If you keep up to date with paid search news, chances are, you’ve already heard about the changes Google is making to exact match keywords. But what will it mean for your AdWords strategy? Zoe Bates, Director of Paid Search, cuts through the chatter to tell you what you need to know.

Exact match change explained

time for change in scrabble letters

On 17th March, Google announced changes to the way in which close match variants work on exact match keywords, making it easier to reach consumers in the different ways they search.

This change from 1st April 2017 will see an expansion of close variant matching to include the rewording and reordering for exact match keywords only.

What does this change mean?

  • Exact match will ignore ‘Function’ words (in, to, for, but, a, the) to match with similar queries but only if it doesn’t change the meaning of the search (e.g. “flight from london” is not the same as a “flight to london”).
  • Exact match will match queries with reordered variations of your keyword (e.g.  “buy red shoes” and “red shoes buy”).  The word reordering won’t add any words to your keywords and change the original meaning (e.g. “london to berlin” shouldn’t match to “berlin to london” as the destination is different).

Why is Google doing this?

Google says “‘with this expansion of close variants, you’ll no longer have to build and maintain lists of reworded and reordered exact match keywords to get the coverage you want.”  You may read this and feel a lack of control but remember, when Google fully rolled out close variants back in 2014 (to capture misspells, singular, plurals and other variants of a word), there was the same sense, but Googles aim was to shift their focus to the consumer.

This is an evolution of this process and we really don’t think anyone needs to panic. Whenever there is a new Google release there is an initial air of uncertainty, but we believe with a relevant keyword list and effective use of audience targeting, this will further our ability to reach the right consumers, and at the right time.

What will this mean for your AdWords strategy?

keywords in scrabble letters

We suggest reviewing your account to identify any keywords you think may be impacted and think about any negatives you want to add ahead of the change.

From the 1st April, closely monitor your account and look at the impact on performance (impressions, spend, clicks, CTR, ROAS). Google’s early tests indicate this change has increased exact match term searching by about 3% while maintaining comparable CTR and CR, but there is no doubt this will change as the update rolls out across all advertisers over the next two months.

If you regularly analyse your search term report data, you will need to focus more time on the quality of the search terms triggered by exact match to ensure the intent of the search query remains the same, and also think about layering in audiences to ensure you reach the right consumers at the right time.

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About the author:

Zoe Bates oversees the operation of client services and ensures we deliver outstanding work for clients through creativity, quality control and process improvement. Zoe’s vast background in search marketing includes managing paid search campaigns for First Choice and product manager and shareholder at Europe’s leading search marketing technology company, working with brands across global markets and tailoring search strategies across multiple countries.