Matchmaker, Matchmaker: Introducing AdWords Near Match

By Carolina Beltrán

Today, your AdWords keyword matching options are:

  1. Broad Match (the default): Allows your ad to show on similar phrases and relevant variations. Broad Match Modifier, introduced in May 2010, can be used to further refine your broad match keywords; Think of Broad Match Modifier as a way to give keywords greater reach than Phrase Match and more control than Broad Match.
  2. Phrase Match:  With Phrase Match, your ad is eligible to appear when a user searches on the exact phrase, with the words in exact order. It can also appear for searches that contain other terms as long as it includes the exact phrase you’ve specified. One of the earliest tricks I learned for Phrase Match is to think of the words holding hands. I’m serious.  They can hang out with other words, but they always have to hold hands. For example, say your keyword is “ice cream”. This keyword ad on Phrase Match would appear for searches to mint ice cream, chocolate ice cream, even ice cream sandwich – but ice and cream always hold hands. It works for me.
  3. Exact Match: Allows your ad to show for searches that match your keyword or keyword phrase exclusively. You bid on ice cream, your ads may show for only ice cream.
  4. Negative Match:  This match type is used to limit less qualified traffic. If you use Broad Match, you should use Negative Match to cut off traffic you don’t want.


*In each ring, the keyword shown also matches the searches inside the smaller rings.

Come mid-May, you’ll have a new option: Near Match

This new match type enables us to extend the reach of Exact and Phrase Match Keywords in your AdWords account with little effort. It allows coverage of plural, misspelling, close rewrite abbreviations, and acronym variants of all Phrase and Exact Match keywords in an account. It does not match out to synonyms, nor does it change the order of words in a Phrase Match keyword. It also doesn’t allow additional keywords to be targeted for Exact Match Keywords. Google claims Near Match generates additional click volume and coverage, incremental to current Exact and Phrase Match keywords.

Some examples of Near Match expansions include:

  • [Italy vacation] extends to [Italian vacation]
  •  “red flooring” extends to “red floors”
  • Close rewrites: “restaurant NYC” extends to “restaurant New York City”, [comedy improvisation show] to [comedy improv show]

Near Match broadenings will be visible in the Search Query Report. They will be categorized under the Broad Match match type. Conversions and clicks will be attributed to the Exact or Phrase Match keywords that are actually listed as keywords in the account.

If you’re confused, don’t worry. Consider these three exact and phrase match keywords in AdWords:

[waterproof sunblock]     “bollard cover”     [single serving coffee maker]

Now have a look at these two rows of search queries:
1. waterproof sunblock     buy bollard cover     single serving coffee maker
2. waterpoof sunblock      buy bollard covers    single serve coffee maker

Today, only the search queries in row 1 are considered a match and allowed to trigger an ad that can appear in the results. The close variants in the second row are not considered a match by AdWords, despite the similarity in user intent. This will change in mid-May; If your account is opted into Near Match, Row 2 will be allowable expansions to your Exact and Phrase Match keywords.

Google research indicates at least 7% of search queries contain a misspelling, and the longer the query, the higher the rate. Even with perfect spelling, two people searching for the same thing often use slightly different variations, such as “kid scooters” and “kid’s scooter” or “bamboo floor” and “bamboo flooring.” Google’s organic search systems already detect and compensate for misspellings and close variants.


Google believes users are happier when they get search results that reflect their intent and help them achieve their desired action, even if it’s not a precise match for what they’ve typed so they are extending this behavior to ads.

Early experiments looked at the impact on advertisers getting a third or more of their clicks from phrase or exact match. On average, the new matching behavior increased AdWords search clicks by 3%, with comparable CPCs. If you prefer to maintain the current matching behavior in your campaign, you’ll still have that option. In fact, we’ve opted all of our clients’ accounts out of Near Match already. Why?

Search Discovery doesn’t test a new feature with your money unless we know it is well-received by multiple types of advertisers and there is a good amount of data to support using it. Of course Google will say their new match type increases search clicks by 3%, but we don’t know who they tested their new technology on and what the performance of their account was prior.

The very foundation of some of the bid strategies we use is match type. We at Search Discovery believe there is value in building a super comprehensive list of keywords using Exact, Phrase and Broad match types to allow for strategic bidding. Near Match does appear to be a timesaver – if you’re lazy about building keyword lists. Because Near Match expands into plurals, misspellings, close abbreviations and acronyms, it will save time building most any keyword list, but we’d argue that you need to include those variations in your keyword list to lower your overall CPC.

The fact remains – no one knows how this new addition to the match type family will perform. It will certainly be interesting to watch and report back to you.

Need more information about Near Match? Contact the Search Discovery media team today!

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