RIP Exact Match & Phrase Match: Google AdWords Announces Big Changes to Keyword Match Type Options


RIP Exact Match and Broad Match

AdWords has announced changes to how the Exact Match and Phrase Match keyword match type options works. Previously, a keyword set to exact match in your AdWords account would only trigger ads for user search queries that exactly matched the keyword you specified (hence the name: exact match), and similarly, a phrase matched keyword would be triggered by search queries containing the phrase that you specified.

Soon, Google will be changing the definition of these keyword match types to behave more like Modified Broad Match. It will serve up ads for a far more diverse set of search queries, including:

  • keyword misspellings
  • singular/plural forms
  • stemmings (word endings such as "ing", "ed", etc.)
  • accents
  • abbreviations

As is always the case, Google claims that the motivation for the change is user benefits: "Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers," though they disclaim: "Keep in mind that results may vary by advertiser."

(It's not like they're just trying to grow Google Revenues ...)

Phrase Match and Exact Match now match for misspellings and variations of the keywords you picked

Can I Still Use the Old Exact Match and Phrase Match Types?

If you're not completely enamored with the changes to the keyword match types, there's a way to undo the change, though it's a bit hidden in the advanced settings. In the following screenshot you can see how it's possible to choose "Do not include close variants" in the Keyword Matching Options. The default option is set to "Include Plurals, Misspellings, and other close variants":

The New Broad Match and Phrase Match Keyword Matching Options in AdWords: Now Includes Plurals, Misspellings, and other close variants!

All of these Match Type changes will go into effect sometime next month and it will definately impact performance (probably not in a good way), so keep an eye out for that!

Learn more about Google Keyword Match Types

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Mike Ebert
Apr 18, 2012

In general, companies should ask customers to opt in to costs and to opt out of benefits. The problem is that companies often confuse the two. Google is asking people to opt out of a change that will likely cost the customer money--they got it backwards.

Apr 18, 2012

Ah, pretty insightful comment there. Wish I had more to add, but you put it pretty succinctly there, Mike.

Elisa Gabbert
Apr 18, 2012

Yep, and it's par for the course these days from Google.

Sergio Felix
Apr 18, 2012

Even MORE changes from Google?I really wonder why this doesn't surprises me anymore.Sergio

Anton Stetner
Apr 19, 2012

Mike above totally got this right and it is all about profits

Apr 19, 2012

And another change from Google to "benefit" us all...not!Should we be surprised though? They are a business after all and they dictate the search engine sector.I wonder how long it will be before Google decide to de-rank highly placed organic listings who don't use paid search to force them to spend!

Chris Andersson
Apr 19, 2012

Haha, that is humour."Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers"If you put that line into Google Translate, you get the following:"We really want to show relevant information to what we think the search is about, even though it is misspelled or whatnot. That way we can get more clicks from those searches thus increasing are revenue."PS. What the translation REALLY means is that the change will be more beneficial to US (Google).

Ozio Media
Apr 21, 2012

This development seems to go hand in hand with the recent changes to Google’s search algorithm recently introduced in order to produce fewer spam pages in the SERPs. Some of the innovations like the misspellings and singular and plural forms could add value to AdWords for some users. It remains to be seen whether these improvements will produce more coherent ad placements or not.

Apr 23, 2012

I agree.  This is nothing more than Google manipulating their monopoly to increase their profits. 

Apr 24, 2012

I'm thrilled that you showed us how to disable this.  I happen to be in a business where I only sell high-quantity items and if I were to be forced to show ads to "singular" search terms - the campaign budget would explode.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Elisa Gabbert
Apr 24, 2012

You're welcome, Topher, so glad we could help!

May 29, 2012

Am I the only one who doesn't see this as something horrible?Google's algorithm is getting smarter. I personally think it's ridiculous that "Boston dentists", "Boston dentist", and "dentist in Boston" all return different SERP results when the user intent is clearly the same.For a small number of people (Topher in the comments selling high-quantity items), this change would be detrimental, but then again that's why Google includes the option to disable it. But I think for the majority of us this is a step in the right direction. Whether the user types in "sandwiches" or "snadwiches", they're probably looking for the same thing.Now let's just hope the SERPs follow suit, so we can stop worrying about ranking for 10 different keywords that are in essence the same query.

Jun 01, 2012

I think I agree with James on this.  If two people make the following searches 'xxx services' and 'xxx serveces' Google can pretty much guess that the two users are looking for the same things, just one can't spell very well.On the other hand though this does seem a way for Google to create more revenue with rouge searches.It's hard to call.Great article by the way, I found it when looking for help on setting up a new campaign and wasn't sure if matches I should use.  Keep up the good work.  

Nitesh Ahir
Sep 17, 2012

Hey Ryne, I have always questioned in exact match... mostly people do link building on exact match...But I would like to share my experience on designing company...I was working on web design services inner page of my site... But when I realized that exact mach is causing problems on my ranking & I change my marketing strategy...Now you can see my site is on 3rd rank on globally & 5th rank on us...So diversified is good for ranking whether you secondly is ranking or not... Thanks,

Oct 10, 2012

Came across this when I was Googling if should changed my adwords option to "Do not include close variants".What i noticed after running 6 months of "Include plurals, misspellings, and other close variants" is that impression increased significantly, CTR seems to have decreased and quality score slightly affected, resulting in slightly higher CPC.Anyone with simiilar results?

Nov 01, 2012

Hi JerryI noticed the same findings, however I must admit that it has helped in finding more search terms that I hadnt previously thought of (and some of them have converted).

Vishal Shah
Aug 08, 2013

Opps, after long time I know about this. Its really helpful for analysis of keyword research. Thansk for sharing valuable post

Aug 23, 2013

Good and insigtful article. I was trying to find the difference but Larry's article sure hit the nail on the head. Thanks again.

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