Over the last few years the technical definition of Google Ads’ keyword match types has shifted massively, but the naming conventions have remained almost identical. With the upcoming addition of close variants, are we seeing a final nail in the coffin of precise keyword and search query management?
How are keyword Match Types Changing?
In a nutshell, Phrase & Broad Match Modified keywords will follow Exact match in triggering your ads for queries which share the same meaning or intent as your targeted keyword. This differs from the ‘close variant’ matches rolled out in 2014 which included “misspellings, singular or plural, stemmings, abbreviations and accents” for keywords. Instead, Google will now use its machine learning algorithms to identify if a users search query has the same intent as your targeted keywords.
In Google’s own example, we can see that not only does BMM now match to queries in any order, but individual targeted keywords can be entirely replaced by queries with a similar meaning – notice that ‘+mow’ is matched with ‘grass cutting’ and ‘cut your grass’.
Phrase Match keywords will soon also match for queries with a similar meaning – however unlike Broad Match Modified above, keyword order will be preserved. The example below shows “lawn mowing” matching “grass cutting” and “lawn cutting” then followed by “service” and “services” as expected.
What is still unclear is whether or not these upcoming changes to BMM and Phrase match targeting will use the same ‘implied information’ targeting that Exact match keywords have taken advantage of since last November. Exact “Implied Intent” matching allows Google’s machine learning algorithms to identify and match search queries containing additional longtail information to keywords in your account which you do not actively target. You can see an example of Mackerel Media’s own below:
We can see that while Mackerel Media only actively target [digital marketing edinburgh] Google’s Exact Match now ‘intelligently’ understands the intent of the query is relevant to the exact match keyword we targeted. Thats why our ads would trigger for ‘digital marketing agency Edinburgh Scotland’, ‘online digital marketing agency’ and ‘digital marketing agency Edinburgh’ – because the additional information is implied by the the keywords we target.
Avoiding Competing Keywords
At this point, you might be thinking “But what if I’m already targeting a keyword that is intelligently matched by Google – won’t this mean I’m competing against my own keywords?”.
Well, you’d be right – and Google knows it. To stop keywords that match a query from competing against each other and costing you more money, Google plans to introduce a change to it’s keyword selection process:
“If a query currently matches to an exact, phrase, or broad match modifier keyword that exists in your account, we’ll prevent that query from matching to a different phrase or broad match modifier keyword that’s now eligible for the same auction as a result of this update.”
In other words, if you are already actively targeting a keyword that Google’s algorithms intelligently identify as part of a same-meaning close variant, only your actively targeted keyword will be eligible to trigger an ad.
Why is Google Making These Changes?
Google claims that 15% of all search queries are new, and this means that advertisers are missing out on customers because the tightly controlled nature of the traditional Keyword Match Types means there is no real way to target every possible variation of a keyword.
Ultimately, the changes are an excuse for Google to flex their evolving Machine Learning capabilities. By using AI to infer intent and fill in the gaps between targeted keywords & user queries, Google hopes to reduce the vast numbers of keywords digital marketers have to create to get their ads to trigger for relevant search queries.
As a counterpoint to this: consider a company we spoke to today, who spends a generous monthly sum on Google Ads but focuses on – wait for it – three keywords. Three. 3. Troi. Drei. 1-2-3. Three in total. Those are the only ones that convert for them, and the only ones that have ever converted profitably, in years of advertising. What will this change mean for them? More negative keyword management, more wasted budget and probably a harder job to keep their account KPIs on track.
What Can We Expect?
Unsurprisingly, Google expects advertisers to see a 3-4% increase in clicks for Broad Match Modified and Phrase Match keywords. In addition to this, Google claims that 85% of those clicks will come from keywords that advertisers do not actively target.
In our opinion, this means that while clients can expect to receive more clicks to their site than ever before, keeping a close eye on the source of these clicks will be vital – checking and updating negative keyword lists will become a fundamental part of daily account management, ensuring that Ad Groups remain as focused and relevant as possible.
Consider also the halcyon days when exact match meant exact match, and nothing more. We spent a couple of weeks on the overhaul of a huge ad account with over 100k exact match and long phrase-match keywords, building out combinations upon combinations…but safe in the knowledge what we were bidding on is what we would get. Can you imagine doing that now? Clue – the answer is almost certainly “No!”