Exact Match Close Variants Update

Over the next couple of months, Google will once again expand exact match close variants to include rewording and reordering for keywords. This also includes matching to function words such as ‘to’, ‘but’, ‘the’, etc. The first exact match close variants update included misspellings, singular forms, plural forms, acronyms, stemmings, abbreviations, and accents. So, if you are bidding on the keyword “Business Cat”, for whatever reason, you may likely match to a plethora of other variations…


Why is Google Doing this?

1. To save you time building long keyword list

2. To unveil volume you may not have had otherwise

3. To intuitively match to consumer intent

According to Google, early signs show a 3% increase in exact match clicks without a compromise in click-through or conversion rates.

So What’s the Fuss?

For mom-and-pop shops, the exact match close variants update may be a good thing. They will get to match to more search queries without extensive labor.  Yet, for savvy advertisers who are happy to build larger keyword lists, some control is taken away.

Advertisers are getting smarter about the keywords they choose to buy, and may not need close variants to do the work. We now use fancy tools that allow us to handpick the crème de la crème of keywords; keyword generators, social monitoring tools, keyword concatenators, etc.

As we cannot opt-out of exact match close variants, here are some scenarios playing devil’s advocate:

Scenario 1 > Slight Loss of Efficiency

Google says, if you’re already including variations in your keyword list, AdWords will prefer those over exact match close variants. Here’s the problem with that; if you head over to your search query report, you’ll find all the close variants that match to your current keywords. You can add those to your list. However, it’s not guaranteed Google will prefer them. You may have seen this keyword status ‘Low search volume’. Any keywords that have this will be made inactive – Google’s rule. In those cases, you end up matching to a broader keyword that may be more expensive. Perhaps this isn’t a big deal to you, as those keywords don’t have enough volume to fuss about, but together, they can add up fairly quickly. The ocean is but a bunch of collected water drops, right?

Scenario 2 > Inadvertent Increased Competition

Going back to mom-and-pop shops. Without knowing it, these advertisers will be matching to keywords they may not have originally included in their buy. These keywords are often the savvy advertiser’s bread and butter. Now, these mom-and-pop shops are competing with you which may drive up CPC costs.

Scenario 3 > Conversion Inconsideration

Google tries to work in the order of operations (e.g., prefer exact match over phrase), yet there are occasions where AdWords will prefer a keyword that has a higher Ad Rank. If you work with conversions, a good Ad Rank does not necessarily equate to a better cost-per-conversion. You may see keywords with a low click-through-rate, high CPCs, and low ad position that produce a better cost-per-conversion.

So What Should We Do?

1. Look for the Opt-Out of Exact Match Close Variants Button  Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist. It used to be there, but Google took this away and you shouldn’t hold your breath for an update.

2. Monitor Performance – You’ll want to monitor performance over the next couple of months to see if there are any significant changes to your keyword metrics (e.g., CPC, cost-per-conversion).

3. Focus on More Impactful Areas – Instead of focusing on something you cannot change, consider driving your attention on higher impact areas you do have control over. When was the last time you checked your search query report or checked for any ‘Limited by Budget’ campaigns, or adjusted keyword bids, or refreshed ad copy? (Be sure to check out our “AdWords: Accelerated Vs Standard/5 Steps to Accelerate your “Limited by Budget” Campaigns article)

4. Add or Exclude Keywords – Review your search query report weekly for close variants and add or exclude keywords where it makes sense and volume allows.

5. Use a Google Script – You can automate adding close variants as negatives to essentially rid your account of exact match close variants. There are available AdWords Scripts online the will automatically do this. Here’s one from Brainlabs. I will caution that you should have the working knowledge of scripts and a good memory. If you ever want to add these keywords back in, you must remember they are in your negative list. You’ll also need to remember your script is running, given you may want to keep many of the close variants active or include them in your keyword buy. In short, it may be better to avoid using scripts for this unless you are feeling extremely confident.

Final Words

In short, there’s not a big need to panic with this exact match close variants update. Google will always have new updates and we’ll just have to adjust to them or find a work around. In the list of considerable updates, this isn’t likely going to break the bank. Be happy Google gave us back separating desktop and tablet device level bidding.

Read more about Google’s exact match close variants update.