AdWords keywords: What does the plus-sign in front of keywords mean?

If you’re advertising with AdWords, you’re probably already familiar with the match types for keywords:

  • broad match
  • phrase match
  • exact match
  • negative match

But one thing many people aren’t aware of is what Google has termed broad match modifier.

These are basically like a tighter-controlled version of broadmatch, and they way you use them in AdWords is by adding a plus sign in front of all the keywords (and close variants) that you must be used in the search in order to trigger your ad.

Let’s look at a specific example:

sales software

This is a broad match term, and it might be triggered by a bunch of keywords that Google considered related (they’re calling these relevant keyword variations). In the case of sales software, these might be keywords like:

crm software

crm system

software sales

crm tools

Google has enough semantic context to understand that even though “CRM system” does neither include the word “sales” nor “software”, it’s still relevant.

But let’s say you actually don’t want these kinds of relevant keyword variations, but only those that do contain the word “sales”.

Here’s you could achieve this:

+sales software

By adding the plus sign in front of one or more of the keywords, you’re specifying that the word with the preceding plus sign (or a close variant) must be included in the search query. So with the above example, your ad might show up when someone searches for “sales crm” (because it does contain the word “sales), but not for “crm software” (because it doesn’t contain the word sales).

You can read more about the broad match modifier here, and about general keyword match types here.