PPC Roundtable - AdWords Close Variants

By Matt Umbro | @Matt_Umbro | Senior Account Manager, Community

As we end series week we’ll be looking at a once optional feature that will now be mandatory. If you haven’t heard, AdWords will soon be removing the option to exclude exact and phrase match keyword variations. This impending update has caused much stir in the PPC community. We asked our authors what they think of the change.


What are your thoughts on Google’s decision to make close variant matching for all exact and phrase match keywords mandatory?


Pro Variant Segmentation


I feel like the Grumpy of this set of Seven PPC Dwarves, as I am definitely pro-segmentation. I think close variants can actually serve a real role in qualifying your visitors. If I have an account in a high-stakes industry, I want my clicks to come from those who are educated in the field and capable of entering their search terms properly. I can segment my close variants and see that I have 53% less conversions at a CPL 25% higher and at an average CPC only 6% cheaper within the same campaign. While that may work for some, I know that if I need to trim back on wasted spend, I definitely look at close variant exclusion as an option.


— Carrie Albright, Account Manager

Going Down A Negative Path


I don’t like the idea of taking control away from the advertiser. I feel that over time, Google will limit the levers we as advertisers can pull in order for them to make as much profit as possible. This will continue to happen until a viable alternative with enough of a traffic base to force real competition with Google. Only then will they really respect the wishes of their customers.


— Jeff Baum, Associate Director of Paid Search


Puzzled By The Decision


I’m pretty neutral when it comes to close variants as a rule. In fact, I have most of my campaigns opted in to the system anyway. However, I *do* have a few niche cases where a brand product can pull in a ton of irrelevant variants- cases where it makes sense to opt those brand campaigns out of close variants instead. I’m puzzled about the need for the change in the first place. Have campaigns opt in by default, but at least leave us with the decision if we want to stay that way.


— Eric Couch, Senior Account Manager


Keep Moving Forward


I just made mention of this in a recent post of mine, but as with any Google-induced change I think the name of the game is “get over it/move on.” Our industry is certainly one that allows the masses to voice concern and produce change when there are true wrongdoings afoot. I would also, however, say that if you try to remember the last time something of a similar nature happened you’ll also be able to remember how you strategized around it and changed your game up. I believe the advertisers who are best at PPC (or should be “rewarded” with higher ROAS) are the ones who are willing to look at the details and optimize on a granular basis. We can still structure and negative-match to keep things from getting too out of control, and eventually this too shall pass.


— Kayla Kurtz, Senior Digital Advisor


Similar Results


I’m going to go against the grain and say I don’t think it matters all that much. I don’t see why Google has made the change other than to be consistent with their policy of simplifying AdWords at every opportunity, but I also don’t think it’s much to get worked up about. If you need to use misspellings and plurals, building them out separately and using embedded negatives should still let you control bidding in those niche cases where close variants is a problem. For almost all accounts I’ve worked on and audited close variant CPA has been within 5% of non-close variants.


— Sam Owen, Associate Director of Paid Search


Not OK Taking Control Away


It’s more the principle of the matter than the way this will change how my accounts function. Honestly, I had them enabled in almost all of my accounts anyway. I hadn’t ever found enough negative data associated with them to warrent turning it off. However, taking away the option to turn them off is just another step towards taking control away from more advanced advertisers. I don’t think we’ll ever be cool with that kind of move, which they seem to be making more and more these days.


— Amanda West-Bookwalter, Senior Account Manager


Like The Feature, Not The Decision


In working with many eCommerce accounts, I’ve always found that close variants generally perform as well as their match type counterparts. In fact, the close variants tend to bring in a nice ancillary source of conversions and revenue. Having made this statement, I don’t agree with the decision to make this option mandatory. There are accounts where close variants won’t be effective and will hurt the client’s bottom line. The option to turn off needs to be available even if 99 out of 100 accounts see positive results from the variants.


— Matt Umbro, Senior Account Manager, Community


Make sure to also check out all series posts if you haven’t already.


Why It’s Crucial To Audit PPC Accounts Ahead of Management – by Kayla Kurtz

Why Do We Test PPC Ads? – Eric Couch

Write Better Ads For Your Mobile Audience – by Matt Umbro

The Necessity of Regular Big Changes – by Jacob Fairclough

Account Structure: The Backbone of PPC Success – by Jeff Baum

Why We Track Conversions And How To Implement – by Hayley Cummings

The Argument For Match Type Segmentation – by Amanda West-Bookwalter

Easily Predict The Future Performance Of Your PPC Account – by Carrie Albright