Learning to Love AdWords Close Variants

Is Google really getting rid of exact match keywords in AdWords campaigns? Not exactly. Before you panic, learn more about close variants and the ways they expand your PPC campaign.

Close Variants

The SEM community exploded late last month with the news that Google would be doing away with exact match keywords in PPC campaigns. The headlines, however, were far more drastic than the actual changes that Google had planned; the only thing changing is a single check box (which you likely ignored anyway), the goal is to create more successful campaigns and you still have plenty of control over your keyword options.

Match Types

At its core, Google’s PPC bids allow you to focus on keywords in three ways, and none of those paths are being cancelled.

  • Broad matches allow your ads to appear search results that are broadly related to the keywords you have selected, as well as related searches and a wide number of variations. When rumors started flying about the “end of exact match,” customers were concerned that all ad campaigns would begin running as broad match campaigns. This simply isn’t the case.
  • Phrase matches allow your ads to appear in search results that include your chosen keywords in their exact form or as part of broader phrases. For example, if you were bidding on “dog treats,” your ad could also appear in searches for “organic dog treats” or “senior dog treats.” You could still use negative keywords to rule out these phrases if your dog treats were not organic or if you did not senior dog treats.
  • Exact matches allow your ads to appear for an exact phrase alone, rather than for phrases that include your targeted keyword phrase. For example, if you were bidding for “dog treats,” your ad would not appear when someone searched for “wholesale dog treats.”

The Check Box

But what about misspelled versions and plural/singular variants of keyword phrases? In the past, you had three choices:

1)      Use broad match campaigns, since these already account for variations like this. Unfortunately, this means risking your campaign’s focus and increases the risk of your ad appearing in irrelevant search results.

2)      Include misspellings, stemmings (such as tile and tiling), plural/singular variations, etc. in your keyword list. Needless to say, this option can be quite exhausting, and you increase the risk of missing a wide range of variations.

3)      Use the close variants option for your phrase and exact matches. Google introduced close variant matching in 2012 in order to make this entire process much easier. By clicking a checkbox (which was checked by default anyway), you could ensure that your phrase matches and exact matches included misspellings and small variations in your keyword selection. On average, advertisers that used this option saw a 7% increase in ad clicks.

So what has changed? As of September, you will no longer be able to uncheck the close variants box. So, no, phrase matching and exact matching are not going to disappear any more than they “disappeared” if you neglected to uncheck the close variants box in the past. They are still around; however, now Google will match your ads with searches that contained misspelled words and minor variations (such as plural/singular forms of your chose keyword).

You Are Still in Control of Your Campaign

If you are concerned about losing the exactness of your exact matches, the best option is the same one that you would use to limit the phrases included in your phrase matches: negative keywords. Remove your ads from appearing in searches that involve certain misspellings, plural versions, etc. by including them in your list of negative keywords. Once you start doing this, it will become clear why Google made the choice that they did: creating a negative keyword list like this, to rule out false positives, is far easier than trying creating a keyword list that includes every misspelling and variation of a keyword in order to avoid missed opportunities.

To learn more about the changing world of PPC advertising, be sure to watch our recent video on remarketing ads.

About 

Jason was a Communications Specialist with four years of ecommerce marketing experience. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a BA in English and a minor in Speech Communication. When he is not reading and writing, Jason enjoys cooking and spending time with his two rescue dogs.

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