Keep your variant matches close and your negative keywords closer.
Google’s Inside Adwords Blog has announced that from late September, they will apply “close variant keyword matching” to all exact match and phrase match keywords. Currently there is an opt out.
What does that actually mean?
If a user googles a search term that is very close to, but does not necessarily match your exact (or phrase) match keyword, then your ad will still show up. In other words, the search term no longer needs to be an exact match to trigger an exact match keyword.
Google say 7% of all queries contain what they deem to be a mis-spelling. They point out that advertisers will gain more traffic, and that traffic is likely to be of a reasonable quality. There is also less need to manage the precise variations of keywords. Whilst this assessment is probably fair, it is definitely rose tinted.
The lack of precision means that any effort put in to optimising keyword variations in a given Ad Group is about to be swept away. This is particularly true for plural search terms where relevancy and conversion rate – and even meaning – can be radically different.
The overall number of clicks (and the competitiveness of some auctions) looks certain go up. Some of the new clicks will be genuinely relevant and some will not, but all of them will increase the revenue stream flowing to Google themselves. Don’t be evil; do make money.
I’m an advertiser, what should I do?
Well, there is no panacea, but don’t panic unduly. Paid search remains a very effective online marketing tool.
Keep an eye on your impressions and CTR for sudden changes and be prepared to throw some negative keywords around to squash as much of the irrelevant traffic as you can before your Quality Scores start to slide. Also keep an eye on CPC and average position – some auctions may be about to get much more competitive.
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