So, unless you’re living under a rock or were just completed consumed with March Madness over the past few days, you know by now that AdWords announced on Friday that they are further diluting the former keyword match type of “exact match”. Exact match keywords will no longer honor word order and in most cases will drop function words (in, to, from for example) from exact match eligible queries. Exact match has not been exact match for a while now – ever since close variants became mandatory. This just takes it a step further.
Naturally, PPC pros are not happy about this, myself among them. It feels like AdWords is treating its advertisers more and more like children, with no option for AP level students to place out of some of the restrictive “helpful” features it now includes. On its face, for the advertiser who is not an expert or working with an expert, this probably seems like a helpful step – add fewer terms and get all of your bases covered.
Except that isn’t actually what is or will be happening. Your ads will match and be shown for more queries, which will probably result in more clicks because there will at least be some relevance to your terms, as close variants for exact match and phrase match keywords are not as nuts as those you can see for broad match terms. But, this is happening for terms that you wanted to match exactly (which is not the default match type when you add a keyword either, so you had to take a step to even get this match type to begin with).
This is how AdWords is spinning it (from their announcement post):
From running shoes to cheap hotels to credit cards, and everything in between, people are searching for the products and services you offer. However, finding the right keywords to reach your customers can be difficult–and many advertisers agree.1Whether someone is searching for “running shoes” or “shoes for running,” what they want remains the same; they’re looking for running shoes. You shouldn’t have to build out exhaustive keyword lists to reach these customers, and now you don’t have to.
Ok, first of all, I guess we have reached the point in our society where “people agree” or “people are saying” stands in for actual data (that makes me weep as a data loving nerd) as the footnote simply says “Google internal data global”. Secondly, you could get the same result from using +running +shoes as your keyword, so why bother with this? And, while their point about intent in this case remaining the same, it completely ignores the fact that actual businesses may find that one exact version of the term performs MUCH better for their conversions (SALES) than the other and might not want both variants triggering. That was the point of choosing the Exact Match keyword type to begin with – there was already an match type designed to do this Broad Match Modified, so why further mess with Exact Match?
Early tests show advertisers may see up to 3% more exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable clickthrough and conversion rates.3
Again, footnote is from “Google internal data, aggregate traffic”. What industries were included in the test? How close were the variants? How long was this test run? Was there a difference in the cost of the clicks for the variants?
With this expansion of close variants, you’ll no longer have to build and maintain lists of reworded and reordered exact match keywords to get the coverage you want. If you already use reworded or reordered keyword variations, AdWords will still prefer to use those keywords identical to search queries. Phrase match keywords aren’t included in this update.
Ok, except that you already didn’t have to do this if you used any match type other than Exact Match? This conclusion to the piece makes it clear to me at least, that this change is not about giving advertisers greater control of when their ads are triggered and by what particular terms, but rather it is designed to “make it easy” to build campaigns that “cover everything you might want” with just a few keywords. Which, I guess for some advertisers probably sounds great. But for those of us who are actually looking at data every month and working hard with our clients to put our advertising dollars where they are most effective, this just makes that harder. And, I can’t see a good reason for it, at least not like this.
Maybe it is a semantics issue? Continuing to use the keyword type label of Exact Match when it now is Broad Match Modified Lite, seems to not be helping this situation or the perception of it in the PPC pro community. A better move, in my opinion, would have been to just eliminate Exact Match as an option and keep Phrase Match from using this new criteria (which this update does). You could already get this kind of reach that is being touted in this move by using Broad Match Modified. So why mess with Exact Match?
Perhaps a better solution would have been to make Broad Match Modified more accessible to non-pros by dropping the need to have the + in the terms and just be able to choose the match type of BMM and have it do it for you?
If you want more detail about what exactly is happening and how you might want to manage it, here are some posts:
Inside AdWords announcement post “Close variants now connects more people with what they’re looking for”
From Ginny Marvin (one of the first posts on this) “Google to further dilute exact match in AdWords; will ignore word order & function words”
From Brad Geddes “How To Analyze The Exact Match Change”
I am definitely interested in seeing what the data says after this is fully rolled out and actual advertisers/their PPC managers talk specifics on their data. As with all things AdWords, we will roll with this and adapt as necessary…
As always, love to hear your thoughts on this development. Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).