Keyword Research: Why I always use “Exact” Match

Let me begin by giving you a quick example about the way in which Google’s keyword research tool works and I will also talk about the benefits of exact match domains for gaining an unfair advantage over competition…

The search “cures for bad breath” and cures for bad breath (the latter without the quotes) are both counted as an exact match by Google.

I’m frequently asked about the meaning of exact match vs phrase match when it comes to keyword research. This is further complicated by the fact that the default match type filter in GAKT (Google Adwords Keywords Tool) is broad match, which is almost useless for our purposes when determining whether a niche has sufficient traffic to go after.

The answer of course is exact match, particularly when you are looking to launch EMDs (exact match domains) for your target keyword phrase. And since you are a clever marketer and have read the Top Myths about SEO thread, you know well by now that an EMD can propel your brand new micro niche site to the top of search results faster than any other technique you can employ in internet marketing, bar none.

The one instance in which I will check the term using phrase match is after I’ve already determined the keyword has sufficient traffic for the exact search phrase and I want to get a feel for the upper limit on the traffic for all searches containing this phrase.

At this point, its helpful to explain the difference between an exact match search and a phrase match search.

Let’s say we are looking to build a site around the phrase cures for bad breath. When we search in GAKT with the exact match filter selected we see that there are 1000 searches per month (local US) for that term. Because we’ve selected “Exact” as the match type, this means that users typed in cures for bad breath exactly without any other words (with or without quotes does not matter).

So from this data we can infer that this exact phrase is being typed into Google search approximately 1000 times per month (roughly 30 times a day), and since the top spot attracts 50-60% of all clicks, we can expect to get approximately 15 visits per day if we have the top spot for this term.

Now, let’s have a look at the same keyword phrase, [cures for bad breath] using the Phrase match type filter. In this instance Google’s keyword tool is telling us that the phrase is typed in 1600 times per month. What this means is that the majority of the time, users are typing the exact phrase “cures for bad breath” with no surrounding text (again, with or without quotes) and that an additional 600 searches have a word or words at the beginning or end of the phrase (since we know the exact phrase gets 1000 searches and the phrase itself appears in 1600 searches, we can make this deduction).

In this case, an example of a “phrase match” hit would be [natural cures for bad breath] or [fast cures for bad breath and halitosis]. Notice how in each of those searches, the terms cures for bad breath is included? That’s phrase matching.

Hope that helps to give you a solid understanding of phrase match types. Just remember that if you are seeking to get the exact match domain boost in the serps, you need to be using Exact match to more accurately determine the amount of traffic you can expect from the search term.


Update: I was doing keyword research today and actually needed to refresh myself on whether or not quotes around the search term have anything to do with influencing the exact match vs phrase match numbers in GAKT. They do not. 99% of searches never use quotes around their search terms and neither should you when evaluating competition for a given keyword phrase. Again, exact match domains are your secret weapon in getting your niche sites ranked as highly as possible, but you still need to post good content and authority to stay at the top.

5 Responses to “Keyword Research: Why I always use “Exact” Match”

  1. Really a great post Scott. I also prefer to use exact match keyword instead of broad match. And I believe all internet marketers also do the same way while doing keyword research. I am not sure why you asked not to use quote while evaluating keyword competition but I have got great benefit using quotes, specially in this format- intitle:”keyword”.
    Thanks for the detailed inside again.

  2. Hans G says:

    That’s absolutely right and I agree with you Mr. scott. Sometimes some researcher forget about this, if we dont use filter exact macth and only focus with volume count, we will hard to optimize link building and our onpage and it mean we loose much traffict.


  3. Flynn says:

    “Phrase Match”
    [Exact Match]


    [Phrase Match]
    “Exact Match”


  4. Brian says:

    One other thing. I’m particularly interested in evaluating how competitive it is to rank for any given search phrase. I searched this blog but didn’t happen to turn up anything on this topic. If you take requests, I’d like to hear what you have to say about sizing up the link profiles of the pages that rank well for a particular search phrase, plus other things you consider when estimating how competitive it will be to rank for a particular search phrase. Thanks!

  5. Brian says:

    Scott, Sorry to leave a comment that just says, “This is a great post,” but it is a great post.

    It’s obvious you’ve learned the in’s and out’s from experience, and know what you’re talking about. Guess I’ll click and follow the RSS feed in my Reader.

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