Last Thursday, August 14th, came an announcement from Google that’s sure to turn some smiles upside down in the online marketing community.
According to Inside Adwords, starting late September, the opt out feature of close variant keyword matching on all exact and phrase match keywords will be discontinued. Instead, Google will automatically apply close variant keyword matching, a more intuitive way of connecting people with businesses they are searching for.
How it works
As the phrase implies, close variant keyword matching shows your ad for the exact keyword you are bidding on, as well as its singular/plural form, common misspellings, accents, acronyms, stemming and abbreviations. Currently, it is the default setting for campaigns which can be turned off under Keyword matching options.
For example, if you’re bidding for the keywords “sports equipment” your ad will also be shown for
- sporting equipment
- sport equipment
- sport equipments
- sport’s equipments
and so on.
What it means
Google purports it to be a win-win solution for users and advertisers, touting it as a way to ensure that people get relevant ads even if they misspell or mistype search terms, and advertisers who run small campaigns get more relevant traffic without having to build and manage an exhaustive list of close variation keywords. In their words, the update should help you, the advertiser, “reach more customers” and while giving you “control with less complexity”.
While this is largely true, it also means that you’ll no longer be able to set specific bids on keyword variants separately. Any time and effort you may have spent on optimizing exact match and phrase match only ad groups and campaigns will effectively be invalidated.
What you should do
Google recommends shifting focus on adding negative keywords instead to reduce cost and shape traffic, which is entirely possible, but those who are already achieving considerable success using exact keywords to trigger their ads will surely have their feathers ruffled, especially when this looks like a move that will translate to increased advertiser spending.
There’s no use crying foul at this point, the update is going to happen and the best thing to do is to just prepare for it. The first step is to figure out all the keywords you do not want your ad to show for. Get a report of all your exact keywords and make a list of the variations that can potentially trigger your ad, and decide which ones you need to add to your negative keywords.
The upside to all of this, some marketers say, is that you’ll potentially catch new conversions in voice and mobile search. It also allows small business owners who manage their own ads to focus more on strategy, rather than excessive keyword lists. But if you ask most marketers, this just spells more profit for Google one way or the other.
What do you think?