3 MINUTE READ | March 21, 2017
Google’s New Exact Match Close Variant
For years Google’s exact match, meant just that, search terms that matched exactly to the keywords in your search account. Then, in 2012, the rules for search terms matching to your exact keywords grew a bit more liberal but relatively simple; exact match started matching to plurals, misspellings, abbreviations, etc. This new match type was title exact match close variant. For most advertisers, this update made sense. But even if it didn’t, advertisers could opt for close variant and stick with the tried and true exact match. However, in 2014, exact match close variant became mandatory for everyone. But now, in 2017, the landscape of exact match is about to change again.
Last week Google announced the newest updates coming to close variant. According to Google’s announcement, exact match will now match not only to the search terms that reflect the keywords in your account but also to search terms with the same intent. By ignoring what Google calls “function” words (i.e. prepositions, conjunctions and articles) and using machine learning, Google believes it can now successfully determine when a user searches something that matches the intent of an advertiser’s exact match keywords. For example, “stripe swimsuit” will match to “swimsuit with stripes.” Below are three ways that Google will ignore the function keywords and choose to match the query to an exact match keyword.
While hearing that Google will be “ignoring” any words when matching to keywords may make many advertisers nervous, they assure us that it’s not as scary as it sounds. For example, their algorithm will be able to determine the importance of the preposition in search queries such as “flights from SFO to NYC” given that flights from SFO should return a different result than flights to SFO. Google also predicts that “advertisers may see up to 3% more exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable clickthrough and conversion rates.” 1
The updates to exact match close variant are expected to take place at the end of April. To prepare yourself, first, take a deep breath and rest assured that Google will still prioritize matching to the exact keywords in your account if possible. As for next steps, take a closer look at your search query reports and determine what search terms may soon start matching to your specific campaign. If they are search queries you would rather not show up for, start adding them as negatives to your account. Keep a close eye on your search query reports in the coming months and be prepared to extend your negatives list. Additionally, prioritize your non-brand campaigns as branded campaigns are less likely to get caught up in a mix-up of “dress for a wedding” matching to “wedding dress.”
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