If you are still using exact or phrase match keywords, you should be aware that Google AdWords will be applying close variant keyword matching next month. This also means the many advertisers who were disabling close variants for exact match keywords will no longer be able to do so.
Who Will This Affect?
Because of the way bidding is applied to exact and phrase match keywords, sometimes advertisers could take advantage of low bids for edge case keywords. However, with the introduction of close variant keyword matching in 2012 meant that exact and phrase match became less popular – especially for newer or casual AdWords advertisers – because many feel it is easier to use close variant keyword matching instead.
It also means that advertisers can no longer exclude close variant keyword matching from their campaigns, something that was handy for advertisers who didn’t want to have to maintain massive negative keyword lists, something that would keep the overall campaign spend lower and without the worries about babysitting close variant keywords to see if any keywords should be removed. It does take some significant control away from advertisers and will very likely result in higher CPC costs to advertisers when it gets applied. And the influence of these changes will certainly be felt in quality score, positioning and clickthrough rate, and it won’t be to benefit the advertiser.
There are some advertisers who do really well with exact and phrase match for specific keywords and this change will have a big impact on their campaigns.
What Advertisers Need to Do
If you have any exact or phrase match keywords, you should look at them and see if they will need adjusting when close variant keyword matching is applied to them or if they will become redundant. Run a report for a list of your exact match and phrase match keywords so you have a copy of it before the changeover, since the way Google could display this in the future could change.
Consider close variants for each of your keywords you are currently using as exact or phrase match. You will need to determine if anything Google could consider a close variant should be added to your negative keyword lists, as your exact and phrase match keywords will begin showing up for close variants as well, and not all of those will be ones you want your ads displayed on for a variety of reasons.
One upside to this is that advertisers will no longer have to create long keyword lists of every conceivable misspellings and abbreviations, something that has become less common for advertisers, but can still be profitable in some markets for those advertisers that choose to maintain them.
And the Negatives…
Unfortunately, unless you are a beginner AdWords advertiser, the loss of exact and phrase match keywords is pretty huge and I suspect we will begin to see some tools pop up that will try and work around the new change, by creating keyword campaigns with suggested negatives to combat this.
The loss of control for advertisers is going to be huge for many, particularly advanced AdWords advertisers who tend to run very complex campaigns with a variety of bidding strategies and keyword match choices.
“Keyword match types in AdWords evolved to become overly complex and confusing with four different match types and close variants matching,” says The SEM Post columnist Lisa Raehsler from Big Click Co. “The recent announcement makes sense for AdWords to match up misspellings and probably variations in stemmings too for exact and phrase. This will simplify the things.”
She also sees the downside of the change. “However, advertisers opting out of close variants will be challenged to rethink their strategies and develop expansive negatives keyword lists. The negative keyword capability is extremely manual and simple, making this a less ideal solution to control keyword matching and irrelevant clicks. The negative keyword feature set should really be upgraded as well to help advertisers be more efficient.”
Google has not announced the exact date this change will happen other than sometime in “late September”.
Update: The SEM Columnist Steve Hammer has created a Near Exact Match Monitoring AdWords script that makes it easy for advertisers to deal with the change.
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