As reported here on Search Engine Land last week Google is expanding the meaning of "exact match" keywords. Based on during a change in 2014 these keywords could already be expanded to include the singular, the plural and the spelling mistakes of the exact keyword.
Last year, Google allowed adding function words in the query and changing the word order. Google will now further extend the match keywords for "close variants" so that ads can run for searches with the same intent.
By improving its machine learning algorithms, Google says it can now better define the intent of a query. When it finds that the intent is basically the same as that of an exact match keyword, the announcement may be broadcast even if the usual conditions of the moment when that type of match is allowed to trigger an ad are not met.
We are now quite a long way from the old days when we could rely on the types of correspondence to limit the spread of our ads. It's no surprise that there's a lot of talk about what's going on, what needs to be done and why Google does it. Although I'm quite good at having an interesting topic to discuss with my industry colleagues, I was an AdWords Evangelist at Google, so I have a duty to throw as much light as possible on what's going on.
This amendment will be implemented until October. It will take time to get full results, but I decided we needed a better report than Google offered so marketers could see the real impact of these changes. Here is a script I wrote (which you can download below) and what I have learned so far.
The new exact match
The exact match keywords were the most restrictive. ads could only show when the query was the same as the keyword. Most of the complaints I hear about close variants indicate that the exact match no longer functions as a super restrictive type of match.
We can clearly see this in some examples:
The exact match remains restrictive because it does not allow (or should not allow) the presence of other words unrelated to the keyword itself. The above example showing "Google AdWords analysis" corresponding to "Google AdWords competitive analysis" may be distinguished by a different intent. We will have to wait and see how Google sets limits to what is considered a "same intention".
For now, the exact match keeps the relationship between the keyword and the query very close. What is a little surprising is that unlike the phrase match where the word order must be respected, the new exact match allows you to change the order of the words. Does this average expression now correspond to our most restrictive type of correspondence?
Google stated that changes to variants only affected the exact match. So we should not see the changes to the sentence. Phrase matching means that the words in the search must be in the same order and not have different words between them. Basically, that always seems to be the case. The singular, the plural, the spelling mistakes and the basic notes appear in many examples that I find, but the order of the words is respected.
Although the match phrase seems to remain unchanged, it can not be considered more restrictive than the exact match because there are no restrictions as to which terms may be present in the query before or after the keyword.
Wide match modifier
In 2010, Google introduced the Broad Match modifier (BMM) . By adding a "+" symbol in front of a part of a broad keyword, the system displays ads only when the exact word is present in the search. It's not really a type of correspondence, but it's technical (check the API), so let's include it here anyway.
The same close variants that apply to exact are also applied to words that have the broad match modifier. It does not force the exact word to be present but, as for the new exact match, the intention seems to be the same.
The wide match modifier still requires that each keyword in the keyword be related to the query words so that it remains more restrictive than the broad match.
What is the new type of most restrictive match?
We do not need to include an analysis of keywords because they have always been defined as broad. You can still use the script to parse these keywords if you want to get an idea of the breadth of Google.
Having examined some examples of more restrictive types of correspondence, where does this lead us?
There are now two types of correspondence that I would consider "the most restrictive", but they differ in their restrictive character:
The exact match limits the extra words in the query.
The phrase match keeps the order of the keywords of the keyword.
All of the examples shared here come from a script that I wrote and that produces a report stating how your keywords were associated with the search terms. You can get this report in the Google Ads interface (formerly Adwords), but it does not apply to certain limitations. I have therefore written the script below to produce a more detailed report.
The script displays the metrics for the keyword and the search term on a single line. This makes it easier to compare the performance of the query with that of the keyword. Although it is easy to judge a single query, it may be that the fact that the query exceeds the underlying keyword escapes you. That's the point of Google … you can actually want these variants close because they work well.
I've also added the keyword's match type to the report. In the Ads UI, the Match Type column indicates the match between the keyword and the query rather than the match type specified by the advertiser.
For example, the broad match keyword "flowers" is tagged "match exact" when displayed for a query identical to the keyword "flowers". It is therefore difficult to analyze the extent of Google's definition of close variants for different types of match, as defined by the advertiser at the keyword level.
I've also added a comparison function to the script to see how different the query and the keyword are. I used the Levenshtein Distance for this. It returns the number of characters to add, delete, or modify so that one string is transformed into another string.
For example, adding an "s" to make a plural word translates to a distance of 1. Change the keyword "Yosemite Camping" to "Yosemite Campsites" at a distance of 5 because we have to change three letters and add two new ones to make the transformation. With this numerical value, we can more easily sort the data to see the largest expansions first. This will be particularly useful for monitoring the evolution of the "similar intent" component of the algorithm over time.
Instead of guessing the impact of new match types on your account, look at some of the examples I have shared and use the free script below to extract data for your own accounts.
Discuss with customers and stakeholders to remind them that you are good at your job and that with the right processes and resources, you can take advantage of this latest change by Google to grow their business.
Here is the script:
About the author
Frederick ("Fred") Vallaeys was one of the first 500 employees at Google where he spent 10 years creating AdWords and teaching advertisers how to get the most out of it as a Google AdWords evangelist.
Today, he is the co-founder of Optmyzr an AdWords tool company focused on unique insights, one-click optimizations ™, advanced reports to improve account management and Enhanced Scripts ™ for AdWords. Through his work with SalesX a search marketing agency focused on converting clicks into revenue, he stays up-to-date with best practices. He is frequently invited to speak at events where he encourages organizations to be more innovative and to become better online marketers.