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Once upon a time, things were straightforward for ‘Exact’ match – a user’s search term had to exactly match your keyword for your ad to be eligible to show. Simple enough, right? Google, however, had other plans…

2014 saw the option to include ‘close variants’ for exact (and phrase) match keywords, with this becoming a mandatory feature in 2014. This meant that your exact match keyword could be triggered by plural, singular or misspelt versions of the keyword. For example, the keyword ‘red bucket’ could be triggered by search terms such as ‘red buckets’ or ‘red bcuket’.

Slightly less Exact match, then.

Google’s latest change, and probably their biggest since bringing in close variants, sees the exact match type shaken up further into a nearly unrecognisable format. Word order no longer has to exactly match the keyword, and function words (i.e. to, from, in, for) can be added or ignored if Google deems the term relevant to your exact match keyword.

For example, sticking with the ‘red bucket’ theme, this keyword could be triggered by the following search terms:

‘Bucket red’
‘Buckets in red’

This change has effectively brought an end to exact match as we once knew it (i.e. exact meaning “exact”!) and means that multiple exact match keywords within existing AdWords accounts may now clash, causing them to compete with each other and drive up costs.

In order to prevent this unwanted budget wastage, we’ve put together 3 quick and foolproof steps to ensuring your AdWords account is ready for the introduction of exact-ish match keywords.

Split Out Your Ad Groups Into Tighter Themes

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If you have ad groups with multiple exact match keywords in them, begin by splitting them out into separate ad groups. This will not only help you prepare to remove clashing exact match keywords but also help make your account structure more granular, which is proven to assist in lowering your cost per click and, therefore, overall costs. See an example below:

 

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Pause the Poorest Performing Keyword in Each Ad Group

Once your keywords have been split into tighter themes, you should be left with a series of ad groups containing very similar exact match keywords, as with the above example.

Now, you could keep all of these keywords, as Google states that they will prefer to use a keyword if it exactly matches a search term. However, in the past there have been instances of exact close variants competing against each other, which artificially drives up costs, and this problem could well persist.

To prevent this from happening and provide a foolproof solution, the poorest performing version of the keyword in each ad group should be paused. Try and keep the keyword with the lowest cost per click and highest quality score, as well as assessing conversion data in Google Analytics. This will help improve both of these elements at account level. Use your judgement as well – there may be instances where this tactic is not beneficial.

If you wish to retain all of your exact match keywords, then the solution here would be to add respective exact match negatives against your exact match keywords. [red buckets] would have to be added as a negative against [buckets red] and vice versa. A word of warning, though – this will lead to a lot of extra work in day-to-day management.

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Add Negatives

Further to this, the addition/exclusion of function words in search terms now means there is a requirement to add negative keywords against exact match keywords.

Google is confident that their algorithm will detect if the addition or exclusion of a function word will change the meaning of your keyword and will, therefore, show or, indeed, not show your ad. However, below are a couple of examples that could well slip the net, along with the negative keywords needed to prevent your ad being shown to the wrong person:

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In the first instance the user was searching for a ‘bucket sale’, rather than a ‘bucket for sale’. In the second instance, the user was searching for a bucket with a handle, rather than a handle for a bucket.

You can see how easily Google may get confused! It’s a safe bet to add the appropriate negatives, but you may have to do this as you go along because, despite the announcement being made on March 17th, there is still no precise date on when this change will kick in for the UK.

In Conclusion…

Despite the slightly pessimistic view on the new exact-ish keyword match type, it’s not all doom and gloom. The change forces the hand and by following these steps users can adopt a more streamlined structure to their AdWords accounts by removing multiple exact match keywords that may clash.

This, for one, reduces the amount of keywords in the account making day to day management (such as bid tweaks) a much simpler, quicker task.

On a larger scale, and only if addressed correctly, exact-ish match keywords and their accompanying structure allows you to make ad copy and landing pages highly relevant to each keyword. This in turn increases quality score and helps to reduce cost per click whilst maintaining or even improving average position. Lower costs + static/improved exposure = more profit.

See, not all doom and gloom! 🙂

If you have any questions about the exact match changes, or AdWords in general, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

 

Author: Elliot Smith
As Search Team Leader at BlueFrog Media, Elliot is responsible for the management, optimisation and strategic approach for our paid search accounts. He has four years’ experience in pay per click roles across multiple platforms, working with brands of all sizes – from global corporations right down to local sole proprietors.

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