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

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.

Know about what is changing in marketing!

Keep up with the latest digital marketing developments, views and how-tos through State of Digital’s digest newsletters. Be the first to hear about events, white papers, e-books, webinars, training and more!

About Samantha Noble

Samantha Noble is the founder of Biddable Moments and a former editor and contributor to State of Digital.

9 thoughts on “The End Of Exact Match Keywords: What Does It All Mean?

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

    1. 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!

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

  3. 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.”

  4. Great, informative article. I think this may help advertiser in a way but still they need to keep an eye on their accounts. When people misspell words and they do not mean to spell in a way to bring up your type of business information. Like you side, impressions and maybe even click will increase but the CTR and QS may decrease, making it useless to advertisers.Since Google charges whenever your ad is clicked, you will be charged more. Thanks for this information.

  5. The news means that marketers must carry out SEO that really affect a particular keyword they want to rank.

    Exact Match keywords is still relevant, although not in the sense it use to apply.
    Thanks for sharing this, and I am sure that marketers will care or Decide which words they want their ads to appear!
    Comment left in

Comments are closed.