Yesterday, Google made an important announcement that will affect all current and future PPC accounts.
They revealed that phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will now match with search queries that include same-meaning close variants.
Basically, this means that your ads will be triggered by more search terms than were possible before. We’re expecting a lot of accounts to tank if marketers aren’t careful and don’t take a hard look at keyword lists and search term reports (and budget allocation/bidding). If you’re currently running well-optimized Google Ads campaigns, and you do nothing, you’re going to spend much more money than you expected.
Our initial reaction is negative….despite Google’s positive spin on the update, we don’t think that many marketers will receive this news happily.
Let’s take a closer look at why that is, why this change was made, and what you can do to make sure your accounts stay afloat.
Google has been gradually loosening marketers’ control over which search queries trigger which keywords for years, but this latest change regarding match types is still surprising.
Before 2014, exact match meant that the search query had to match the keyword exactly. If a person typed in “men’s clothes”, and that was the specific keyword, “men’s clothes” would trigger your ad.
In 2014, we all experienced the end of the true exact match when Google introduced close variants (plurals, misspellings, and other variations). Then, “mens clothing” would also trigger your ad. In 2017, we experienced the further disintegration of exact match when Google introduced word order and function words to close variants for exact match. “Clothing for men” could trigger your ad. In 2018, Google introduced same-meaning words, like paraphrases and implied words, for exact match. Then, “stores where I can find guys clothes” could trigger your ad.
It almost seemed that phrase match was more exact than exact match because it did not include same-meaning words, but all that changed yesterday, when Google said that both phrase match and broad match modifier will now match to same-meaning queries. If Google’s algorithm determines that the intent is the same as your specified keyword, your ad will be triggered. And broad match modifier, which was already inclusive to begin with (could match queries in any word order), will now include same-meaning variants as well.
Hypothetically, that means that a search term could not even include your keyword, and trigger it. (If you think that sounds ridiculous, so do we).
Here are some examples Google gives of how the update can change what search queries will now match with keywords:
One silver lining is that Google says that it will make a change to its keyword selection preferences so that this new update doesn’t cause keywords that match to a query from competing against each other. In the announcement, they assured us:
“If a query currently matches to an exact, phrase, or broad match modifier keyword that exists in your account, we’ll prevent that query from matching to a different phrase or broad match modifier keyword that’s now eligible for the same auction as a result of this update. For example, let’s say you use the phrase keywords ‘lawn mowing service’ and ‘grass cutting service’. If the query ‘lawn mowing service near me’ currently matches with the keyword ‘lawn mowing service’, it will continue to match with that keyword. We will prevent the keyword ‘grass cutting service’ from triggering an ad on the query ‘lawn mowing service near me’, even though ‘grass cutting service’ is now eligible to match to the query.”
Google maintains that this change will lead to account growth. They give changing trends in search as the explanation for the update. 15% of all daily searches are brand new, so they believe that expanding match types will allow advertisers to reach more consumers, easier. Their projections predict that the update will result in 3-4% more clicks and conversions, and 85% of those will be new (not currently reachable by your existing keywords).
Here’s our concern, though; more clicks isn’t necessarily a good thing. More qualified clicks is a good thing. And this new update allows less relevance for the search term, which means more traffic that may or may not be searching for exactly what you have to offer. You have less opportunity to optimize, and you’re absolutely going to spend more money if you’re not cautious.
Search Engine Land pointed out that this update will be “a fundamental shift for SEMs who tightly organized campaigns by match type…or SKAGs”. If you’ve been following Empirical360 at all, you know how much we champion SKAGs because of increased relevance. So we’re extremely skeptical that this new change will positively affect performance, but we’re aware of how the update will affect our existing campaigns. Everyone has to learn to live with it, and we will adapt!
As we learn more about this change, Google recommends focusing on negative keywords and the closely monitoring the search terms report in order to get the most out of the update, and we agree. You have to, if you don’t want to blow budget.
Have questions or concerns about the update? Want to learn more about match types or negative keywords? Leave a comment or contact us! The team at Empirical360 is always on the cutting edge of PPC management. We’ve successfully produced millions of dollars for our clients and scaled accounts to sizes that would impress you. We’re Google experts (even when they keep evolving), and we know what it takes to optimize your Google Ads account!
Shea Antonucci - Author
Director of Content Marketing
Shea is an expert content writer and is a classic literary nerd! She loves writing highly engaging content and has a knack for making it convert!