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Expert Advice on How to Deal with AdWords Exact Match Changes

Elena Terenteva
Expert Advice on How to Deal with AdWords Exact Match Changes

This September, Google will introduce something new. Or, rather, make a return to something from the past. Close variants — including singular/plural forms, accents, acronyms and abbreviations — will all be treated the same. After these changes are enacted, advertisers can forget about the "exact match" option in AdWords.

How can you prevent profit loss as a result of these changes? What do you need to do to keep your AdWords strategy effective? Our experts have got you covered!

Join our panel of experts: Matthew Umbro, Kevin Lee, Brad Geddes, David Szetela, Justin Freid and James Svoboda as they help you avoid the pitfalls these changes will bring about.

Brad Geddes


Google switching to close variant matching is a terrible idea. This is not because variation matching is inherently good or bad — the data can tell you that — but because, in some cases, it works well and, in others, it performs poorly. Overall, it’s a bad decision because it ultimately limits advertiser choice.

Each time AdWords removes options, it will make some campaigns worse, and there's not a good workaround to fix the problem. Over the past few years, Google has been removing advertiser’s choices. And, as they continue to do so, we'll see more marketing dollars migrate to other platforms.

Each time AdWords removes options, it will make some campaigns worse

James Svoboda


The recent AdWords changes are going to affect advertisers in one main way: all exact and phrase match keywords are now going to map to many more keyword variations than one may have originally intended. This can have both a positive and negative effect.

On the bright side, you’re going to get more exposure to similar keywords, instead of only those you are already bidding on. Yay! On the dark side, you are going to get more unintended clicks, which you might not want. Boo. This could (and probably will) affect your current cost-per-conversion rates, and you’ll likely end up paying more. I call this part of the “Google Tax.”

Bright side: you’re going to get more exposure for similar keywords to those you are already bidding on

The only way you will be able to compensate for these changes is to segment your keywords into different ad groups, and then use an embedded negative keyword strategy to gain back the control you are losing. But, it’s a lot of work to regain even a little control over the clicks and conversions you just lost.

Matthew UmbroMatthew Umbro, Founder of PPCChat


It's important to remember the fundamentals of PPC when dealing with the recent AdWords changes. The option to turn off close variants may be going away, but that doesn't negate the fact that campaigns and ad groups have to be well segmented. By tightening up your account structure and leaving less chance to Google, you ensure better traffic.

Advertisers should consistently review search query reports to find negatives, as well as proactively research potential negative keywords. Again, none of this thinking is necessarily new, but it will be that much more important to be attentive. Finally, always make sure ad copy and landing pages are clear and contain the desired messages. For example, if you only take on projects with a $1K minimum, write copy that speaks to this threshold and reiterate it on the landing page.

Negative keywords will now be more important than ever

Close variants have always presented advertisers with a unique challenge, as sometimes variants produce converting traffic and other times they do not. Whereas previously close variants could be turned off, advertisers will need to continue being vigilant about search query analysis and make sure the fundamentals are being followed.

Kevin Lee


Power users of AdWords, such as the Didit team, and sophisticated advertisers with larger budgets are more likely to feel the impact of these changes in match type. Some customers of larger advertisers are performing nuanced searches with very specific intent with sufficient frequency to justify exact/phrase match in its purest form. The specificity of control in exact match made sense in certain cases where one wanted to exclude variants.

We understand Google’s intent in thinking their algorithm knows best and agree that a simpler set of match types will benefit the large majority of advertisers. Variant-enabled matching is also well-suited for the next generations of search and display, including voice-, contextual- and video context- (transcript) targeted ads.

However, some of us will be sad to see the old-style exact and phrase match control disappear. The use of negative matching will allow us to regain some of that control, but not all of it.

Sophisticated advertisers with larger budgets will feel the impact of these changes in match type

For most users — and even power users — the most important thing to do is to use keyword research tools, such as SEMrush and others, along with your own analytics (or what’s left of them after “keyword (not provided)”). Use these in combination with Google’s and Bing’s Webmaster Tools to develop a strong negative match strategy. Deploy those negatives to both avoid low-quality clicks and improve your quality score (fewer people who aren’t interested see your ad and skip it).



Changes are something every SEM Manager has to deal with when working with AdWords. Since the launch of enhanced campaigns, it seems changes are coming out more frequently than ever before.

Working in the pharmaceutical industry, the means by which ads are shown and how they are displayed is extremely important. Most pharmaceutical companies require all keywords, ad text and landings pages to be reviewed by legal before it can be set live.

The slightest change in ad format can trigger the need for another round of painstaking reviews

In order to combat this, our SEM Managers at CMI have to stay on top of everything Google is pushing out. With legal ramifications a part of any update, we are also proactive in communicating the changes to our clients and their legal departments. The influx of recent changes has affected how we do things; we’ve had to implement a formal process to communicate these changes to clients. We also put pressure on our Google account reps to communicate these changes to us prior to launch.

One enhancement that has provided some value is the new mobile advertising options. Being able to target users based on behavioral data has proved very successful and cost-effective. The ability to retarget users after they download and engage with your app is a solid way to gain users, as well.

David Szetela


In my opinion, the two most important recent AdWords developments have been 1) that close variant keywords will be forced on advertisers, and 2) the release of website call conversions. Many PPC experts believe these changes will cause a serious loss of advertiser control; others point to the fact that most advertisers are already using close variants, since it's turned on by default when setting up new campaigns.

I believe the best way to avoid problems is to be extra diligent about adding negative keywords to ad groups and campaigns, especially for the best-performing keywords and for brand/product names. This is likely to be a time-consuming task, but we'll soon be seeing several third-party software tools that will ease this pain by automatically discovering important negative keywords.

For more tips and advice on close variants, listen as Brad Geddes and I discuss the topic on this episode of PPC Rockstars.

Turning now to the new AdWords feature, website call conversions, this free tool allows advertisers to track and report the number of phone calls that are made after someone clicks on their ad and visits their site. This valuable capability has long been offered by third-party vendors, but at a considerable price.

Add negative keywords to ad groups, especially for the best-performing keywords and for brand/product names

These phone call conversions will register in AdWords just like a sale or a submitted lead form. Now advertisers can more accurately measure their true return on ad spend. And advertisers can choose whether or not to count phone conversions when using AdWords' bid automation features, like CPA or ROAS bidding.

Some advertisers need additional features that third-party, call-tracking vendors supply (e.g. tracking phone calls from other platforms, like BingAds), or to record calls for later playback. But for many AdWords advertisers, especially small, local businesses, website call conversions can be a vital tool. Try it!

We hope you found this advice useful! If you have any questions or additional tips, please leave a comment below.

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Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies.
Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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Shashi (Karooya.com)
We have launched a solution to easily control the behavior of Exact Match to make it more like "True" Exact Match. This solution identifies all the close variants for which your ads are appearing, and provides you an easy way to selectively block unwanted variants.

This solution also proactively suggests variants to be blocked so that you don't waste a single click on undesirable variants.

Learn more at http://www.karooya.com/exact-m...

Feel free to reach me [shashi AT karooya.com] for any queries.

Co-founder, Karooya