Thoughts on the new “improved phrase and exact match”

by Joel on April 18, 2012 · 6 comments

in PPC

The Google improved phrase and exact match illusionAs of today Google have announced that in mid May they will be making changes to the way they handle exact and phrase match keywords.

Here is what Google say on the matter:

“When people search for your products or services, they probably misspell a word every so often. In mid-May, we’re making improvements to our exact and phrase matching options so your ad will be eligible to show when people search for close variants — yes, that includes misspellings — of your keywords. In addition to misspellings, other close variants include singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents.

With our improved exact matching and phrase matching, you can better target your ads, helping to improve your clicks and impressions.”

When Google name something “improved” then it starts alarm bells ringing in my head – it means that they feel they need a smoke screen to cover something.

Google Adwords is by far and away the most complex and detailed ad platform in the world and Google have done an incredible job with it’s development, however, a change like this should not be set as the default, it should require the advertiser to choose to do this.

Basically, my gut feeling is that Google have found that the misspellings, acronyms, abbreviations etc are frequently searched but are not monetised well enough. This will allow them to automatically enter more advertisers into the auction on these types of keywords. The result will be that many advertisers will see impressions and clicks rise, they should even see some new conversions coming through on these “new” keywords.

If you see more conversions on your keywords then what will you do? Bid up right? That’s right – this change is going to see advertisers pushing up the market CPC’s not just on the misspellings and acronyms etc but also on the main exact and phrase match keywords that trigger the ads to show on these variations.

Until now these more abstract searches have been the domain of the more proactive advertisers who take the time to properly mine their search query reports. Now those users are going to find that the holiday is over and that they now have even more work to do to find niche opportunities.

What are the new niche opportunities likely to be?

So with this change the advertiser will be able to use the new match type to find new opportunities:

For example; with the image below you can see 2 new searches that the exact match keyword [Nike Trainers] will trigger for. This is completely hypothetical but I feel that in practice this is likely to be similar to what we will see – i.e. more impressions, clicks and conversions in the short term.

new improved phrase and exact match

If you were an advertiser and you saw this you would see that having the new variants in has cost you a total of £7.03 and got you one more sale. Previously your cost per conversion on just the exact match was £42.25 therefore having this change has meant that your average cost per conversion on the “improved” exact match keyword is better. So what do you do? Bid up.

However, what you should be careful to do is to take the newly converting keyword [Nike Traners] and put it in a new campaign that is solely for misspellings, acronyms and the like and set the exact match keyword to only show on that exact term. You could then add an exact match negative keyword of the misspelling [Nike Traners] to your original ad group to ensure that the search term triggers your ad only in the new campaign and not in your original campaign.

It is a bugger that they didn’t allow this setting at an ad group level – they have obviously thought about ways to make it more complicated for advertisers to work around this to gain the most benefits.

Anyway, getting off my pessimistic whinge and going back to the example:

Why do this?

Because if you do not then you will have to bid up the main keyword with the “improved” exact match which will increase your cost per click on [Nike Trainers] and on all other variations including ones that do not convert e.g. [Nikey trainers]. By managing the keywords in the new campaign you can effectively bid up only on the new search terms that are actually getting you results.

However; you will still have to contend with the fact that other advertisers will not be this diligent so you are likely to see CPC’s rise across many of your exact match keywords as other advertisers simply bid up.

If you are a less experienced advertiser and this is not making much sense then please leave a question in the comment box and I will clarify anything that is not clear. If you are an experienced Adwords marketer then I would love to hear your thoughts on this – am i being too down on the big G?

Here is a link to the explanation page on Google:

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kinjal April 18, 2012 at 10:40 am

You are absolutely right Joel. This will increase CPC for exact match keywords as bid will increase for exact match keywords and more advertisers will enter in the auction. Google once again come up with a clever move to get more out of our pockets!

This will increase cost for savvy advertisers too who spend lots of time doing proper keyword research and mining search queries. I always keep adding as many misspelling variations as I can. For example, along with my main keyword [nike tainers] I add other exact match misspelling variations like [nike traners], [nikey trainers] and so on. Now if people search for nikey trainers then my keyword [nikey trainers] will fight with Mr X’s [nike trainer] who hasn’t done proper keyword research and would have completely missed the auction had google not changed the rule.

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Pete April 18, 2012 at 10:45 am

Alarm bells do ring straight away. I think you make a very good point with great suggestions on how to effectively manage the new ‘improved’ change – but since many competitors won’t be doing this it’s just going to end up costing us all more.

Google should have just written ‘from May Google will be able to squeeze even more money out of you’.

Previously being completely exasperated with broad match and even phrase match requiring negative keywords etc I switched all of our keywords over to exact match and spent a great deal of time listing all the possible combinations – in several different languages, running them for a while and then taking out the keywords that gave no return. It took ages, but it was necessary after the amount of keyword bile Google charged us for – which often had nothing to do with the page we were advertising or even for products we didn’t offer.

It’s good to have misspellings and relevant plurals but we all know that Google would love everyone to simply use broad match on everything and burn through advertisers’ money as much as possible.

It’s a sad state of affairs that Google needs to word the ‘improvements’ so patronisingly and we all need to just rejoice in the ‘improved’ changes whilst spending more money getting leads and more time managing AdWords.

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Joel April 18, 2012 at 10:59 am

Hi Kinjal/Pete – thanks for the comments.
Pete – I have a feeling that Google have experienced many advertisers moving away from broad match in recent years as more and more auctions have become crowded spaces with higher CPC’s and lower returns. This move counteracts that problem (for Google) by increasing competition on many more keywords.

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Leigh April 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Solid post Joel, I just don’t like the fact that these changes have the potential to screw with prevously targeted keywords based on searcher intent. eg in some auctions, a plural, acronyms, abbreviation etc. could signify a different level of intent. So this change – if left on – mudies the waters that [exact] match was meant to clear up. grr.

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Joel April 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Hi Leigh – thanks for the feedback.
Yeah that is exactly it on the intent.
It just means that to get the best CPC’s possible at all times it will be necessary to add another level of complexity to our campaigns.
Or perhaps by having just a broad match (all KW’s with modifier) ad group and an exact match ad group for all keywords is still OK – that is generally what i do; and then just turning off this new functionality on all campaigns.

That way the broad match modified will still be entered into the same auctions and the exact matches will still be entered into the same auctions. The problem is though that this change will effect the CPC’s on the broad match modified ad group AND the exact match ad group as there will be increased competition and/or higher bidding on both.

No way around it – grrr – they are damn clever at making money over at Google, hats off to them.

However; reduced profitability has been an issue in many markets for a long time and this will not help that. Marketers just need to vary up their traffic sources as much as possible nowadays.

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Chk April 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

The only thing I want to add to this topic is that I found out that the search intent for people looking for singular and plural forms is completely different on some keywords. That’s why I think this option is dangerous to some accounts. very simple example:

car – a definition for the word “car”
cars – a range of cars they can pick one to buy from.

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