Google announced last week that AdWords will be requiring all campaigns to use close variant keyword matching starting in September. This means that your exact and phrase keyword matching will also trigger for misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents, acronyms and abbreviations of your keyword, whether you want them to or not.
Close variant matching was already the default option when using exact and phrase match, however previously you could opt out of it, giving yourself more control of the campaign. That is no longer the case. Now, PPC managers have no choice but to embrace close variant matching and how keywords set to phrase and exact match type will trigger search ads. In this article, I will highlight everything you need to know about the upcoming change, and what you can do moving forward.
Why Is Google Making This Change?
According to Google, approximately 7% of Google searches contain a misspelling; and the longer the query, the greater likelihood of a typo. Whether it’s “kid scooters,” “kid’s scooters,” or “kids scooters,” people interested in buying a scooter for their child want to see the most relevant ads despite slight variations in their search query. That is why, starting in late September, Google will require close variant matching for both exact and phrase match types, in an effort to deliver on the intent of the search term.
There were three benefits of this change highlighted by Google:
- A successful match. Google has claimed that most advertisers are already matching close keyword variations, and those that do see an average of 7% more exact and phrase match clicks with similar clickthrough and conversion rates.
- Reach more customers. Because close variant matching was already the default setting for campaigns, most advertisers won’t see a change in their keyword behavior. However, for advertisers that opted out, their exact and phrase match keywords will begin matching to close keyword variations, allowing them to reach more of their potential customers with the right ad, while aiming to lower cost per click and improve clickthrough rate.
- Control with less complexity. Google is also looking to lower the complexity in managing AdWords campaigns. With this update, you will no longer have to build exhaustive lists of misspelled, abbreviated and other close variations of your keywords to get the coverage you want. Instead, focus on adding negative keywords, including close variants you don’t want to match for, to shape traffic and reduce cost.
So these are some pretty good reasons for forcing close variant matching, right? Sort of.
So What’s The Down Side?
Advertisers are losing control.
While Google has pointed out many positives to this upcoming change, a lot of advertisers within the marketing and AdWords community have been outraged with the announcement. While it is true, using close variant matching will increase the reach of your ads, is that always a good thing? The use of classic phrase and exact match offered greater precision and control over exactly which search queries triggered your ads. And a lot of advertisers are not happy with this loss of control.
While loss of control is the main headache everyone is suffering from, advertisers will also start to see an increase in costs. With close variant matching, you will see an increase in impressions and clicks, because your keywords will be matched against more keywords. But with more clicks, come more costs. And for some smaller companies that have a small paid search budget, excluding close variants helped to keep costs more controllable. Not anymore.
What This Means Moving Forward
This change really only applies to those advertisers who clicked that exact match box and opted out of close variant matching. They will now have closed variant matching forced upon them and as a result lose out on a lot of control they once had. Here are some tips from industry-leaders to remain in control of your AdWords campaign with close variant matching:
- Convert all phrase match keywords to exact match
- Add and expand to your negative keyword lists to include close variants and plurals that you do not want your ads triggered for
- Monitor your AdWords SQR reports and see which variants are taking up some of your budget
These first two tips are the most important.According to the teams at Wordstream and SpyFu, losing phrase match is 10 times more damaging than losing exact match. After looking at actual campaign data published by Brad Geddes, showing the volume and performance of normal match types vs. normal + variants, SpyFu was able to conclude that adding close variant matching to phrase match types decreases campaign performance by 10%! While adding close variant matching to exact match types only saw a decrease in performance of 1%. On top of that, they saw a 17% increase in spend on those phrase match keywords. This is why it is of paramount importance to convert all phrase match keywords to exact match.
Secondly, start building out your negative keyword list. Review your keywords carefully and think about what terms you do not wish to show up for. Check your SQR report daily to ensure you are matching for the correct keywords and to ensure you aren’t wasting money on irrelevant close variant keywords. Look at the terms for exact and phrase match variants and determine if any of these should be included or added as negative keywords. Building a solid negative keyword list is key, and maintaining it is critical.
More information and data will soon be released on this change along with more actionable tips. And like all Google updates, I highly recommend staying up-to-date with the most recent trends and changes. For now, we’re just going to have to sit and wait till Google makes the change in September.
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