In late Sep­tem­ber, Google rolled out a change that altered the fab­ric of Search Mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy for­ev­er, as they promised to do in their blog­post.  In Google’s words, the inclu­sion of close vari­ants on exact and phrase match key­words promised to help cov­er mis­pellings and plu­rals that users may not be includ­ing in their account struc­ture; how­ev­er, most expe­ri­enced SEM folks already include ad groups or use broad match­ing to cov­er these vari­ants and appre­ci­at­ed the option to opt out of close vari­ants.  The pri­ma­ry rea­son­ing being con­trol.

For more infor­ma­tion on exact­ly what this change entailed, Search Engine Land did a great job explain­ing the impli­ca­tion of includ­ing close vari­ants as well as some analy­sis on what impact we might have expect­ed  after the change was imple­ment­ed.  As we wrote about in our post on the impor­tance of struc­ture and nam­ing con­ven­tions, we strong­ly rec­om­mend break­ing out Match Types by Cam­paign and imple­ment­ing neg­a­tives as Ben­jamin sug­gests.  Hav­ing already had this struc­ture helped us sig­nif­i­cant­ly man­age the inclu­sion of close vari­ants across the major­i­ty of our key­words.  At the same time, we are see­ing a trend, as he also sug­gest­ed would hap­pen, in our Brand­ed terms that are trou­ble­some.

The Impact of Close Variants on Brand Terms


Above is an image of our top brand­ed term for a giv­en client.  For anonymi­ty let’s pre­tend this term is [home depot].  On Sep­tem­ber 18th we saw a large down­ward trend on impres­sions and clicks on this term that was well out­side of the norm.  Giv­en that this key­word has a very high qual­i­ty score, maxed out CPC and is iso­lat­ed into it’s own tight ad group, we were con­fused.  A search query report and quick look at our data made it very clear that in the Mis­spellings ad group the exact match term [homes depot] was tak­ing all of the traf­fic for queries of [home depot].   We also noticed that the total impres­sion vol­ume of both key­words was actu­al­ly low­er than the his­tor­i­cal dai­ly com­bined total pri­or to the change:


At the end of the day an adver­tis­er can use CPCs, neg­a­tives or paus­ing to work through this issue; how­ev­er, it does remove the ease with which we were able to man­age high­ly sen­si­tive key­words and cre­ates a good amount of extra work for brands who may have high­ly irrel­e­vant terms that are sim­i­lar to their brand name.

In clos­ing I’d like to bid a farewell to my friend, the exact match key­word.  We enjoyed the clar­i­ty and con­trol you brought to our work.  You will be missed.