“Almost Exact” Matches – How AdWords is Redefining Exact Match Keywords

“Almost Exact” Matches – How AdWords is Redefining Exact Match Keywords
"Almost Exact" Matches - How AdWords is Redefining its Keyword Type

Google AdWords is redefining it’s Exact Match Keywords. This change is going to have large implications for paid search advertisers and how they optimize their campaigns.

"Almost Exact" Matches - How AdWords is Redefining its Keyword Type
“Almost Exact” Matches – How Google AdWords is Redefining its Exact Match Keywords

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “exact” as “exhibiting or marked by strict, particular, and complete accordance with fact or a standard”. Of course, common sense dictates that to all of us ahead of time. If we were told by our parents to be home at exactly ten, we had best not be sneaking in fifteen minutes late. Until recently, Google AdWords possessed a keyword match type that was, exactly that, pun intended.

Exact match type for keywords meant that in order for an ad you’ve created for use in your AdWords campaign to show, a user’s search query had to match your keyword to a t. Only a handful of minor differences including: misspellings, singular and plural forms, stemmings, acronyms, abbreviations and accents would also cause your ads to trigger. But Google is changing all that in a big way. How? By redefining what its system sees as “close variations” on keywords.

Keyword Match Types Overview

In case you need a refresher on match types, here is a great, brief video to brush up on your match type knowledge.

Exact Match Keywords The New Meaning

In an article linked below by WordStream content marketing specialist Allen Finn, Finn refers to the new Exact match keywords as “Exact-enough” matches. Google’s intent in changing the definition of close variation, according to Finn, was benevolent. Google wanted to give advertisers the opportunity to cash in on previously “missed” searches by users entering queries which were close to the exact keywords, but not quite close enough to trigger them, even if the user’s intention was the same.

Google includes “men’s dress shirts” and “dress shirts men’s”  and others as examples of two searches that, while not strictly exactly the same, seem to have the same intention behind them. This is the result of Google allowing word order differences to still count as “close variance.” In addition to the previous examples of close variation, Google will now also ignore irrelevant function words (articles, conjunctions, prepositions, etc.) to widen the net and catch more of the escapees who were costing businesses potential clicks.

New Exact Match Keyword Examples

Here are some more examples to illustrate the concept:

Google AdWords Exact Match Update - Rewording and ignoring function words
Google AdWords Exact Match Update – Rewording and ignoring function words

Here are some more examples provided by Google where the words in the keyword and query were matched when the words are reordered:

Google AdWords Exact Match Keywords Update – Same Meaning, Different Order

This sounds all well and good thus far, no? Unfortunately, this well intentioned change can have unforeseen negative consequences for advertisers. There’s something to be said here about the road to Hell, but I’ll leave that to the imagination.

Because the definition of “close variance” has been broadened, marketers now have to contend with irrelevant searches sneaking through the cracks and accidentally triggering their ad to an uninterested user, dragging down CTR and quality score. Additionally, because close variants now can mingle freely with your original exact match keywords, there is, according to research done by WordStream, an 18% chance that you could find two of these keywords competing in the same ad auction. This forces advertisers to bid against themselves for one ad placement.

New Exact Match Keywords – What Now?

Before you panic and find the quickest “eject” button from your AdWords account, take heart in the knowledges that there are means of coping with this new development and mitigating any lost performance from it.

If preserving specific word order is important to your keywords and ads, using phrase match keywords should help fill the void of what exact match keywords used to cover. Another tool on your belt that will be crucial is negative keywords. Use them whenever you feel that the new close variants Google has added for you are irrelevant and dragging down your performance to make sure they no longer trigger your ads.

Finally, as a general note, remain vigilant in managing your AdWords account. Whereas before this change, looking at your search terms report was a “wise move”, it is now essential that you do so. The search terms report can enable you to catch any ill-matching search queries and keywords before you sink valuable resources into them.

Though change is certainly scary sometimes, there is hope for this one. Google promises nearly 3% increases in CTR and conversion rates without significant increases in advertiser input from their campaigns. While the validity of this claim remains to be seen, there are tools and strategies in the meantime to help weather the storm.

3 Things You Need to Know – Webinar Deep Dive by WordStream

Here is a deep dive into the changes to Exact Match Keywords, if/why you should care and what to do to take advantage of this mandatory (no opt-out) change.

 Google Announces New Keyword Match Types – 3 Things You Need to Know – the video

More changes have been made to Google’s AdWords platform… and this time it involves exact match keywords.

Join our expert, Mark Irvine as he covers everything you need to know to stay ahead of the curve.

You’ll learn:

– What exactly is changing
– Steps you can take to prepare your account
– How to continue to optimize your account moving forward

– and the slides …

Are you feeling overwhelmed trying to manage your own AdWords Search campaigns? We are here to help. Fill out the form below and a Google Certified AdWords specialist will be back in touch.

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Additional Reading:


Ricky Noel is a Google AdWords Certified AdWords Professional, a proud employee of eBiz, ROI. as well as a full-time student at SUNY Geneseo, where he studies English, Education, and Theater. Ricky got into the internet marketing industry when his father, Rick, introduced him to Google AdWords and showed him the possibilities online advertising represented for business owners and web-users alike. Ricky began working with eBiz in the summer of 2016, between senior year of highschool and shipping off to college. Since then, he has worked remotely from school thanks to the wonders of Google Hangouts and high speed internet connectivity. His passions include reading, writing creatively and analytically, and performing in plays and musicals. He is also an experienced Dungeons and Dragons aficionado, holds Abraham Lincoln and George R.R. Martin among his personal heroes, and is really excited to help businesses grow and spread their message online.

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