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Google AdWords Going Close Variant Keyword Matching: Exact Match No Longer Possible

 2:03 pm on Aug 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

It seems Google knows best, and from late September those exact match keywords/phrases you use are going to be a thing of the past. All those misspelling, and variations of the keywords and phrases that i've built are now going to be redundant.

Google is telling us that we don't need to build detailed exact match lists, and that we're missing opportunities, so it's going to employ close variant keyword matching next month, with the current opt out removed.

For me, that just sanitises the exact match entirely. Quite often, i've ended up with an exact match because anything else was just bringing clicks but little ROI.

Clicks are important, but what's more important is getting a good performance, and not just more clicks.

On the up side, Google is doing the work for me, and I assume it's built those variants from millions of search queries.

I guess i'll need to wait until after the switch to see how those opt outs are doing.

How has the close variant worked for you?

Whether it’s “kid scooters”, “kid’s scooter”, or “kids scooters”, people interested in buying a scooter for their child want to see the most relevant ads despite slight variations in their search query. That’s why starting in late September, we’re applying close variant keyword matching, an intuitive way to connect people with the businesses they’re searching for, to all exact and phrase match keywords.Google AdWords Going Close Variant Keyword Matching: Exact Match No Longer Possible [adwords.blogspot.com]
Starting in late September, we’re applying close variant keyword matching to all exact and phrase match keywords. Because close variant matching was already the default setting for campaigns, most of you won’t see a change in your keyword matching behavior. For advertisers that opted out, the option to disable close variants will be removed in September. Your exact and phrase match keywords will then begin matching to close keyword variations, allowing you to reach more of your potential customers with the right ad while aiming to lower cost per click and improve clickthrough rate.
With this update, you no longer have to build exhaustive lists of misspelled, abbreviated, and other close variations of your keywords to get the coverage you want. Instead, focus on adding negative keywords--including close variants you don’t want to match for--to shape traffic and reduce cost. This can improve your campaigns’ ROI and help deliver a better ad experience for your customers.



 4:23 pm on Aug 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

I've seen enough strangeness in Google's idea of things that match to be uneasy about this.

As long as I can "negative out" any variants that I don't want, I guess I can make it work.


 10:31 pm on Aug 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google is telling us that we don't need to build detailed exact match lists, and that we're missing opportunities

English to English translation is Google can make more money if they can get more clicks and empty out your bank accounts faster.

Ignore ROI and your rapidly depleted bank account, there's nothing behind the curtain, do NOT look behind the curtain.


 2:46 pm on Aug 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

Obvious cash grab.

I experimented with close variants when they first became available. I was disgusted with the results and I opted out quickly. This is really a drag. For any search term, a list of negative close variants has the potential to be vastly longer than a list of exact matches.


 2:30 am on Aug 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

I remember when they started showing your ads a 2nd time when the user searches for something else you did not bid on. Or when they changed broad match to be really aggressive and it took some people a long time to switch to modified. They are always trying to find new ways to show your ads where you did not ask them to.


 1:58 pm on Aug 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

Bill and Tonearm's replies sound cynical. They are not. Instead, they are an excellent analysis expressed clearly and simply.

I can see why G is making this move, however, from my quiet backwater of the web. A few clients are getting bugged by their employees, friends and my competitors to buy ads on G, to the point where I have had to say to one, "OK, but I advise against it."

We ran a targeted test that, if it was going to work, this would. Never have I been so right about something so quickly and so clearly. I thought it would be bad, but not that awful. And, while I am on the subject, G's user interface for Adwords is so poor as to be misleading to the casual user. We thought we had turned off the campaign, but no, it was still running. We discovered this after we got the bill.

There are reports from thoughtful people floating around the web saying the same thing looking at the results from more and larger websites and databases. But, no matter. Adwords has become "a thing" now. People's jobs at large firms depend on it, so they are not going to say, "Hey, what I'm doing to earn my paycheck is a waste." And small firms worry when they seen their competition using it. It's a cycle that's going to be hard to break.

Of course, my feeling are a bit mixed as I own shares of G.


 3:40 pm on Aug 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

If Google really messes up, which time will quickly tell, this will be quickly reversed because companies have to make money without spending every penny earned in the process.

While companies like Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Target, just to name a few, want their ads on every single search page and have the billions to back it up, the little mom and pop shops do not.

Do either this will break the budget of the small shops advertising or they'll abandon ship and head to someplace like Yahoo or Bing instead, maybe even eBay or Amazon as ironic as that sounds.

Google isn't the only game in town, just the biggest game in town, but they forget for people shopping that even AdWords is actual content and if all the small shop ads are forced to move elsewhere, so will the visitors that seek thos advertisers.

If they seriously mess up AdWords the ecosystem and drive away enough customers I think it'll really backfire on Google.

Let's wait and watch them do it to themselves as I think people will want the control as everyone has said as nobody wants to just throw away money and they don't get that. They have so much money that frugal isn't a Google word but it might become one really quick ;)


 1:54 am on Aug 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

I just this minute came across an example of goofy matching in Google's search results. I'm on holiday in Newfoundland right now, and my search for info on the "Viking ruins" turned up more results in the top ten for "runes" than "ruins".

