“Whether 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.” – Google

AdWords News Update

In today’s age of ‘semantic search,’ which seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent through its contextual meaning, important and relevant traffic can currently be missed if a significant amount of keyword variations are not included in your PPC strategy.

The effort of attempting to include these variations can lead to longer hours spent optimizing your AdWords campaigns. Google’s recent update to expand Exact Match in AdWords is allowing advertisers to minimize their time spent in the construction stage, yet reach more relevant users without the additional efforts in keyword research and building up lists.

Google reports that early tests already show advertisers are seeing up to 3% more exact match clicks on average, while also maintaining comparable click-through and conversion rates.

What does the “Exact Match Close Variants” update involve?

Exact match close variants have gained two new features to help improve the potential of reaching your target audience:

  1. The update lets function words be ignored or reworded. As stated by Google in their blog post: “function words are prepositions (in, to), conjunctions (for, but), articles (a, the) and other words that often don’t impact the intent behind a query.  

    For example, if you were to undertake a Google search for “the best hotel in Manhattan” you will likely be shown the exact same results for “best hotel manhattan”, “the best hotel manhattan” and “best hotel in manhattan.” This update is to eliminate the need to include every version of very similar terms.

2. Exact match keywords will still display an ad if the search term order of words differs slightly. Additional words can’t be added during the reordering process though, meaning that the relevance behind your exact match keyword will remain the same.

For example, “buy nintendo switch online” and “nintendo switch buy online” searches will both trigger your exact match close variant ads if you just select one of the phrases to target.


The updated algorithm is also smart enough to recognize that phrases such as travel brand keywords shouldn’t be reordered in the event that it changes the original meaning. For example, if you were an advertiser selling discount flights from London to New York, your ad wouldn’t be shown if someone was searching for flights from New York to London.

Example from Google below:


google example


What happens if I’m already using reworded or reordered keyword variations?

Exact match keywords will be eligible to display on more search queries, but it’s not guaranteed that each keyword you choose will match to every closely semantic variation.

If you want to ensure that your ads will be served on a particular search term, then you should ensure you keep it as a keyword in your targeted list.


What should I do moving forward?

While no action was required for the update to take effect, there are still some best practices to keep in mind now that it has been implemented.

1. Monitoring Performance

It’s natural to expect some fluctuations with ad positioning and bidding after this kind of update, so tracking ongoing performance is crucial to maintaining good results. Be sure to regularly check the ‘search terms’ section in AdWords to monitor what (if any) new keywords are being used to click through to your ad.


2. Negative keywords

Keeping an eye on this will allow you to discard any keywords that you don’t want your ads to be served on.


3. A big enough budget

As this update will allow your campaign to reach a broader range of search queries, this means the potential for a higher campaign spend also increases.  If you’re seeing positive results and your campaign is capped by your budget, then consider upping your budget.

Related trend: the rise of voice search

As the rise in voice related searches sees unprecedented growth, (in the United States over 20% of searches are now by voice) it is becoming harder to identify all search queries that users may use to express their intent. In fact, 15% of all searches Google are entirely unique, in the sense that they haven’t been used in Google before.

So this update should be a beneficial step in relation to the rise in voice search and providing more accurate AdWords results, which will only continue to grow in the years to come.  Of course, on the flip side, it makes our jobs a little harder because we have less control.  Remember to keep a close eye on your campaigns and continuously add negative keywords to keep your campaigns on track.


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