Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the State of Digital Newsletter
Join an elite group of marketers receiving the best content in their mailbox
* = required field
Daily Updates

The End of Exact Match Keywords: What Does It All Mean?

15 August 2014 BY

284 Flares Twitter 125 Facebook 25 Google+ 19 LinkedIn 104 Buffer 11 Email -- StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 284 Flares ×

Close Variant Keyword Matching For All!

On Thursday 14th August, Google announced that they would be making exact match keywords in AdWords redundant in their current form. The close variant keyword matching that Google had given advertisers the option to use on campaigns in the past is now going to be made a requirement as of September 2014.

So what does this mean?

If advertisers bid on Exact match keywords, what this used to mean was that Google would only show your ads if someone searched for that exact keyword. Now that Google are going to apply close variant keyword matching to exact match keywords, moving forwards ads will not just show for the exact keywords, they will also show for misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as sleep and sleeping), abbreviations and accents.

Here are some examples:


When is it happening?

This update is being rolled out at the beginning of September 2014 so advertisers don’t have long to act on this before it goes live. Usually with a change like this, AdWords would give advertisers a fair amount of warning but you literally have a couple of weeks to get your campaigns in a shape that will be ready for the update.

Why you should care

When the update goes live, advertisers should expect to see an increase in impressions and clicks and a decrease in Click through Rate (CTR) and Quality Score (QS). In turn, this will increase the average amount you are paying per click (CPC) making your overall spend with AdWords higher.

In order to get ahead of this update, advertisers are going to need to get to work now. They should be:

  • Pull off a report of all exact match keywords
  • Create a spreadsheet with each keyword in column A and then have all the different variations Google could potentially show this keyword for in future
  • Decide which you would not want your ads to appear for
  • Add these keywords as exact match negative keywords in the ad group or campaign
  • Wait for the update to happen in September and keep a close eye on your account
  • Run regular Search Query Reports and backfill the campaign with negative keywords as you find them
  • Keep a close eye on your CTR and QS and work to keep it as high as possible


Google have wrapped this update in a bubble saying that it will really benefit advertisers. In my opinion, it may benefit some of the smaller companies but in the grand scheme of things, Google have done this to make themselves more money. Check out this analysis from Dan Barker where he looks at one ad groups spend before and after the close variant keyword matching was applied. A big difference in spend!

If you want to read more on this topic, there have been a few posts published already here:

What do you think of this update? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Get the best content in your mailbox

Would you like to receive the best content, offers and tips directly delivered to your mailbox? We can make that happen! Become one of our elite members by joining in on our newsletter! See what to expect here. Fill in your details below and start receiving the best of the best!


Samantha Noble is the Marketing Director at Koozai, a Digital Marketing Agency. She is also the Co-Chief Editor for State of Digital working alongside Bas and the rest of the Editorial Team.
  • goldpickr

    If they are using variants on desired keywords does that mean they will be using variants on exact match negative keywords as well?

    • Samantha Noble

      To be honest, I was thinking the same thing. I haven’t seen anything that indicates it but you never know. Something to test once the change comes into play. I really hope not as that would be ridiculous!

  • Jay Leshark

    Very interesting and thanks Samantha.

    • Samantha Noble

      Thanks Jay. Glad you found it useful

  • Mike Snyder

    This could be minor or monumental depending on the client, niche, etc. I guess this pretty much destroys the tactic of getting low cost clicks by setting up adgroups with misspellings of key brand terms. I’m interested in how this is going to play out. Also, getting clients to understand why they are possibly paying more for the same results is going to be a nightmare. Lower Quality Score, higher cost per click. Average Position rating is going to be all over the place. Wow.

    • Samantha Noble

      Yep, time will tell here Mike. We can see the example from Dan Barker in the post above showing the spend rising significantly with the setting switched on. Not good for us PPC’ers!

  • Daniel

    What is new in it? Google has been applying this since years. Here is the official description from Google itself:

    “With exact match, your ads will appear when someone searches for your exact keyword, without any additional words before, after, or in the middle of your keyword. We’ll also show your ad when someone searches for close variants of your keyword. Close variants include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents.”

284 Flares Twitter 125 Facebook 25 Google+ 19 LinkedIn 104 Buffer 11 Email -- StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 284 Flares ×

Be the best marketer you can be

Join an elite group of marketers receiving the best marketing lessons in your mailbox.
* indicates required
Daily Updates