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Exact Match in Google will now include close match variations that share the same meaning to the keyword you are targeting. An example could be for the keyword [yosemite camping] which could now match to “campsites in yosemite” or “yosemite campground”. According to Google’s latest announcement, this change will come into effect from October for English Keywords, with other languages to follow over the next few months.

What’s changing to Exact Match…again?

Exact Match is continuing to evolve.  In 2014 the inclusion of plurals, misspellings and similar variants were introduced to Exact Match query matching. In 2017 we saw this change to include different word orders and function words. Now in 2018, Google have updated their definition of close variants to include variations that share a similar meaning as the keyword, which also includes implied words and paraphrases. 

Confused? Let’s break it down.

Google Ads Exact Match
Credit: Google Ads Announcements, 2018

In the above example, the keyword [yosemite camping] now matches to wider search queries, however the intent behind is still the same; to go camping in Yosemite. Because Google understands the intent behind the search query, it won’t show ads for searches for “yosemite hotels”, because the intent is to go camping. Google’s machine learning and AI is so good that it won’t even match to search queries such as “best yosemite campsite” because again the intent here is different. These will instead be captured by the Broad Match. 

NOTE – Google Ads will prefer to use the identical keyword to the search query if you already have paraphrases and other similar terms in the account.


Why have Google changed Exact Match?

They are trying to be more assistive in the new Google Ads experience

Google are pitching this to advertisers by saying that these changes will mean that we won’t need to manage long exhaustive lists of keywords anymore. In their announcement, Google say that around 15% of searches that they see every day are new. If an advertiser has a long list of keywords that aren’t regularly updated, it means that they could be losing out on new potential. Google Ads is here to assist us and help manage our activity, and this is yet another step to achieving this.

Google are attempting to force advertisers to utilise more Machine Learning to make decisions

By making Exact Match broader, it forces advertisers to utilise other signals beyond the keyword to understand intent and drive better performance. You can no longer rely on Exact Match only matching against the exact search query you are targeting anymore. It’s now more about intent, understanding the signals an individual has left across Google’s portfolio; something only Google really understands. Put simply, if you haven’t adopted any machine learning yet, your are going to be left behind. 

Of course, more Clicks means more Revenue for Google

Need we say anymore?


What does this change mean for you?

It’s less about the Keyword, and more about the Signals to understand intent

We’ve talked in depth previously about how Keywords are becoming extinct and how understanding signals is now the most important factor. The Exact Match is becoming broader, now having the potential to match to more search queries than ever before. This means that to keep control, you need to have a deeper understanding of the signals that work for your goals.

Google will now take care of the intent behind search queries and keyword matching, freeing up our time to be more strategic with other elements of the account such as Audiences.

Top Tip – Ensuring that you have a robust Audience strategy with a good mix of automated bidding will ensure that you are targeting the right people.

Watch your spend levels for Exact Match in October

You don’t want to be caught short in the build up to Christmas. Make sure that you are continually monitoring the spends going through your keyword match types. You could find that you are spending more in Exact Match keywords moving forwards. 

Spend more time in your Search Query Reports

I think we are moving closer to a time where most of our optimisation efforts will be focused simply within Search Query Reports to find new and negative keywords. If you aren’t already (I hope you are), spend time going through these on a regular basis to track the differences with this new Exact Match definition, and adjust accordingly. 

Shape your traffic by understanding your signal strategy

Google have recently announced ‘Google Signals’ in Google Analytics which should help advertisers get a better understanding of their customers across devices. It will allow you to carry out remarketing across devices as well as unlock powerful reporting features such as further detail in Demographic & Interest reports, Cross-Device Reports, and more. This insight should then help you to make better decisions in your campaigns to target the right people, at the right time, in the right place; beyond just the search query.

You might have to rethink “best practice”

Google has made some rapid changed in recent months, which means that what you thought of being best practice this time last year has now completely changed. You’ll need to evolve your ideas to stay ahead of the game.

Do you need to start thinking about putting negative keywords against your Exact Match keywords? Have you ever tried running an account without any keywords by just using Dynamic Search Ads? Have you tried Responsive Search Ads instead of A/B testing manually? These are all things that might make you feel uncomfortable, but you’ve got to give it a go. 

Update your Custom Scripts

If you are using custom scripts to give you more control over your keyword strategy since the last update in 2017, it might be worth revisiting these.

Dan Roberts
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Dan Roberts

Founder & Author at PPC hubbub
Dan has worked in agencies for over 5 years and was awarded Rising Star at The Drum Search Awards for the work delivered for his clients and wider industry. Dan founded PPC hubbub after becoming frustrated with the lack of actionable insight from blogs.

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Dan Roberts
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