The End of Google’s PPC ‘Exact Match’

Tuesday, September 02, 2014
angelikialvanou

What changes regarding Google’s match types:

Up to now advertisers could opt out from close variations in phrase and exact match but soon this option will be history. From late September onwards Google plan to implement close variant keyword matching to all exact and phrase match keywords. For some this might not be great news since according to Google’s stats the majority of advertisers (around 80%) already make use of close variations, but for others it could mean a drastic change in campaign structure. So, since the choice of opting in or out is already there the question is whether such a drastic change -that will practically eliminate exact match – is needed.

Benefits:

Google argue that this change will gain advertisers more coverage –after all 7% of queries are misspellings – which could result in lower CPC and higher CTR.  Since the introduction of close variations in 2012 -according to Google’s report – advertisers have experience a 7% raise in phrase and exact match clicks.

Close variations can also help advertisers to find new words that convert. ‘Hidden’ keyword opportunities could be lying in misspellings, abbreviations or low volume keywords. Also, extensive keyword lists will not be needed anymore and that will save you valuable time. So far so good.

The thing is that they are already ways to pull in these keywords without having to create extensive lists. For example we have always seen the value of ensuring visibility for misspellings on some keywords and have captured these by using modified broad match.

How you may be affected:

Those who are using broad much or phrase and exact matches without opting out from close variations will notice very little to no change.

Those who have opted out should be prepared for that extra 7% though!

One possible implication is that the expected higher number of impressions might generate more clicks but may lower your conversions since the gap between your offer and what the user is looking for may be significant.  Thus despite the higher impressions –and possibly higher clicks – your CPA could increase significantly from irrelevant clicks that will hurt your conversions. So for example if someone clicked on your ad for baby clothes while he or she was looking for baby cloths there is a high possibility that you won’t get the conversion if this is a product that you do not provide.

A shared concern among those who wish to retain full control over their keywords is that they will have to add a long list of negative keywords in order to achieve that. This can take time as –in the beginning at least- they will have to analyse queries reports almost in daily basis in order to identify negative keywords.

Close variations may provide opportunity for higher coverage but there will always be a degree of uncertainty regarding the keywords that will trigger your ad. Yes you are definitely interested for misspellings of your brand name, but two words may differ only by a few characters and have a competely different meaning.

Also the competition is expected to be higher as more ads will be eligible to show for a given query.

What you can do:  

  • As said changes won’t take place until late September so you might want to opt into exact variants if you haven’t already in order to slowly adapt.
  • As always you should monitor your account’s performance closely. Bid adjustments may be needed now that the volume will be increased. Analyse your keyword reports to identify potential bid adjustments and negative keywords.
  • In case you have campaigns that are exact match only consider restructuring your account.
  • You should be extra careful when you are targeting other languages, Google may recognise as close variants words that share the same root but have different meaning.  Also take into account close variants in different languages with similar alphabets for example English and Spanish, like rope and ropa (clothes in Spanish). Add these words to your negative keyword list.
  • Monitor your ROI after the change and then adjust your budget accordingly. For some, increased clicks may be accompanied by significantly more conversions, so it will actually be an improvement. One way to capture those extra conversions is by optimising your landing page.
  • Monitor your search query reports more closely to check for misspellings that do provide you with qualified traffic.

We understand that for many advertisers this change does not make sense since the choice was already there for those who wished to make use of it.  Some suggest that there should be modifiers for biding in close variants or/and for different devices in order to regain a high level of control.
All you can do for now in order to regain control  is to see if the extra traffic is taking you closer to your campaigns’ goals. If not, identify terms that bring you invaluable clicks and use them as negative keywords. Where there is a will, there is a way.