This month, Google AdWords announced that from late September, ‘close variant keyword matching’ will be applied to all exact and phrase match keywords.

For the past two years, Google has rolled out this change gradually, meaning that many AdWords users will already be matching to close variant keywords. Have you ever explored the search terms your ads show for? You may have seen the phrase “Exact match (close variant)”. This means that Google AdWords is already using close variant keyword matching in your campaigns. Since these changes took effect, it has been possible to opt out of matching to close variant keywords.

However from late next month, close variant matching will apply to all phrase and exact match keywords, with no opportunity to opt out.

So, what exactly is close variant matching?

Here’s a simple example: the keyword in your AdWords account is [women’s dresses]. As an exact match keyword, you would expect your ad to appear only when a search query matches your keyword exactly. With close variant matching, your ad could potentially show for the following search queries:

women’s dresses (exact match)
womens dress (close variant)
woman’s dresses (close variant)
womn’s dresses (close variant)
dress womens (close variant)

Google describes close variant matching as ‘an intuitive way to connect people with the businesses they’re searching for’. Essentially, it caters to searchers who may have ordered words differently, or slightly misspelled their search term (according to Google, 7% of searches contain a misspelling).

For many, this will seem like a good idea. After all, who wants to potentially lose out on qualified traffic simply because the searcher misspelled ‘women’?

However, if you’re an advertiser who relishes having full control over your campaigns, you may not welcome the change. Unfortunately, the addition of close variant keyword matching to all campaigns means that you don’t know exactly which phrases your ads could show for. An example of this might be an advertiser targeting a keyword with multiple or ambiguous meanings.

How can you ensure you only show up for the most relevant searches?

This is where AdWords’ negative keyword feature comes into its own.

If you’ve been running a well-optimised account for a while, you’ve probably built up some hefty negative keyword lists. With the addition of close variant keyword matching, it may be necessary to grow these lists even further.

Think of any potential close keyword variations that you wouldn’t want your ads to show up for, and add these as negative keywords. If you prefer to bid differently based on plurality, you might consider setting up ad groups for plural and non-plural keywords, with the opposite plurality included as negative keywords for each group.

It might also be possible to use broad match modifiers to combat this change. By including only the words you wish to appear in search queries, you may be able to stop your ads showing for less relevant search queries.

It’s important to remember that for most advertisers, this change will barely make any difference whatsoever, as lots of AdWords users have never questioned close variant matching. When this change happens, it will only pose a slight problem for those advertisers who are particularly granular in their approach to exact match keyword bidding. Luckily, by refocusing that granular approach to negative keywords and modifier keywords, this change should be easily manageable.

Are you concerned about close variant keyword matching? Don’t be. This isn’t a major AdWords change and it really shouldn’t have a negative effect on your PPC campaigns. However, if you need advice or a helping hand with your PPC, don’t hesitate to get in touch today!

Posted in PPC on 27th Aug 2014