Thoughts on the New “Improved Phrase and Exact Match”

The Google improved phrase and exact match illusion

As of yesterday Google has announced that in mid May it will be making changes to the way it handles exact and phrase match keywords.

Here is what Google says 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.”

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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.

Comments: 2

  • Mark says:

    Completely agree with you here Joel… as soon as we see the Google mutter “improved” we need to be worried. Does it seem like they are turning exact and phrase match into broad match modifier or is it just me? The goods news is that it is possible to opt out .. phew!! The frustrating thing is that it is opt out… so we have to go through the laborious task of doing that.. any way, here’s out take on it



  • Joel says:

    Hi Mark
    Just read your piece – good coverage and glad to see that someone else read between the lines.
    My gut feel is that Google have noticed a long term move away form broad match and additionally have noticed that they are not getting enough cash form the long tail misspellings so came up with this ingenious (from their perspective) solution. For any dedicated PPC marketers it is a pain in the arse.

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