Are Exact Match Keywords EXACT? Not anymore…

Since the existence of Google Adwords marketers have been using, selecting and bidding on Keywords to reach out to consumers on search engines. Now Google has made further changes to how we use Keywords, particularly the use of ‘Exact Match’ keywords. Yippy!/s Past Definition of Exact Keywords

Exact match keywords used to be a Google Adwords keyword match type where your Ad would only appear if a user types exactly what appeared in the square brackets. So the exact match keyword would only enter a Google auction in which the search query perfectly matches your keyword, now it has changed to include close variants.

So, what’s happening with Exact match keywords?

Google has stated that ‘exact match’ keywords have changed, where exact match keywords will expand “close variant matching to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords”.

What is close variant, rewording and reordering for Exact Match then?

Close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, abbreviations, acronyms, stemming (such as steam and steaming) and accents. Moreover, this change means Google ignores word order and function words when determining whether your search Ad should activate for an exact match keyword. Function words include prepositions (such as in, to), articles (such as the) or conjunctions (such as but, for). In these instances, the following would show on Google:

Exact Match Keyword Table
Therefore, fundamentally EXACT no longer means EXACT match, and now exact match keywords will be shown for more searches, which could lead to complications for your optimisations. Previously we’ve had the option for greater control of keywords and these changes could have some negative effects on Adwords campaigns if not considered as optimisations are undertaken.

Drawbacks of the exact match change?

Many advertisers see the change as a loss of control of their keywords by possibly having their ads shown on irrelevant searches, due to the close variations and reordering.

Another downfall of this change is that if you have already spent the time optimising your campaigns by adding different variations of keywords in exact match with different bids, they will no longer be used and the extra keyword is irrelevant. Instead the keyword/ad combination with the best quality score for the search query will be activated. This could also potentially mean a loss of control on certain keywords bids and budgets.

Companies advertising in niche industries will need to be wary of the changes too, especially if using long-tail keywords. For example, a company who provides training and qualifications for people to professional such as Electricians, you may be attracted to bid for the exact match [Electrician qualification] but not for the more searched for and expensive search [Qualified Electrician]. Or an Oil specialist for a bearings business may want to bid on terms for industrials oils but not for the oil industry. The use of negative keywords will be crucial here.

On the other hand, Google suggests the reasons for the change is to reduce the need for advertisers to create long lists of keywords for their Adwords campaigns, and adding keywords in several variations. However, it appears that exact match is becoming more like broad match modified, where keywords are found in wider search terms.

Why has Google done this to PPC peeps/nerds?

  • As previously mentioned, you no longer need to create long lists of keywords. This system can often be time consuming for the business and marketer. Spend more time focusing on adding negatives, ensuring your keywords only appear for relevant searches.
  • Fewer keywords to manage, as keywords will show for close variations and other misspellings and abbreviations etc. As prior advertisers would have needed to add the variations to bid on those keywords.
  • Not everyone is great spelling, even with predictive text! The close variant permits for misspelled keywords.
  • A Wider reach; the close variations and reordering will allow keywords to be seen under more searches. For instance, a search for “ladies dress” would produce the following queries; “laddies dress”, “ladies d ress”, “ladies dresses”, “lady dress”. Typically, these variations would not show without close variant switched on, potentially missing out on shoppers and users due to mistakes and spelling. However, some searches might be genuine searches with other (non-purchasing) intentions.

Google suggest their trials predict Adwords advertisers will see up to three percent more exact match clicks on average, whilst sustaining similar click-through and conversion rates. However, for now advertisers need to be wary of the changes being made by Google and make changes now to all campaigns if needed.

Moving forward for PPC Accounts

To optimise your campaigns to the fullest:

  • Revaluate every Keyword term you are bidding on. Look at the variations and alternatives of the search terms, and then exclude irrelevant words or terms as negatives, due to close variant picking up more search results.
  • Remove duplicate keywords. For example, if you have keywords that are ordered in different ways, such as [Leicester Gyms] and [Gyms Leicester], or included keywords with prepositions or other functional words such as [Gyms in Leicester], as the new change will see these keywords as the same. Therefore, they will be bidding in the same search auctions from within the account. It’s important to eradicate duplicate keywords, as they can increase cost-per-click for each keyword.
  • Focus on landing page optimisation; ensuring your landing pages are relevant to the ads and provides a good user experience. This all accumulates to your keyword quality score, and where your ad ranks on the SERP.
  • You should keep a good mix of Keywords and ensure you are still using phrase and broad match modified effectively. Google may be changing stuff, but they’re not gone yet.

Overall there’s not too many advertisers out there who are overly happy with the changes; feeling a loss of control over keywords and bids, and keyword lists they may have spent time generating. A few marketers believe exact match keywords are now pointless, and there’s effectively no use for them as they provide similar functions to broad match modified keywords.

However, we believe there is still an opportunity to use them wisely for short search terms and niche markets, but it is true exact match is no longer EXACT. And as always and perhaps now, even more so, we need to make sure we keep building our negative keyword lists.

If you have any queries on countdown ads or would like help improving your online presence and sales, get in touch with us.

PS. In the writing of this blog post we reviewed articles by other industry authorities. Check them out if you want to look at further reading.


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