It’s the End of Exact Match as We Know It



Up until 2012, in the land of AdWords, the word “exact” meant exact. That was, you could show your ad only when a searcher typed the “exact” word or phrase you bid on.

Then things changed in 2012, when Google introduced “close variants” to capture plurals, misspellings, typos, and other versions of exact and phrase match. Advertisers could still opt-out of close variant matching until 2014, when Google finally removed the ability to do so.

The reason for the changes? Per Google: to broaden reach and coverage and allow advertisers to build out keyword lists in a more efficient way. Indeed, an opportunity, yet a challenge at the same time, as advertisers needed to make sure to weed out irrelevant keyword combinations now included within the close variants.

Now Google is changing the rules again, announcing last week that over the coming months it is “expanding close variant matching to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords”.

In a nutshell, exact match in AdWords will be further diluted. Specifically, Google will ignore “function words” such as prepositions (in, to), conjunctions (for, but), articles (a, the) and other words that don’t impact the query’s intent, by matching users’ queries to exact match keywords (see a few examples below).

Keywords and Query

In addition, Google will match queries that are reordered variations of your keyword. For example, the exact match key phase [buy new cars] could trigger ads to be shown to a user who searches for “new cars buy”.

Keywords and Query

Google says it will not alter function words or word order in exact match when it understands changes would alter the meaning of the query. For example, “Flight from Miami” is definitely not the same as a “Flight to Miami”, and “SFO to JFK” and “JFK to SFO” are two completely different queries.

While I’m a firm believer that Google means well, trying to make it easier for advertisers to reach more customers, this major change will most likely add an additional layer of complexity to the management of paid search campaigns, requiring advertisers to pay extra attention to their keyword matches.

On the positive side, Google says that early tests show advertisers could see up to 3% more clicks from exact match keywords on average while maintaining similar click-through and conversion rates.

Prepare for the upcoming changes by following the guidelines below.

  1. Review your existing exact match keywords and add any variations you don’t want to trigger ads as negative keywords in your campaigns.
  2. Regularly run and review Search Query Reports to spot any other keyword variations that you want excluded and add those keywords as negatives.
  3. At the same time, stay positive and look for opportunities! There might be a few good keywords that are being shown because of this change. Add those terms to your exact match keywords.

To learn more about how we can help your business to successfully navigate through the new AdWords exact match policy, contact one of the qualified Marketing Professionals at MoreVisibility.

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