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Savvy search marketers win (and lose) from more Google match type changes

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Whenever Google make a change to their PPC algorithms there is always talk within the industry that their intention is to ultimately increase the number of ad clicks as we see them climb the ladder to their 2016 $100 Billion revenue target. There will be gains for advertisers, but not all of them and not on every search space.

Google announced this week that:

“Phrase and exact match keywords will match close variants, including misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents and abbreviations.”

In short, these match types will now match to more terms with very similar intent.

“Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers.”

They will be extremely beneficial to some advertisers but not as beneficial to others, hence the use of the word, ‘broadly’. Google are making it easier to match to the terms it knows you are likely to want to show your ads on. Surely this is great news as less effort and expertise is needed for more coverage. Yet advanced Search Marketers will have known about these gaps in coverage for years as they worked around the previous limitations of these match types.

Prior to becoming a digital marketing agency, Found operated successfully within the affiliate market. We fronted our own spend on the PPC space and had to work at to extremely tight margins. This led to us accumulating a huge amount of knowledge that is not widely known within the industry, knowledge that still gives us and our clients a great competitive advantage. One of the main strategies it led to was gap-spotting, along with a very granular approach to optimisation. If there were variations of keywords with commercial intent, and no other advertisers were on them, we would find them (and pay very little for it).

With these new changes to Google’s matching algorithms, more competing advertisers are now going to appear in these gaps. However, they will still not win across the board. With the new settings allowing your exact and phrase matches to appear on close variants; your paid search campaign will not reflect a true picture of the exact keywords that are working for you, their exact ROI and the exact bid to be allocated. It’s true they are likely to have similar ROIs, but from our experience similar is not good enough, you have to be exact and precise to squeeze every last drop out of your PPC. You have to understand the exact search terms your keywords you are matching on, in order to align the most relevant ad-text. By losing visibility of these terms you lose the capability to be rewarded by Google’s relevancy system and thus lower your CPCs.

Here is an easy PPC example, looking at just one part of the match type change to illustrate my point; plural versus singular keywords.

Consider the two search terms “stomach ache” and “stomach aches”. If an advertiser only has one of these within their campaign it would match to the other. Yet, just by adding the “s” changes the searcher’s intent: “stomach ache” will often mean that the searcher is currently experiencing a stomach ache and is likely to be looking for an immediate solution, whereas “stomach aches” would be searched by someone who currently isn’t experiencing a stomach ache but has been experiencing them recently, or on behalf of someone else, and is looking for a long term solution. Close variants can still have different intents where ad-text, landing pages and bids have to be tailored to approach this effectively.

These new exact and phrase match changes will have come on the back of Google’s success over the last year from making the broad match algorithm even “broader” and reaching out to extremely tenuous related terms. Broad match used to match to misspellings, singulars and plurals, but with them now matching to a wider range of synonyms they have to be optimised very differently, so it does make sense to move these closer related variations & abbreviations onto a more tightly controlled match type.

Either way, out of every Google change, new opportunities arise and, just a few days since this latest news, we are already exploring the advantages and possibilities for our clients.