If you’ve logged in to your AdWords account recently, you’ve probably seen this alert:
New! Improvements coming to exact match and phrase match
Seeing as they’re putting in front & center, over & over again in everyone’s account, it must be kind of a big deal, so what exactly does this mean? In short, exact match is no longer exactly exact match — both phrase and exact match keywords will begin showing for close variations such as plural variations, common misspellings, and acronyms. Anyone with bad memories from the Expanded Broad Match rollout might see this as another attempt by Google to juice their ad revenue. But, it could actually make life a lot easier for those of us running paid search campaigns. Much more compact keyword lists means less time vectoring out keyword variations during initial builds, more manageable ad groups, and less anxiety over missing important variations. On the other hand, the change will require close attention once it launches in mid-May, and may require some proactive adjustments to your current campaigns:
- If you have any terms for which singular/plural variations are important, negative keywords will become more important. For example, “Book of Job” could start serving for “books of jobs” and vice versa. Rather than just not bidding on a singular or plural, you will need to explicitly exclude that variation. (We have been working on getting confirmation that the phrase/exact match changes won’t apply to negative keywords, as that would make managing these situations all but impossible.)
- Should you turn off all those keyword variations that you already have running? Probably not, at least in the short term. But, if you start to see impression volume drying up on variations with low/medium Quality Scores, it might be worth pausing those. Other variations with better Quality Scores may begin to absorb that impression volume (Google states that variant matches will not affect the “exact” keyword’s Quality Score).
- If you’re using an analytics or paid search platform which uses manual URL tagging, remember that the singular/plural & variation data you see in your platform may not line up with AdWords data.
- If you want to turn off variant matching, AdWords does give you the option under Campaign Settings, but advertisers will be opted in by default.
- Finally, set aside extra time to watch Search Term reports in the days after it goes live — any big variant matching issues should be apparent pretty quickly. You may also want to dig into Segment by Search Term option (the Segment drop-down in the AdWords UI has gotten more & more powerful in recent months).
One final note: Google has obviously been on a long-term push for smaller keyword lists in recent years. The introduction of Low Search Volume/Rarely Shown Due to Low Quality Scores notices in AdWords, the AdWords Express product, and now variant matching, can all be seen as discouraging advertisers from creating giant, unwieldy campaigns. And, fighting Google is rarely a winning proposition — rather than trying to work around variant matching so you can keep your 200-word branded ad group intact, we would generally suggest you try to embrace the change and work towards more compact keyword lists.