Google News: Opt-in required for "close variant" keyword matching

Google announced today that they’re removing the option for AdWords search advertisers to opt out of “close variant” keyword matching. Beginning in late September, all Exact and Phrase match paid search keywords on Google AdWords will begin matching to variations of those words such as plurals, misspellings, abbreviations, acronyms, and other close versions.

What does this mean?

Advertisers whose campaigns are not currently opted into close variants and who have a robust keyword list that includes these variations will likely not see changes in traffic, but should expect an increase in CPC for the Exact and Phrase keywords.  iProspect is currently reviewing our clients’ data to quantify whether this increase will be negligible (1-3%) or more serious.  Look for an update with specific data in the coming weeks.

Advertisers whose campaigns are not currently opted into close variants, have a less robust keyword list, and have low Broad match traffic can expect up to a 7% increase in traffic from Exact and Phrase keywords (Google’s estimate).  It should be noted that this is highly relevant traffic, and these advertisers should see a positive impact from this change—but every advertiser should closely monitor CPCs, traffic, and queries to track actual impact to their accounts.

Advertisers whose campaigns are already opted into match for close variants (the majority of AdWords advertisers—around 80%) will see very little to no impact.

Who is affected?

This change will affect all advertisers on Google AdWords except those in the pharma and health care industries.  For those more sensitive industries, Phrase and Exact keyword matching will not change.  Google may add other such exceptions in the future.

What should advertisers do?

Advertisers can easily check their campaign settings by using Google’s desktop tool, AdWords Editor.  Simply download your account, navigate to the campaigns tab, right click on the column headers and check the “Exact and Phrase Matching” column, and review the settings.

Since this is a mandatory change that affects all advertisers, there’s not much AdWords users should do outside of maintaining overall best practices.  If your account is currently opted out of close variant matching and you have a robust keyword list, plan for potential CPC increases when this change goes into effect, and also plan to review your keywords after holiday to see which are no longer triggering ads.

After the change, advertisers should review their Search Query Report for variants they may not want to match to, and add those queries as negative keywords to their campaigns.