Should You Segment Your PPC Campaigns By Match Type?


There have been many debates in the search marketing community over whether or not to do match type segmentation.

Ultimately, each PPC manager has to decide for themselves what makes the most sense for their accounts. But for those wondering whether this structure is right for them, here are the factors to consider when weighing the options.

What Happens If A Search Query Can Trigger Ads For Multiple Keywords In An Account?

A single search query might trigger many different keywords, depending on the breadth of keywords in your account. Here’s an example of this problem:


This is an issue because so many of these keywords aren’t related to the intent of the search query, which can lead to a bad user experience (and terrible metrics for your account).

According to Google, there are three rules for their algorithms that determine which keyword’s ad will trigger from the search term:

  1. “If you have a keyword that is identical to the search term, the system will prefer to use this keyword to trigger an ad. This is true even if there are other keywords in your ad group that are similar to the search term.”
  2. “If you have multiple keywords that are the same, the system will prefer to use the exact match keyword.”
  3. “When several broad match keywords in your ad group broadly match a search term, the system will prefer to use the keyword with the highest Ad Rank.”

However, there are actually some exceptions to these rules, which can make things very confusing:

  1. “On rare occasions, the system will prefer to use a keyword that is cheaper — meaning it has a lower cost-per-click (CPC) bid — and has a higher Quality Score and a higher Ad Rank.”
  2. If you have budget restrictions on your campaign(s), this will affect ad serving priority when you have the same keyword in multiple ad groups.

Does Your Account Have An Issue With Keyword Cross-Contamination?

You can check your own account for match type cross-pollution. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to the search terms report for the past 30 days.
  2. Add the “Keyword” column.
  3. Download and delete the report dates.
  4. Select all and run a pivot table, dropping “search term” into row label, and “count of keywords” in values.

The results will look like this:

keyword cross contamination

Once you’ve got these results, you can go back to your report and search for most egregious offenders (in terms of the highest number of different keywords a search query is matching to).


You can then try to determine why Google matched these keywords with the search query. I have found that it is often difficult to identify which rule or exception is playing out; however, you can look to see if there are any issues with your account structure that are causing poor performance.

In the above example (keywords and search terms changed to protect client privacy), we can see that the majority of impressions for the search term “cat food” were matched to the keyword “PetMart catalog.”

Comparing the low click-through rate (CTR) of 0.55% for that keyword with the high CTR of 11.03% for the most relevant keyword, “Cat Foods,” it’s clear we’ve lost out on a high number of clicks by having so many impressions funneling to “PetMart Catalog.” In fact, some basic math shows that those impressions had gone to the 11.03% CTR keyword, we could have obtained an additional 2,268 clicks.

Out of the 2085 clicks for “Cat Foods,” 101 converted, making the conversion rate for that keyword approximately 4.8%. Thus, if those 21,635 impressions had been garnered by the more relevant keyword with the 11.03% click-through rate, there would have been over 100 additional conversions for this account.

This is a pretty astounding number of conversions being missed out on — all because the search terms are matching not based on the account manager’s selection, but on Google’s matching algorithm rules and exceptions.

How Do You Fix It?

As much debate circles around the subject of match type segmentation in general, just as much circles over doing it at the ad group level versus doing it at the campaign level. Here are the two options, broken down:

Ad Group Level

  • Fewer campaigns
  • Can make custom ads
  • Embedded negatives at the ad group level

Campaign Level

  • More campaigns
  • Can make custom ads
  • Embedded negatives with campaign level lists in the shared library
  • Control budgets by match type

If you are at all limited by budget, or have ROAS/CPA goals you are very close to blowing on a regular basis, it would benefit you to do match type segmentation at the campaign level so as to not let less qualified match types take precious budget dollars away from higher performing match types.

You can also do an analysis of your account to see if match type performance is affecting it. You’ll want to set up another pivot table like this:


Below is the match type performance breakdown for one of my accounts. You can see exact match has the lowest cost per conversion. Being able to give it more budget over other match types would benefit this account.


However, if that doesn’t describe you, and you don’t mind managing negatives at the ad group level, then it’s really just a matter of personal preference.


There are lots of reasons for segmenting by match type in your account structures. With the recent changes to close variants especially, if you find they perform poorly in your account, you’ll have another good reason to segment by match type. You can add those misspelled keywords and close variants as negatives to your exact and phrase match ad groups or campaigns!

What is your preferred method for dealing with match type segmentation, and why?

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