This month, Google announced that exact match variants are changing, meaning that the way that exact match keyword variants is now different. Currently, any abbreviations, plurals or typos will still be picked up on the exact match keyword. However, the change now means that Google will now ignore word order and function words, which means exact match is no longer exact match.
Here’s an example of what the change means:
- [red dress wedding] could be shown for a search of ‘red dress for wedding’
- [running shoes] could be shown for a search of ‘shoes running’
- [car insurance] could be shown for a search of ‘insurance car’ or even ‘insurance for car’
There has been a lot of panic in the industry around this, but on reflection the changes shouldn’t impact advertisers that much, and here’s why:
The Intent In The Searches Are The Same
For the most part, and yes there are exceptions, the intent of these searches are exactly the same. Just by adding words like ‘for’ or ‘to’ the intent involved in the search hasn’t changed. In the example above the user is still looking for a red dress for a wedding so wouldn’t expect this user to behave in a different way.
By swapping the orders of the words, the vast majority of industries shouldn’t see a change in search intent. Let’s look at a few examples:
New cars to cars new – No change in intent
Sky broadband to broadband sky – No change in intent
Carpet cleaning to cleaning carpet – No change in intent
House valuation to valuation house – No change in intent
Football tickets to tickets football – No change in intent
However, the biggest change is in the travel industry a search for ‘london to new york’ isn’t the same as ‘new york to london’. For a start, a company may not sell flights in both directions and it is certainly not what the user is searching for so doesn’t want to be seeing an ad referencing flights to new york – it’s simply wasted ad spend, cue my next point…
Negative Keywords Can Combat This
Now more than ever, negative keywords need to be utilised effectively. If the search intent of your keyword could differ with the change, then this should be placed as a negative keyword. Some Excel trickery can be used as a starting point to reverse the orders of the keywords as negative and add variants with the function words as negatives.
Following this, search query reports should be looked at to show exactly what terms your keywords are showing for. From this, any search terms that you don’t want to show your ads for can be placed as a negative keyword either at an ad group or campaign level.
I’d always ask yourself whether you’d change the messaging for the different keywords, if not then it may not require you to treat the keyword differently.
What Else Does The Change Mean For Advertisers?
The change highlights that Google can change anything they want to and advertisers have to be agile enough to deal with this. Google can, and will continue to make advertisers work harder but for now the control is still in the hands of the advertiser (to a certain extent!).
Not sure on how the change will impact you and your business? Feel free to drop a comment below!