Google will Require Close Variant Matching Next Month: What It Means to You

Google announced last Thursday that Adwords will be requiring all campaigns to use close variant keyword matching starting in late September. In other words, the exact match and phrase match options are no longer available, so advertisers cannot prevent their ads from showing up on variations of their keywords. The way that close variants work is the same as they always have, you simply no longer have the option to opt out.

For example, if you bid on one version of a keyword—the singular version, abbreviations, spelled a certain way, etc.—you will now by default have to also show up on searches that are using the plural version, a different spelling, etc. You cannot tell Google that you want something exact anymore.

So Why did Google Make the Change?

According to Google, at least 7 percent of Google searches contain a misspelling. On that same note, it doesn’t matter if someone is trying to type “kid scooters”, “kid’s scooter”, or “kids scooters”, people are interested in buying a scooter for their child. These people want to see all of their available options regardless of what exact query they may have put into the search bar. Because Google knows what the person is trying to find, they want to be able to offer them all of their options. This means that all businesses should participate, and one way to do that is to eliminate exact match and phrase match options for advertisers using AdWords.

There were three benefits highlighted in the announcement:

  1. A Successful Match. Google also claimed that most advertisers are already matching close keyword variations, and those that do see an average of 7 percent more exact and phrase match clicks with similar CTR and conversion rates.
  2. Reach More Customers. Close variant keyword matching will soon be applied to all exact and phrase match keywords, but Google reminded us that this was already the default setting, so most people won’t even notice a change. For those that did typically choose the exact match option (the one that won’t be available in September), they will now be able to reach more customers easier improving CTR numbers, as discussed above.
  3. Control with Less Complexity. You no longer have to build long lists of misspelled, abbreviated, etc. of your keywords. You can now focus on adding negative keywords and close variants you don’t want to match for in order cut down on costs.

Google did mention that you can still use misspelled or abbreviated keywords in the AdWords system. If you are finding that performance varies based on different close variants, simple add the better performing ones as separate keywords.

So are there any negatives?

Google made this change so they are certainly not highlighting any negatives, but a few advertisers have. While it’s true that most do benefit from using close variant matching, some advertisers like to check the “exact match” box so that they know exactly what keywords their budget is going towards. While “kid scooters” and “kid’s scooter” seem like they have the same intent with searchers, advertisers say that it could be very different.

Search Engine Land offered a few great examples of when intent could be different. Take the query “cosmetic plastic surgery Anaheim” and compare it against the close variant keyword “cosmetic plastic surgeon Anaheim.” Although they are close in spelling, they are very different in meaning.

Aside from just meaning and intent, you have to consider that companies selling in bulk may see better results with plural forms of keywords, but Google might give preference to the singular version. In short, advertisers are losing control with this new change.

What This Means to You Moving Forward

The changes moving forward really only apply to those who typically clicked that exact match box. If this describes you, you’re going to need to do a few things differently come the end of September:

Again, moving forward many people will not need to worry about this change because they’ve already been using close variant matching. Still, advertisers aren’t happy about losing this control, and they sounded off about it on Twitter.

What are your thoughts on the new change within AdWords? Is Google making the right move, or are advertisers just losing control and choices?