This typically happens naturally while writing but it clearly highlights that your page is focusing on your exact match keyword and reinforcing the relevancy of your H1.

Throughout your content

When you create the copy for your new web page it’s really important to use close variables much like those that would trigger exact match keywords in Google Ads.

By including synonyms, plurals and variations of your exact match keyword you display a deep understanding of the subject you are writing about and will be rewarded with a higher ranking on search engine results pages.

Check out our guide on semantically related keywords to learn more about how you can use closely related keywords to level up your page and website rankings.

Image ALT tags

An image ALT tag is a short description of the image. It helps users who are visually impaired to understand what the image is, but it also helps search engines to understand what the image is about in order to index it properly.

Including your exact match keyword in your image ALT text sends another positive signal for Google to rank your page for your exact match keyword.

Only include your exact match keyword if it concisely describes the content of the image, ALT tags are here to help people not just for SEO wins.

If your website uses WordPress it’s easy to jump into your media folder and assign ALT tags to all your images as shown below.

If you use writers to create the content on your website consider using an SEO editing process to ensure you’re ticking all of the boxes above.

Exact match keywords best practices

To get the most out of exact match keywords in your campaigns, here are some best practices:

Use them for high-intent keywords

Prioritize exact match keywords for terms that indicate a strong intent to purchase or engage with your services. For example, if you sell custom-made furniture, an exact match keyword could be [buy custom oak desk] rather than a more generic [desk]. By targeting keywords that suggest a readiness to act, you can capture traffic that is more likely to result in a sale or lead, thus improving the efficiency of your ad spend.

Monitor search query reports

Regularly reviewing the search terms report within your Google Ads account lets you see the queries that triggered your ads. This insight helps you understand if your exact match keywords align with user intent as anticipated. If you notice irrelevant queries triggering your ads, you can add them as negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing for those terms, thereby improving the relevance and performance of your campaigns.

Use negative keywords

Use negative keywords to prevent your ads from showing up for searches that are not relevant to your business, even if they contain your exact match keywords. This helps you focus your ad spend on more qualified leads.

Balance with other match types

Use a strategic combination of exact, phrase, and broad match keywords in your campaigns to cover the entire search intent spectrum and capture a wider audience. Exact match keywords should be used for well-researched, high-converting terms, while broader match types can be utilized for keyword discovery and capturing a larger audience that may still be relevant.

Optimize landing pages

The effectiveness of an exact match keyword is largely influenced by the landing page experience. Make sure that the landing page content directly addresses the search query and provides a clear and straightforward path to conversion, whether it's making a purchase, filling out a contact form, or downloading a resource. This alignment between keyword, ad, and landing page content not only improves user experience but also boosts conversion rates.

Track performance metrics

To optimize the performance of your exact match keywords, closely monitor metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and cost per acquisition (CPA). These metrics provide valuable feedback on how well your keywords are performing in terms of attracting clicks and driving conversions. Analyze this data to adjust your bids, refine your targeting, and allocate your budget to the most effective keywords.


Now you’re all set to start finding new exact match keywords to power up your PPC campaigns at scale. Check out our blog for other great tips on PPC, SEO and digital marketing that you can put into action today!

Julian Canlas

I’m Julian, one of the co-founders of Embarque, which offers productised SEO content marketing services. I’m an SEO content strategist by trade. My line of work involves creating a top-to-bottom SEO content strategy for brands based on their current needs and how well they’re attracting clients through organic search.

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