In the organic results that sort of thing is good for a chuckle, but if it happened within your AdWords account you'd want to be adding to your negatives list.

Every well-managed account needs a well-developed set of negative keywords, and this development will soon make that more important than ever.

Start thinking NOW about potential keyword variations that would be off-target for you, and make sure they're added to your negative keywords.


 7:01 pm on Aug 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

@buckworks, that's both a really good and bad example as people can't spell so runes vs ruins is comparable as they both have the same soundex values, assuming Google uses soundex in their analysis.

See the page with viking RUNES which would rank high and start throwing results off.

Problem is Google doesn't offer either advertisers or searchers a way to disable the display of alternative results which I find in some cases completely blocked my ability to find what I'm looking for whatsoever.

Add to that frustration that the only thing relevant to my query on the page might be ads and it's highly possible I'll click them to find ANYTHING on my actual topic, and your ad dollars are down the toilet.

This technique was used by scrapers years ago to build pages of bait and switch content where none of the content on the page was what you really wanted, none of it had links, the only links were AdSense and they made a ton as people clicked anything to escape the page.

Google used to shut them down for violating the AdSense T&Cs and now Google is doing the same damn thing, except Google has other links on the page which the MFA's didn't, but being irrelevant links the end results are the same.

What's good for the goose, or is it the gander, blah.


 10:07 pm on Aug 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

doesn't offer either advertisers or searchers a way to disable the display of alternative results

Advertisers do have a way: negative keywords.

Monitor your search query reports, spend time with keyword suggestion tools, use your own common sense to identify and block word or phrase variations that aren't well enough targeted for your purposes.

The problem to expect is not that the matching will go utterly berserk, it would be more a need to watch for oddities and edge cases where the targeting is subpar.... which isn't actually a new problem.

It's worth noting that searching for "hare care" shows no ads even though the organic results are full of "hair care". A search for "hair care" is full of the ads you'd expect. AdWords recognizes (at least sometimes) that not everything that might be a spelling error is in fact suitable for triggering ads.

Don't depend on that blindly, though. Get busy on your negative keywords.


 1:44 pm on Aug 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have been doing PPC for companies for over 11 years and people still have a positive ROI. Google has given us many new features that allow us to lower our CPA. Most of the changes they have made pretty much just screw the little guy. Every year more and more people are leaving Google because it is just not cost effective.

All Google is doing is raising prices. I think the way they do it is dishonest. Why can't they just say everything costs more now instead of tricking people. Google makes a lot off of small companies by taking advantage of them. Anybody who has been in the business for a while has seen it. Every so often some new company comes in and tries to compete by spending a bunch of money. They do it all wrong and your costs go up for a short while but they eventually give up because they don't know what they are doing.

PPC is not for everybody. I really hate it when a company comes to me and I can't help them because they share keywords with companies that don't care about CPA or have the bankroll for the long haul. You have to have money to make money. Sometimes in PPC you have to lose money before you can make it.


 3:05 pm on Aug 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

We specialize in paid search SMB, and we feel that Google is the best thing that's happened to them in decades, perhaps ever - being able to compete with the big boys has never been this available. It's not simple, not cheap, and this change was not needed (it creates work and slightly raises the cost entry barrier for beginners who don't know how to use Negs, or who don't bother to use them) - but it's by far the #1 source of buying traffic for every online biz we know. I wish there were a bigger array of choices as valuable as AdWords, but there just isn't.


 7:13 pm on Sep 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

So I've been in the game for a little over 4 years, with the last 2+ working on my own clients.

For me, the worst was enhanced campaigns. All of a sudden, my clients CPAs went through the roof. Overall I've found that with the constant rollout of new features, what you really see is a steadily rising CPC. So I have to agree with Ogletree, that they're raising costs and being dishonest about it, but that's big business for you.

Most of my clients are small local businesses, a couple of ecommerce stores. The months tend to be up and down, with very minimal consistency. When I got into the game, it seemed a lot more predictable (exact match converted the best, so I never used broad). Overall, over time it's become increasingly hard to get conversions, because ever so often, "some new company comes in and tries to compete by spending a bunch of money" (perfectly put Ogletree), but the problem is, that many don't give up or don't care. I think people have started thinking more about the value of getting the customer, and then working to keep them, then worrying about initial profitability, and I've been stressing this to clients as well.

Since "Shopping" has come into the picture, CPCs on text ads have skyrocketed. I used to be able to get clicks at pennies on the dollar, now I'm $1+ if I want to remain in top position, anything lower gets few clicks, maybe a conversion here and there, albeit at a better CPA.

I don't think the new feature will break the bank, because as mentioned in a previous reply, you should be able to "negate" them.


 12:52 pm on Sep 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld gregppc

I've seen many of the smaller advertisers choose to opt out of ppc as their budgets are getting used up faster each year, and the return is not increasing in the same way.

In part, the competitive nature of ppc has impacted most, however, there's also a huge number of badly targeted ads competing where they need not. This takes up real estate, wastes money, and helps push up costs. Google benefits, of course.

Exact match was always the best value for money and really helped hone the campaign for just the clicks that were required.

finding keywords to negative out is now the new work to undertake.

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