As reported here on Search Engine Land last week, Google is in the process of further broadening the meaning of ‘exact match’ keywords. Based on a 2014 change, these keywords could already be expanded to include singular, plural and misspellings of the exact match keyword.
Last year, Google allowed function words to be added in the query and the word order to be changed. Now Google will further expand ‘close variants’ exact match keywords so ads can be shown for searches with the same intent.
Through improvements in its machine learning algorithms, Google claims it can now better classify the intent of a query. When it finds the intent is basically the same as that of an exact match keyword, the ad may be shown even though the usual conditions of when this match type is allowed to trigger an ad are not met.
We’ve now gotten pretty far away from the old days when we could rely on match types to help restrict when our ads would be shown. It’s no surprise there is a lot of chatter around what’s going on, what to do and why Google is doing this. While I’m all for having an interesting topic to discuss with industry colleagues, I used to be an AdWords Evangelist at Google so it’s in my nature to try and shed as much light as possible on what is happening.
This change will roll out through October so it will take time to see full results, but I decided we need a better report than what Google offers so marketers can see the real impact of this change on our accounts. Here is a script I wrote (which you can download below) and what I’ve learned so far.
The new exact match
Exact match keywords used to be the most restrictive; ads could only show when the query was exactly the same as the keyword. Most complaints I hear about close variants is that exact match no longer works as a super restrictive match type.
We can clearly see this in some examples: