word cloud

Google recently announced that starting in September 2014, they will require all keyword matching types to include close variant matching. For advertisers that like to have tight control over keywords through exact match, this may create some changes to how you manage AdWords. One of the concerns about this change is that it will increase ad spend, with your ads popping up for near variants that might not actually be relevant.

How it Works


Close variants allow for misspellings and typos to still bring up a relevant Ad. An example of how this works is a keyword you may have included could be yoga clothes and an example search that would bring up your product would be ‘buy athletic clothes’ or ‘buy yogawear.’ So in theory you could be pulling in more relevant customers who used slightly different search terms. According to Google’s official blog, at least 7% of Google searches contain a misspelling. Close variant matching was created so that even a searcher with a typo can find what they are looking for. The downside is that it gives advertisers less precise control over keywords, and even very close variants can imply very different customer intent. For example, “Wedding Photographer” and “Wedding Photography” imply two very different types of intent and interest, even though they are close variant of each other.


The Big Difference: Tight Budgets

For advertisers who enjoy strict control on their keywords, the removal of exact match may bring clicks from irrelevant keywords. Advertisers may see up to a 50% increase in clicks, so those on a tight budget will have less control over how much is spent or how quickly. Effectively, your keyword pool will grow immensely which means your ads will display more often and for more search terms. If you have a strict daily budget, you are likely not capturing all possible impressions anyways, and so this may mean one of two possible things:

  • If you are using an accelerated display strategy, you ad budget may become exhausted earlier each day, and so you may miss critical ad times.
  • If distributing your budget evenly over the day, your ads only show up for a small proportion of all possible queries. With this change, your ad impressions may be wasted on less relevant and lower performing keywords.

Near match also has the potential to increase conversions. Unless your keyword strategy currently considers misspellings and other close variations when using exact match, you may actually be missing relevant and high-conversion searches anyways. Companies can still keep an eye on what the ‘worst case scenario’ of going over their desired budget, and even if you have a huge spike in clicks, your daily budgets will still help control total costs. Campaigns that do not regularly hit the daily maximum, or that are not closely managed, may need additional oversight for the first few weeks of the change in order to ensure that spend and performance goals are being met.

Larger companies with larger budgets may already be taking advantage of close variants, and may not see a significant difference in costs and traffic. Companies may want to calculate your top amount based on your daily budget, to make sure that amount won’t cause any major problems. Your daily budget may need to be adjusted if that top amount is something your company absolutely cannot afford.

How to Keep Things Relevant

store front

Whether you are unhappy about the removal of exact match only, or already are using close variants there are some ways to manage around it:

  • Keywords that are not relevant can be managed through negative keywords. Negative keywords can prevent your ad from showing up places you don’t want it to, and you can omit keywords that are costing you money.
  • You can even create negative keyword lists to use across different campaigns. Although this may initially require some setup, it can allow you to manage near matches you know you don’t want to show up. For the small budget, this may require some more front end maintenance of your campaigns, but will help keep costs down. Google has help pages on how to start setting up negative keywords.
  • Measuring keyword performance will be key in understanding how to better manage your keywords. Using your AdWords statistics table was always important, but now more than ever. Once the change happens, make sure to look at which close matches may be causing you trouble and which ones may actually be improving your ROI. Once again Google has a resource on how to better understand your keyword performance.

Your main weapon against this change is to be aware and keep an eye on your budget and the statistics behind your keywords. It remains to be seen whether this will have a huge impact on small businesses, or if it can bring more people to your product.