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How can I optimise exact match, and other keyword matches with close variants?

How can I optimise exact match, and other keyword matches with close variants?

Gone are the days when an exact match meant exact match.

For example, with the keyword in square bracket [red shorts] in your campaign, the ads would have only triggered if the search was exactly written as the keyword, in this case, red shorts.

That is no longer the case.

Google Ads is now expanding the exact match by matching the intent of a search (the why behind the search) with close variants.

With close variants, you could see significant changes in performance and mixed results.

In July 2010, Google launched a broad match modifier.

In May 2012, Google introduced new matching behaviour for phrase and exact match keywords, into close variants, including misspellings, singular, plural forms, stemming, accents, and abbreviations.

In September 2014, Google announced advertisers can’t de-select close variants any longer.

In March 2017, Google modified exact matches further. Matching for close variants, for example, plurals, typos, abbreviations, adverbs and so on were broadened to include variations in word order and function words.

In September 2018, Google expanded the exact match again by match the intent of a search (the why behind the search) with close variants.

With its machine learning, Google claims that they are now in a better position to classify the intent of a query.

See an example of the exact match keyword [yosemite camping].

With this change, [yosemite camping] will now match to queries such as “yosemite campground” and “campsites in yosemite.”


Showing the most specific matching keyword within a campaign
If you have close variant keywords in different campaigns and ad groups, the right ads should show for the right search queries.

In September 2018, Google released an update about showing the most specific matching keyword.

Google says that the scenario above would not happen because exact match works at both the campaign level and account level.

So if an advertiser’s exact match keyword with the same string as the query is eligible to show for that query, then it will be preferred above all others, including other exact match keywords which are close variants and set at a higher bid.

This logic applies across the entire account, not just within the campaign, so advertisers do not need to copy exact match keywords and make them negative keywords in another.

Google says that advertisers using mostly exact match keywords see 3% more exact match clicks and conversions on average, with most coming from queries that they aren’t reaching today.

Close variants to phrase match and BMM (Broad match modifier)

Update August 2019
Google is also extending same meaning close variants to phrase match and BMM (Broad match modifier).

Keyword selection preferences are also changing. The change will roll out “in the coming weeks.”

Broad match modifier keywords can match to queries in any word order. In the past close variants have included misspellings, singular or plural, stemming, abbreviations and accents. Now, it will also include same meaning queries. Google provides the following example of the new matching. Notice +mowing matches to “grass cutting” and “cut your grass.
Read more

Read this good article on close variants – A look at the potential impact of same-meaning close variants for exact match, phrase match and broad match modifier on your keyword matching.

Phrase match
A phrase match it means your word order is preserved, although plurals, singulars, misspelling, and stemming appear.

When you use phrase match your ads will show if other words are included before or after the keyword.

For example, if you want to appear more often for the keyword ‘campsites’, rather than camping, you may need to use a phrase match such as ‘best campsite’.

BMM (Broad match modifier)
A BMM (Broad match modifier) is when you add a ‘+’ symbol in front of any part of a broad match keyword.

Google Ads only shows your ads when the exact word is present in the search.

Your ads can appear if searches have your word in a different order, plurals, typos and function words (prepositions, conjunctions, articles and other words that often don’t impact the intent behind a query).

About changes to phrase match and broad match modifier
In February 2021, Google Ads began to incorporate behaviours of broad match modifier (BMM) into phrase match. As of July 2021, both phrase and broad match modifier keywords have the same updated phrase matching behaviour for all languages and show ads on searches that include the meaning of your keyword.

You don’t need to take any specific action for your phrase match or BMM keywords in order to see these changes.

Note: These changes to phrase match and BMM don’t impact exact match, broad match or negative keyword match types. Learn more about keyword matching options and negative keywords.

Updated phrase match
The updated phrase match simplifies match types by combining the control of phrase match, and the expanded reach of the discontinued broad match modifier. The new phrase matching behaviour is more expansive than the former phrase match, and slightly more restrictive than the discontinued BMM.

For example, the phrase match keyword ‘moving services London to Manchester’ will continue to cover searches like ‘affordable moving services London to Manchester’. It will also cover searches that traditionally only matched under BMM, such as ‘London corporate moving services to Manchester’. For the updated phrase match, word order continues to affect matching behaviour and ads won’t show for searches where the wording changes the meaning of the match (for example, people looking to move from ‘Manchester to London’).

Broad match modifier

Broad match modifier as a separate matching behaviour is no longer available. This change means that existing BMM keywords will behave exactly as if they were phrase keywords and you are no longer able to create new BMM keywords.

If you have legacy BMM keywords in your account:

  • Existing BMM keywords use the updated phrase matching behaviour.
  • You do not need to add the same keywords in phrase match in order to continue serving.
  • In the past, it was possible to add the BMM modifier to a subset of the terms in a keyword, and the other terms would operate like a broad match. These partially modified keywords now behave entirely as a phrase match.
  • If you edit legacy BMM keyword text, your keyword will automatically convert to phrase match notation (‘keyword’) upon saving.
  • You can still edit other attributes of your legacy BMM keywords, such as bids or status.

As of July 2021:

  • New keywords cannot be added using the legacy BMM notation (+keyword).
  • Legacy BMM keywords will continue to serve, but will behave as phrase match keywords.

How close variant keyword selection preferences work

Exact match
The closest exact match keywords takes precedence over any other eligible exact match keywords.

Google’s example:
The query ‘grass cutting services’ should trigger the exact match [grass cutting services] not [lawn mowing services] if both are active in an account, regardless of Ad Rank.

New keywords
New keywords that are closer matches to the search query take precedence.

Google’s example:
You add these two keywords, ‘grass cutting service’ and +grass +cutting. The phrase match keyword “lawn mowing service” is matching the query grass ‘cutting service near me’ in your account. The new keywords will prevent the keyword selection “lawn mowing service” from triggering on related ‘grass cutting’ queries.

Ad Rank determines which keyword triggers the ad as the two new keywords are competing against each other.

New phrase match or BMM over existing exact match
You have this exact match [lawn mowing service] in your account, and you add the phrase match “lawn mowing service”, in this case, the exact match takes precedence.

New exact match over and existing phrase or BMM match
You have this phrase match “grass cutting services” in your account, and you add the exact match [grass cutting services], in this case, the exact match takes precedence.

Keywords in different ad groups
When keywords are placed on different ad groups, Ad Rank dictates the eligible keywords to show.

Best practices
Search Terms
– Look at your search terms to find out if your ads are showing too often for close variant searches you do not want to appear, or if these search terms are too expensive and do not convert.

If the close variants in your search term report are relevant, add these as keywords into new ad groups and with their own bids.

If the close variants in your search term are not relevant and do not convert, set these as negative keywords, but do not change your exact match keyword bids.

– Delete any duplicate or redundant keywords affected by the changes.

Match types
Review all your keyword segmentation match types affected by the changes.

CPC (Cost per click)
– Check your keywords’ CPC (Cost per click) regularly as it could be affected positively, or negatively by the broader targeting.

CTR (Click through rate)
– Check your keywords’ CTR (Click through rate) regularly as it could be affected positively, or negatively by the higher number of impressions and different search intents.

Ad copies
– Check your ad copies reflect any new close variant searches.

Scripts to restore control
– The impact of close variant in exact match – a look at 4 ways Google Ads scripts can help restore control.
From Frederick Vallaeys, Optmyzr –

Extract from my Book ‘Making Google Ads Work’.

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