Google expands exact match close variants to include same meaning queries

Posted by Edith MacLeod on 19 Sep, 2018
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What does Google’s latest change to Exact Match mean for advertisers and marketers?

exact match

Google has announced that it is expanding exact match close variants to include same meaning variations.  Powered by Google's machine learning technology, exact match will now match with the intent of a search rather than just the specific words.

“This means your exact keywords can show ads on searches that include implied words, paraphrases and other terms with the same meaning.”


In other words, exact match as we know it currently is changing to something wider, taking into account the intent and meaning of the search term, and will include variations such as paraphrases which have the same meaning as the keyword.

Google gives the example of what this would look like if you were using the exact match term yosemite camping. Your ads may show on terms such as Yosemite campground and campsites in yosemite as these match the search intent: to go camping in Yosemite national park.

Exact match

However, your ads wouldn’t show on, for example, yosemite hotel as the intent of the searcher is different.

The change marks a further reliance on machine learning processes to drive a wider understanding of search intent, rather than just matching specific words.

In their blog post announcing the change, Google said early tests showed that advertisers using primarily exact match keywords saw on average 3% more clicks and conversions on those keywords, with most of the uptick coming from queries they weren’t currently reaching.

Google says negative exact match keywords behave differently and don’t include close variants. Broad and phrase match queries are also unchanged.

It noted that where paraphrases and similar terms are already being used in an account, Ads will still prefer to use keywords identical to the search query

Why is Google doing this?

It’s safe to say that any change rolled out by Google is aimed at increasing revenue and Merkle marketing agency linked the move to a steep drop in paid search click growth down to 5% in Q2 from 23% in the same period last year.

Expanding exact match will hoover up advertisers not using broad match. It extends ads to searches they’re not currently showing for, resulting in more clicks and so increased revenue for Google.

How will this affect advertisers?

There’s been a mixed reaction to the move from advertisers and marketers.  Google’s machine learning will remove the need to spend time creating and managing exhaustive lists of keywords to cover all the different ways people might be searching. However, it does remove a measure of control – if you wanted to include many different queries for your keyword you could just use Broad match.

It didn’t go unnoticed that Google would benefit from advertisers training the algorithm through their actions on query reports. For example, checking for new and negative keywords.

exact match tweet
The change is due to be rolled out for English keywords in October, and more widely in the coming months.

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