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Mike Friedman

Google is expanding close variants for exact match in AdWords

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Google posted this on their AdWords blog yesterday.


Years ago exact match in AdWords meant exactly that. Your ads only showed for that specific query exactly as you listed it. Over time Google has expanded that and will sometimes show your ads for plural variations, single variations, misspellings, removing or adding symbols such as the apostrophe in "it's" versus "its", and sometimes even abbreviations.

Google is expanding their definition of exact match again. They will now include removing, adding, or changing function words. Function words are prepositions, conjunctions, and words like a or the that don't impact the intent of the search. In addition to that, they will be looking at changing word order. For example, running shoes could now be an exact match for shoes running.

Whether or not this ends up being a good or bad change will be determined over time. Having to generate a giant list of keywords to target things like running shoes, shoes running, shoes for running, shoes to run in, and every other conceivable variation can be a pain in the ass. That being said, this was kind of the purpose of the phrase match options.

It all comes down to how good Google is at this, and when it comes to understanding language and searcher intent, they have gotten pretty good over the years. The concern is going to be if they decide things like running shoes for women is an exact match for running shoes but I don't sell shoes for women. Advertisers will certainly get upset if they are paying for clicks that do not help them.

One more reason to make sure you are maintaining a well thought out negative keywords list and keeping it updated regularly in your campaigns.

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I was reading about this yesterday. It's a big, big change. I'm surprised the response has been very muffled so far.

They are also ignoring word order. So if you add in the function word changes combined with ignoring word order... bag of shit is now an exact match if you are bidding on shit bag. As we all know they are two distinctly different things.

Silly example of course, but there will be real life consequences for advertisers with this change. 

I'm putting together a big list of negative keywords to add to my campaigns. Going to drip feed them in though to make sure I don't accidentally lampoon myself of course.

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It certainly is a big change and one that advertisers should be concerned about. 

I wrote about his in a little more detail over here

Google to expand exact match in AdWords

What could happen as a result is because they are expanding their definition of exact match you will see more advertisers bidding for queries unintentionally. That will drive up the prices for position 1, position 2, etc.

In the coming months if you see a steady increase in your CPC, you can probably trace it back directly to this change.

I'll be anxious to hear Google's 3rd and 4th quarter results in the coming year. I bet they will see more AdWords growth year-over-year then they have in a long time.


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