Google announced in March its latest update to the Adwords game impacting exact match keywords. The update is one of many strategic changes Google has made to its algorithm to provide searchers with ever more relevant search results. And while each new Google update seems to put the internet into a frenzy as business owners and marketers scramble to adjust their strategy, this latest change should be a simple and beneficial update for marketers and searchers alike.
When you create a Google AdWords PPC (pay-per-click) campaign, you’re creating a text ad with keywords. Those keywords are used in ad bids. Essentially, your campaign is jockeying for visibility among a crowded playing field of other campaigns using the same or similar keywords. A common misconception of PPC campaigns is believing the success of the campaign rests entirely on which keywords you choose. However, keywords are just one piece of the equation. Equally important to determining well-performing keywords is choosing an appropriate match type.
Google offers four keyword match options to determine how broadly or restrictively to match your campaign keywords to a keyword search. In other words, you have to make strategic decisions to show your add to a very large and potentially irrelevant audience for the greatest reach, narrow your ad reach for a very specific set of customers, or find a balance somewhere in the middle. Each strategy has its pros and cons. Most advertisers will build PPC campaigns using multiple match types. Here’s a quick run-down of each match type (we’ll use a moving service for each example):
Broad match is the default and most wide-reaching option. Your ad is eligible to appear when a searcher uses any word in your key phrase, in any order. Broad match also picks up on misspellings, synonyms, related searches and relevant variations of a search phrase. This match type allows for the greatest potential customer reach.
Here’s an example: If your moving service uses broad match and your keyword is Moving Truck, your ad will still appear in a search for “moving van” because both the keyword and search includes the word “moving.” The draw-back of broad match is that your ad also has the potential to appear for irrelevant searches. If I need to rent a truck for the weekend and search for “truck rental,” your “moving truck” ad could appear. I’m looking for a pickup truck to move some big rocks for my landscape project, not a moving truck. Your ad is irrelevant to me but I might click on it thinking you also rent pickup trucks. If you don’t, I’ve just wasted your advertising dollars on a dead lead. This case also demonstrates the value of negative keyword use and we’ll touch on that later.
Modified broad match narrows the keyword matching just slightly by adding a plus sign to a keyword, signaling to Google that a search query must contain that keyword for the ad to appear.
In this case, we modify our ad keyword to be +Moving Truck. Now when I search for “truck rental” for my weekend warrior project, I won’t see your moving truck ad. My neighbor, however, is moving, and when she searches for “moving service,” she sees your ad. By adjusting to a modified broad match, you’ve eliminated some irrelevant traffic and clicks.
Phrase Match strikes a balance between broad match and modified broad match. With this strategy, your ad keyword phrase best moving service makes your ads eligible to appear only when a searcher uses those exact same words in the same order.
In this scenario, when my neighbor asks Siri, “Find me the best moving service in my area,” your ad is qualified to be shown because her search includes the phrase “best moving service.” Any words preceding or following the keyword phrase do not impact the eligibility of the ad to appear.
Finally, Exact Match is the most specific and restrictive of the keyword match types. With this match type, users can only see your ad when they type your exact keyword phrase by itself.
Let’s imagine you’re trying to increase leads for your moving truck rentals rather than your moving service. Your ad keyword is Moving Truck Rental. My neighbor may see your ad when she searches “moving truck rental” but not when she types “moving truck service.”
To put it simply, exact match no longer means exact. If exact match began with keywords and search queries being identical twins, then today they’re more like first cousins.
Google first introduced close variants in 2012 to account for plurals, typos and misspellings, abbreviations and adverbs. The new update will now broaden close variant’s net a little further by including rewording and reordering for exact match keywords.
The update also ignores function words (in, for, but, to, a, and the) when they do not impact the meaning of the query. For example, removing the word “for” from the query “best moving companies for cross-country moving” does not change the intent of the search, so it can safely be ignored.
In queries like “flights California to Maine”, the function word “to” is vital to the meaning of the search; you’re trying to get from California to Maine. In cases like these, the function word is not removed.
There’s some speculation in the digital community about Google’s ability to accurately decide when a function word is or isn’t relevant to the meaning of a phrase, but that’s going to be a wait-and-see experiment.
Google, on the other hand, is much more optimistic about the update.
According to Google, the change in exact match is great news for businesses because it improves the likelihood of connecting your ads to the right customers.
Initial tests of the new exact match suggest advertisers could experience up to a 3 percent increase in exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable clickthrough and conversion rates, reports Google.
Beyond the potential for capturing more clicks (and therefore more leads), the update simultaneously creates more and less work for the PPC wizard who is hopefully helping you with your Adwords campaigns.
With exact match now including more close variants, building Adwords campaigns becomes more efficient because it’s no longer necessary to create such an exhaustive exact match list of keywords, keyword phrases and concatenations. For example, your ad might have included exact match keywords containing: moving truck service, moving service, moving services, moving trucks. Now, these keywords can be reduced to just one, moving truck service, and accomplish the same results.
But don’t let this fool you into thinking the job has become easier.
With a larger pool of relatives matching back to your ad keyword, it’s critical for advertisers to scrutinize search query reports to ensure ad dollars aren’t being wasted or opportunities missed. Search query reports show which queries trigger your ad. By examining the report, advertisers can make strategic decisions to optimize the campaign based on the types of inquiries triggering the ad.
In addition to optimizing keywords for an ad, it’s also necessary to include negative keywords. These are keywords or phrases people might use in a search that are irrelevant to your ad, but might trigger your ad. Recall the earlier example when I was searching for a truck to rent. Your moving company has moving trucks, but renting trucks is not one of your services. To prevent searchers like me from clicking your ads and wasting your dollars, you would include truck rental as a negative keyword to your campaign.
Again, careful examination of the search query reports helps advertisers weed out the bad traffic and attract qualified leads.
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