Google Announces The End of Exact Match As We Know It

What’s happened?

Google has announced that the exact and broad match keywords set up would be switched off in Adwords, marking the end of how we know it today. This means that as of September 2014 the close variant keyword matching, that has been available in past pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, is now a prerequisite.

Why has this happened?

Although this seems like a rather big deal, this change has been in the pipeline since 2012 as close variant keyword matching has been the default setting. This suggests that the majority were already using it, with Google stating that only around 3% have opted out of close variant keywords. Furthermore, the evolution of Google's technology has enabled people to ask Google questions, rather than just searching for exact words or phrases, and finding suitable matches. Therefore, the simplest explanation for this change from exact match, is that businesses will get much better results; close keyword variations have on average 7% more exact and phrase match clicks, and similar conversion and click through rates.

How will this change digital marketing?

The biggest change to digital marketing campaigns will obviously be the switch from exact match, but there will also be a slight alteration in Adwords keyword setup and output data. For example, in the past when advertisers made a bid on exact match keywords, this used to mean that Google would only display your ad if someone searched that exact keyword. However, now Google will be applying close variants to the exact keywords, meaning that your ads will not just search for keywords but will also look at; misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as search and searching), abbreviations and accents.

This means that advertisers should expect an increase in impressions and clicks, but a potential decrease in click through rate (CTR) and quality score (QS). Bear in mind that this could also mean a rise in the average amount you are paying per click (CPC), hence you may need to increase your Adwords budget.

To make sure that close variant keyword is being utilised in your campaigns, a close analysis and exploration of recent exact match keywords reports could be useful in order to ensure that ads will continue to be placed effectively.

What impact will this have on SEO strategy?

Although this change may be seen to be taking away power from the advertisers, this is not a bad thing, as there are plenty of other areas within campaigning which can have more impact and return on investment than keywords. Therefore the biggest alteration within strategy may be the change to focusing on search engine marketing, rather than putting all your time and effort into keyword expansion and perfection.

What benefits does this offer for the future?

Google may well have made this change to increase their revenue in the long run, but it really will be beneficial by offering better results. Furthermore, it will help save time from the ‘old way’ where every possible keyword variation also had more variations, leaving the keyword list ridiculously long and problematic. Close variants allows you to increase your reach by also collecting clicks through long tail searching, that with exact and broad search you wouldn’t have been able to engage with.

We've been working with variant keyword matching for several years now, if you would like an unbiased review of your PPC campaigns or some advice for setting up a new one, get in touch.