Google’s well-publicised change to exact match keywords has been met with the usual trepidation and even horror by the digital marketing community.
The change means exact match keywords now function more like modified broad match with function words to be added to search queries and the word order less stringent. Misspellings and plurals remain as has been the case since close variants were introduced.
So, how should we approach exact matches now?
One approach is to use SKAGS (single keyword ad groups) and ad group level negatives to ensure only your precise keywords are showing. There are scripts that can automate this if you prefer an automated approach.
Another is to increase usage of the often-forgotten phrase match. Indeed phrase match is now the purest form of exact match there is!
However restructuring your account or changing your entire keyword set, in many cases, is simply not practical and begs the question – is it even necessary?
Before rushing in and changing anything a look at the performance should be carried out. Is the change actually having any effect on the numbers at all?
A well-structured PPC account should have all the top traffic and conversion driving keywords on exact match anyway. In theory, you would hope that Google would still choose the most relevant keyword to trigger an ad.
e.g. your account contains the exact keywords [mens trainers], [trainers for men] and [trainers mens]
If a user searches for “trainers for men” it is possible that any of the 3 keywords could trigger an ad. We hope that Google will still choose the best (read: closest match) keyword, that being [trainers for men].
NB: this is a simplified example. Bids, quality score and other factors will affect this.
We ran a script on our data that compares performance on exact terms before and after the change and also analyses the impact of the new matching by looking at the search queries and their associated data. This script has provided the following takeaways:
- Clicks are up 5%
- Conversions are up 3.9%
- Conversion rate is down 1%
- CPC is up by 1.1%
- CPA is up 2.2%
The initial results are not negative, on the face of it.
Indeed clicks and conversions have both increased for a minimal increase in CPA.
Only an in-depth analysis of the effect on the broad and phrase keywords within the account would give us the full picture however.
So, in theory, with a well-structured account, extensive exact matches and some trust in Google the effect should not be detrimental.
And this is the crux of it – Google does a good enough job of matching miss-spellings and word order whilst retaining intent – and should continue to improve.
Rather than fight against the tide like a latter day digital version of King Canute it is better to accept, if not embrace, the changes as change, at Google at least, is the only constant.