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What's Wrong with Exact Match?

Posted by Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron is the Director Owner of Advent Communication. With more than 25 years experience he has a deep...
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on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 in Google

I've been quite happy over the past few months. I discovered that I could get most of the traffic I wanted with a minimal amount of fuss using Google's new Broad Match Modified (BMM) match type. I felt like Baby Bear from Goldilocks - BMM isn't too loose, nor is it too restrictive. It's just right!

And like a happy bear, I was gradually replacing most of my phrase match keywords with their BMM counterparts.

I had never really used broad match - that was like putting all my money on the desk and telling Google to just take what it wanted. So I ended up with basically two types of campaign. Those using BMM and those using exact match. I like exact match... not quite as much as I like BMM - but for different reasons - It's badass.

You put a keyword in exact match and that keyword is like a grumpy bouncer at a popular night club. You don't have the exact keyword, you ain't coming in. Period.

One thing you could say about exact match is this - you knew exactly where you stood. Wrong shoes? You ain't coming in. Wrong hairstyle? You ain't coming in. And there's no point in arguing. The exact match bouncer is deaf to your pleas.

But Google have decided to give the exact match bouncer people skills. He will now let you in if your shoes look like the right kind - or if you just spit on your hand and flatten your hair a little.

Close variants. It's political correctness for Google AdWords. Now, close enough is good enough - whereas for most PPC managers exact means exact. In fact, there are many advertisers who never even knew that exact match, by default, allowed for close variants - you had to switch the option off.

And now Google have decided to make this default the only setting. You want close variants with that? Perfect, here you go. Hold the close variants? Sorry, no can do - they're standard.

So let's consider the implications of this. to start with, let's consider who was using exact match in the first place, and why...

If you had a keyword which works really well for you when people type it in - in that exact format - then you would separate it out into its own campaign - or at least ad group - with this single keyword in exact match. Why? Well for a number of reasons... firstly, because you could write an ad and a landing page focussed purely on that keyword and you could expect to get really great Quality Scores.

But there's more... if people respond really well to this keyword then there is a good chance that the CTR on this keyword will be higher than average as will the conversion rate for those visitors the keyword brings to the party. So what do you do? You allocate more budget to the keyword and (probably) increase your bids so as to get as much of that traffic as possible.

If we look back over that scenario - this is exactly (no pun intended - although highly appropriate) what Google tell us we should be doing. Becoming more relevant and precise. Let's face it - if someone types in "blue widgets" and we have an exact match keyword for [blue widgets] which triggers and ad with the headline "Blue Widgets Sold Here" which takes us to a page where we can buy the best blue widgets at a great price and enjoy a spectacular visitor experience - then this is close to the AdWords Holy Grail.

But to set up these campaigns you need to dedicate a good chunk of time and effort. So not everyone bothers. Which on the one hand is a shame. On the other, as someone who gets paid for doing things others are too lazy to do..... but that's another blog post....

So the people running these kind of campaigns tend to be those people with more invested in their online advertising. More invested in all kinds of ways - more money, more experience, more time spent climbing the learning curve, etc.

And it is precisely these people that are having the rug pulled out from under them by this change.

So why is Google doing this? The conspiracy theorists are already pointing towards these advertisers having to pay for more wasteful impressions and clicks. And that is probably true, but to to a very small extent. Others suggest that this is Google's way of trying to level the playing field. Without this kind of adjustment then the more savvy advertisers will dominate the search results for some of the best keywords. That seems unreasonable since those managing their accounts well are being penalised so as to give a leg up to those that are not. AdWords is a reflection of the free market - supply and demand. You select your keyword and you bid against your competitors to get your ad shown enough times and in the best position to sell enough of your product or service to turn a profit.

Those who structure their accounts correctly and take advantage of the full capacity of the platform should do best. Just because only 3% of users will be affected doesn't mean that this decision is OK. Those 3% are the ones who are using AdWords the way it should be used. Let's not dumb down the platform just so that those advertisers who put no effort into their marketing can share the rewards. Instead let's make the platform more responsive to good quality management, proper account structure and good use of match types. Otherwise let's just all give Google our web address and credit card number and let them do everything.

Just in case Google are reading this - I didn't really mean that last part....

How will you be affected by the decision to make close variant matching standard for exact match keywords?

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Marcos Wednesday, 20 August 2014

There are 2 things that have given me the bad mood about this.
1st, saying ONLY a 3% of advertisers. Hello! Google has over 2 million accounts, how many advertisers are a 3% of that? and how much do they feel for the vast majority??
2nd, saying that this is making things so much easier. Thats BS, as you are well pointing out. Complexity for those having big accounts will either increase, or they'll just give up worst ROIs.
I had to say it out loud somewhere :)
Best regards!

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Steve Cameron Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Good points, Marcos. I'm not sure that the 3% of advertisers represent only 3% of revenue either - I suspect that the bigger the ad spend the more likely the advertiser is to be using a professional to manage the account - or a team of professionals - and they will be using exact match heavily as a part of their overall strategy. I've been reading around this topic and I'm struggling to find a positive slant to put on it.

Shashi Thursday, 09 October 2014

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-match-close-variant-solution

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

Co-founder, Karooya

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