Close Variant Matching For All: What That Means For Your Keywords

close variant matching google takeover

Google shared an update stating that close variant matching will be enabled for all keywords as of late September. Of course, Google presented this news as a great gift it was bestowing on all advertisers – thank you oh generous Google.  What this announcement camouflages is a shift away from advertiser’s keyword control – and maybe even a step away from keyword use all together.

Not just about spelling…

“People aren’t perfect spellers or typists,” began Jen Huang, Product Manager at AdWords, in Google’s post revealing the change.

Close Variant Matching allows users who type “Thiland” to see results for “Thailand” and for users who type “flight” to see results for the plural, “flights”, as well. In the example Google used, those searching “kid’s scooter”, “kids scooters,” and “kid scooters” would all lead to the same results.

On average, close variant matching allows advertisers to reach 7% more users, with comparable click through rates and conversions, because an average 7% of searches have misspelt search terms. Close variant matching also gives advertisers a window into low search volume keyword traffic, because even though Thiland is misspelt there is still a significant value to that keyword which most advertisers ignore.

While this is all well and dandy, this option was released back in 2012. Most advertisers already used this feature, so nothing at all is changing in their life. The only people this release affects are those who previously opted out. Now, even if certain advertisers (albeit few) prefer to stick with exact match terms, they cannot.

R.I.P exact match keywords.

The new release now forces advertisers to use close variant matching, even if they don’t want to.

Who wouldn’t want close variant matching?

Google says that click through rates and conversions are comparable for the 7% of extra traffic gained with close variant matching, but in some cases this cannot be true.

For example, “baby clothes” vs “baby cloths” should not lead to the same place. They offer different products and suggest different things, yet with close variant matching these two terms will lead to the same search results. For someone selling baby cloths, click through rate and conversions could lower.

Poor baby cloth vendors.

baby cloths vs baby clothes

Larger Implications

This mandatory change marks a loss of control which is bad news for SEM professionals.

With this release we are heading towards a “keywordless” world where Google dictates when your ads appear and for what search terms.

With Google recent release of Shopping Campaigns, instead of keywords, ads are generated using Google Merchant Account inventory feeds. Google is gaining more and more control of ads and advertisers can’t even put up a fight. As long as AdWords keeps delivering results advertisers want, there won’t be many people complaining. Product Listing Ads are getting advertisers more results, and generally so will close variant matching, so it can’t be that bad…right.

Negative Keywords to the Rescue

For advertisers who feel very strongly about exact match terms, there is still the option to use negative keywords to weed out irrelevant queries.

In Summary

Close Variant Matching means:

  • Less control for advertisers
  • Potential for more money for Google
  • Bad for larger advertisers with professional search marketers at the helm
  • Good for most SMBs who will gain more qualified traffic for the most part
Jillian Zacchia

Jillian Zacchia

Jill is a professional writer, editor and social media procrastinator. With a degree in Literature and Communications from McGill, she started her journalism career writing about lifestyle and entertainment for teen magazines, and after dabbling with wedding and travel writing she began the transition towards content creation for start ups, marketing and tech companies.

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