Last Friday, Google announced a further update on close variants for keyword matching. In the coming months, the close variant model will be expanded to include more rewording and reordering of exact match keywords.
According to Google, this launch is aimed to help advertisers connect with their users more easily by maximising impressions to more relevant search queries.

What Are The Changes?

1. Function Words

One of the key changes include the removal, addition and reordering of function words.
Function words include prepositions (used to indicate relationships e.g. with, in, to) and conjunctions (used to join two parts of a sentence e.g. and, but, for) words amongst others. These types of words are used to express a grammatical relation with other words within a sentence but by themselves do not necessarily dictate any meaningful content or intent.
In the below example, all variations of the keywords seemingly convey the same intent and Google have played around with the function words where it deemed appropriate and relevant:

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2. Reordering words

Another change is the reordering of words. In the example provided, the intent behind these two keywords are the same: “running shoes” and “shoes for running”; this update will mean one of these keywords will pick up the other.

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A further example is the phrase “LAX to JFK flights”, whereby Google will recognise that these are airport codes and will not reorder the phrase to “JFK to LAX flights”. The good news is that Google will not reorder keywords to match with a query if it changes the meaning entirely but unfortunately we cannot be sure Google will recognise changes to word order syntax every single time a search auction occurs.

What Does This Mean For Advertisers?

Google have demonstrated that their initial tests have shown a 3% uplift in clicks from the expanded exact match close variants change. This uplift was provided with similar levels of click-through & conversion rates – which appears to be a positive result for advertisers looking to gain more high quality traffic to their websites. However, the full impact of this update remains to be seen until the update is fully rolled out and available to all advertisers. It’s also no doubt that results will vary from campaign to campaign but it’s safe to say that advertisers’ impression, click, and conversion volumes could increase, which would potentially require an increase in paid search advertising budgets in order to take advantage of this.

Whilst the close variant exact match update could potentially provide advertisers with additional traffic opportunities, there is also a possibility that exact match keywords could also start to match to some unwanted search queries. Ultimately, advertiser control levels are diminished slightly with this update which does pose some small challenge for running highly targeted campaigns. However, the bigger picture silver lining of this is that the update will make campaign management easier by eliminating the need to build an extensive keyword list that includes an assortment similar terms. This enables advertisers to capture missed opportunities and even uncover profitable gaps and pockets from queries which may not have been previously considered. However, as with all changes that could impact performance, due diligence will be required to ensure efficiency and minimal wastage.

With this in mind, here are some recommended steps to better monitor and control traffic from exact match keywords after this update is implemented:

  • Review your exact match keyword list and recognise the possible additional keywords that may be picked up by reordering or changes to function words
  • Review your negative keyword list and add anything you don’t want to appear for that you have identified from your exact match keyword list
  • Monitor Search Terms Report regularly

If you’re looking to find out more about how an AdWords Certified Partner can help you improve the performance of your AdWords campaigns please contact Reprise today.

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Vivian So

I’m a Digital Solutions Executive at Reprise Sydney, developing and implementing best in class paid search and affiliate strategy across a range of clients.