Google Ads Expands its Exact Match Close Variants

Miguel Villalobos, Google Product Manager for Search Keywords, announced recently that the exact match close variants criteria is expanding yet again, this time with the stated aim of including terms which share the meaning of a keyword but don’t necessarily include it.

The Evolution of Exact Match Close Variants

This update is part of an ongoing evolution of Google’s approach to keyword matching which saw the first changes implemented back in 2012. The company introduced plurals and misspellings to the exact match criteria and with this, close variants was born. Google removed the opt-out for the feature in 2014 which made close variants compulsory and launched a further update in March 2017 which expanded close variants to include “additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords” and “queries that are reordered variations of your keyword”. This set the stage for the latest update, which looks set to dig down into the underlying semantics of a search term.

The Update

The latest update is all about matching up the intent of a search with the previously rolled out close variants. Google’s internal data for 2017 showed that 15% of all search terms on a daily basis are new and this update is all about identifying those terms whose intent matches an existing keyword. It aims to reduce the burden on advertisers to gather and maintain large all-encompassing keyword lists and make it easier for users to find what they are searching for.

Google’s machine learning algorithms are used to analyse the intent behind a user’s search terms and the company wants to include implied words, paraphrases and anything else which has the same meaning as the keyword, how successful it will be in figuring out the internal thought processes of the person behind the keyboard remains to be seen, but if it’s previous credentials with deep learning are anything to go by, this trajectory of understanding the reasoning behind why people search the terms that they do is likely to continue.

Early pilot schemes are producing results, with US-based Extra Space Storage commenting “We were very satisfied with the quality of matches during the pilot. We’re always looking for ways to increase volume, and this new matching behaviour should help us gain additional reach via highly relevant new matches.” An average increase of 3% for clicks and conversions has been recorded according to data Google released in its announcement.

Diluting Exact Match

It seems that exact match close variants are treading into the territory that is currently held by broad match and broad match modified. Google’s announcement article and the broad match landing page show some striking similarities when comparing the stated aims of the two features. This may be an intentional shift to generate more clicks for advertisers who are not currently using the broad match features, but the changes outlined above are not going to affect phrase, broad and broad match modifier keywords in the near future.

Preparing for Launch

The changes are going to be phased in throughout the month of October for the English language, with the other languages following suit over the next few months. As with any change to the way Google handles search terms, a prudent course of action would be to closely monitor existing campaigns to ensure they are not adversely affected by the rollout despite Google predicting an increase in clicks and conversions.


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