On Friday afternoon, Google announced another change to the way exact match keyword targeting works for search ads. Matching for close variants — plurals, typos, abbreviations, adverbs and so on — will be broadened to include variations in word order and function words in the coming months. With this change, Google may ignore word order and function words when determining whether a search ad should trigger for an exact match keyword. In other words, exact truly no longer means exact.
Google introduced close variants in 2012 as a way to capture plurals, misspellings, typos and other versions of exact match and phrase match keywords to broaden reach and coverage and save time building out search keyword lists. Advertisers that wanted tighter control were able to opt out of close variant matching until 2014, when Google removed the ability to opt out of close variants for exact match and phrase match. Bing followed suit the following year.
The change reflects Google’s increasing confidence in its machine learning capabilities — in this case, to determine when queries have the same meaning as the exact match keywords in an advertisers’ account. It’s one more area in which advertisers are being told to trust the algorithms to take over.
Google says early tests indicate advertisers could see up to 3 percent more exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable click-through and conversion rates.
For more on the details of the changes, see our full coverage on Search Engine Land.