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.