What is Modified Broad Match? Essential Guide


Modified broad match targeting is one of four primary keyword match types that digital marketers can choose to customize their keyword targeting in Google Ads campaigns. Keyword match types determine how much search volume you may receive for each keyword by broadening or restricting the definition of a “match”.

In this essential guide, we’re taking a deeper look at modified broad match targeting and how it fits into the overall puzzle of keyword match types.

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What is Modified Broad Match Targeting?

Modified broad match, as its name suggests, is a slight modification of broad match targeting. To really understand how this feature works, we should start with a basic overview of keyword match types and broad match targeting.

When you create a paid search campaign on Google Ads, you’ll be asked to choose a match type for each keyword you target. Keyword match types determine the criteria that Google will use to decide when your ads should be displayed. The five main match types are:

  1. Exact match
  2. Phrase match
  3. Broad match
  4. Modified broad match
  5. Negative keywords

Broad match targeting is the default setting for newly selected keywords on Google Ads. It is the widest form of keyword targeting that offers the greatest number of ad placement opportunities for advertisers. 

With this setting activated, Google can show your advertisement on any search that it believes to contain a relevant variation of your keyword. That includes searches with synonyms of your keyword, searches related to your keyword, misspelled searches, and searches that don’t contain your keyword at all.

Broad match targeting can be effective for some campaigns, but advertisers sometimes notice that broad match targeting results in their ads being displayed for search queries that are unrelated to their products or services. When this happens, advertisers can use modified broad match targeting to make sure their ad placements stay relevant.

How Does Modified Broad Match Targeting Work on Google Ads?

Modified broad match allows advertisers to leverage the wide scope of ad placements available with broad match targeting, but with one additional feature: advertisers can tag specific words that must be present in the search query when their ad placement is triggered. 

This tagging feature gives Google the maximum flexibility in relevant ad placements while helping advertisers ensure that their ads only appear when they’re relevant to user interests.

To set up modified broad match targeting, navigate to the “Add Keywords” interface on your Google Ads account. You can tag part of a keyword by adding a plus-sign (+) in front of any word in your keyword term. Doing so tells Google to make sure that word is included in the search query whenever your ad is triggered.

google ads modified broad match setup

Caption: Preparing to target a keyword on Google Ads using our broad match modifier.

To show exactly how using modified broad match impacts your keyword targeting, we created this chart for the keyword “digital marketing course”.

As you can see, the keyword match types you choose when setting up your targeting options have a major impact on which search terms will activate your ads and how relevant your advertisements will appear to audiences.

Keyword Match Type User Input How it Works Potential Targets
Broad Match Digital Marketing Course With broad match, Google targets all relevant search queries related to the target keyword. “Online marketing college”

“Online business school”

“How to market digital education”

“Marketing online courses”

Modified Broad Match 1 +Digital Marketing Course With our broad match modifier in place, Google ensures that the word “digital” is present whenever our ad is displayed. “Digital advertising course”

“Digital business school”

“Digital business college”

“How to market a digital course

Modified Broad Match 2 Digital +Marketing Course With our broad match modifier in place, Google ensures that the word “marketing” is present whenever our ad is displayed. “Online marketing classes”

“Online marketing college”

“Marketing a virtual course”

Modified Broad Match 3 +Digital +Marketing Course With two broad match modifiers in place, Google ensures that the words “digital” and “marketing are both present whenever our ad is displayed. “Digital marketing classes”

“Digital marketing course”

“Digital marketing lessons”

Digital marketers need to protect their ad quality scores by targeting the most relevant keywords with their ads – and that means using modified broad match to avoid ad impressions from irrelevant searches.

When You Should Use Modified Broad Match Targeting

Using modified broad match produces keyword targeting that is more specific than broad match targeting, but not as specific as phrase or exact match targeting.

Modified broad match works well when you’re targeting long-tail keywords that contain 3-5 terms. As an advertiser, you can make sure the most important keywords are included in your targeting while leaving some wiggle room for targeting close variants.

If you notice irrelevant keywords triggering your ad while using broad match targeting, there’s a good chance you could increase the efficiency of your ad spending with modified broad match.


Every digital advertising professional should work towards a solid understanding of keyword match types. Understanding modified broad match targeting will change the way you do PPC keyword research and help you take control over when and where audiences encounter your ads.

Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO and co-founder of Directive Consulting – a global search marketing agency headquartered in Southern California specializing in comprehensive search marketing campaigns for B2B and enterprise companies.

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