Did Google Kill Exact Match? Here Are 3 Tips to Keep Paid Search Running Smoothly | MCD Partners


April 6, 2017

Did Google Kill Exact Match? Here Are 3 Tips to Keep Paid Search Running Smoothly

Everyone knows that in order to buy ad space within Google search results you need to bid on keywords. What you may not know is that Google gives search marketers a few levers to help control keyword quality. These levers are called match types. Match types ultimately determine what type of queries your ads will show for based on the keywords you’re bidding on.
On March 17th Google modified the way match types function, specifically exact match. This change sparked a slight uproar within the search marketing community and had SEMs from all around the world claiming, “exact match is dead.”

Google exact match update explained

Google defines exact match as “a keyword setting that allows your ad to show only when someone searches for your keyword or close variants of your keyword.”
Did you catch that close variants part? That’s where the change happened. Previously close variants included misspellings, plural adjustments, abbreviations, and accents. Close variants have now been expanded to include the reordering of words and addition or removal of function words (words such as a, the, to, from, in, on, for, but, and etc.). The challenge for paid search agencies and SEM professionals is that exact match can no longer preserve specific word order or filter out function words. Check out the examples below.

Exact match examples with function words added, removed or changed

exact match example with function words(image credit: Google)

Exact match examples with words reordered

exact match example with words reordered(image credit: Google)

The impact on search marketing advertisers

As a result from the recent change, paid search advertisers who rely on exact match keywords can expect to see a slight increase in impressions and clicks with a comparable or slightly lower click-through rate. While an increase of impressions and clicks doesn't sound like a bad thing, this increase could lead to expanded spending which some advertisers will not have the appetite for. If you’re not running any campaigns with exact match keywords this update will not affect you. But then we need to have a little talk about why you aren’t using exact match keywords…

3 tips to keep paid search running smoothly

Assuming your ad buy is running across a sizable amount of exact match keywords the task of determining relevance is no longer on Google, it’s on you. With efficiency and performance at stake, search advertisers will need to place more emphasis on their AdWords account structure, campaign setup and negatives list. Here are 3 quick tips to keep your search programs in tip-top shape:

1. Review current keyword mapping

Depending on how your keywords are mapped, you may need to further segment ad groups / campaigns and layer negatives to ensure high-bid exact match keywords do not overlap with low-bid phrase and broad modified keywords.

2. Revisit your ad copy

With the exact match type leveraging machine based learning to semantically modify the keywords your ads now show for, intent is everything. Are your current ad units for exact match keywords tailored to the searcher's intent? Well let's hope so. What about after reordering the query or adding function words? If not, I see an ad copy refresh in your near future.

3. Monitor close variants within the search query report

Increase the amount of time spent mining the AdWords search query report. Use the match type filter to determine what close variants should be added to your keyword or negatives list.

Preparing for future match type changes

Google is clearly transitioning to an intent based marketing platform and consistently looking at ways to improve the searcher's experience, all while justifying reasons to increase advertiser's search marketing budget. While we can’t say for certain when or what the next change Google will make to their match type functionality will be, we do know it’s coming and as digital marketers we must adapt to change.
If you'd like to learn more about MCD's search capabilities or receive a complimentary paid search audit, please contact us today.