The Difference Between Broad, Phrase, and Exact Match Search Volume Data

This will be a quick post, no real need to go into deep detail. This is something that’s important and a lot of people ask me about so I want to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what’s going on.

Let’s start. There are 3 ways to check keyword search volume with Google: broad, phrase, and exact match. What the hell is the difference? And which one should you be checking search volume with?

Broad Match

Broad match is the default setting when using the Keyword Tool. What broad match means is that any time any part of the keyword shows up in a search phrase, that data gets added to the reported total searches per month. For instance, if the keyword is “sunflower seeds”, then any search with either “sunflower” or “seeds” or “sunflower seeds” in it will be added into the total volume. So the actual search terms “sunflower seeds” might only get 100 searches, while “seeds” gets 2000 searches and “fruit seeds” gets 600 searches.

So broad match search volume is an aggregate of all searches involving any combination of any of the keywords as well as other words you didn’t account for. It’s an inflated number when estimating search volume.

Phrase Match

Phrase match keyword search volume works like this: if you check phrase match search volume for “sunflower seeds” then the number returned will include all traffic for the main phrase as well as phrases like “huge sunflower seeds” and “sunflower guide for seeds”. The number returned is the aggregate of all search phrases that must include the entire set of main keywords, no matter if they are split up by other words or not. This number is definitely more accurate than broad match, but can still be slightly inflated.

Exact Match

Finally, there is exact match keyword data. The volume of searches returned when checking exact match keywords is simply for only that single keyphrase. So there are no aggregates involved, it’s only the total number of searches for just that exact phrase, typed exactly into Google, with no other words included. This is the most accurate number to reference when researching niches, as it doesn’t aggregate traffic you might not actually rank for and get. You should always check your search volumes with this setting on.

Finishing Up

The point of this post is that it is easy to be deceived by broad and phrase match data, so you should use exact match data when searching for niches. When trying to get ranked for certain keywords, you cannot guarantee that you will be able to rank for all variations and combinations of keywords, so the most realistic estimate of possible traffic is the exact match search volume data.

I’ll post more this weekend, I have some cool ideas in the works.

Til then,



  1. Hi there,

    That was good info.I stupidly misunderstood this style of searching thinking that people who actually typed “keyword” or [keyword]into SE’s was how these results came about as opposed to simply searching – keyword – Stupid.

    Is there a way however to search for what people type with phrase or exact match involved – ie they actually type “keyword” or [keyword]?.. with the phrase or exact match characters?

    Thanks though – good info,


  2. omg i can’t stress how important this post is. Alot of people teach broad or phrase and it drives me crazy and i have been so stupid in the past following along and have wasted so much time and money on kewyword domains that get hardly any traffic.

    I have since changed and did a quick seach to get some confirmation on this to find this post. seriously this is an awesome post. Short and sweet but could save others heaps of money and time.

  3. This truly is a very important post as it is very important to differentiate between the three data sets.

    I am in a competition for niche sites and I stupidly did my keyword research incorrectly. It turns out the exact match searches are VERY low for my niche.

    It is imperative that people click the check boxes in the options, however, instead of just typing in the keywords in quotes or brackets.

  4. Thanks for the info! I blindly made a huge mistake putting in immense effort into getting one of my sites ranked which is based on a keyword which has a nice 4.4k broad searches, but only less than 10 exact searches… Damn!

    Thanks for the info again!

  5. Great post, just one problem. The phrase match example “sunflower seeds” will not match to “sunflower guide for seeds.” Phrase matching does not allow the phrase to be interrupted with other words. Any other words can come before or after the phrase, but the phrase must remain intact. Just do a few searches with quotes around your phrase and you will confirm this. There are new modifiers to read about that allow you to get even more granular.

      1. That’s exactly my question as well..
        What if i want to target a long tail keyword.
        Like it best toy shop in Newyork and i am getting 4000 searches in phrase search and 50 in exact should i go for targeting this keyword or should leave it just coz the exact searches are really less?
        Please help i am wasting a lot of time on this stuff and yet not clear?

  6. Very clear explanation. This post will help a lot of people from targeting the wrong keyword. Unfortunately I had to learnb this lesson the hard way. I targeted a KW which had good ‘broad’ searches but didn’t pau any attention on the ‘exact’ count, which was less than 200 by the way. Short story, I got the website ranked on the first page out of 92M results but the site was a flop. Had to let it go eventually.

  7. Very good post that explains the resolution or granularity of the search whereby exact phrase match returns search terms closest and align to the keyword phrase search. I think for SEO purpose it is best to focus on either exact match and phrase match.

  8. They always distrubed me when I sort out my adwords campaign and this morning I thought I am going to google and look what they exactly means. I think you couldn’t explain this better. Now, that article should save me a lot of wasted clicks. Thanks again.

  9. This was very helpful, thanks. I also like the way you made the Google image, a nice quick visual reminder there. I’m tempted to make it my desktop background for the next month…but I think I’m just going to stick with using “exact” searches from now on.

  10. Hey Darrin awesome info you cleared up some of my misunderstandings. But if I am trying to rank for a certain keyword phrase won’t i get lost in all the other broad search junk and miss the first page?

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