The timing of this post is by no means “hot off the press”, but for those that missed the update, here it is.

At the end of July, Google announced that in the coming weeks they’ll begin rolling out close variants for phrase match and broad match modified. This is right in line with last year’s update that caused some unrest in the Search marketing world – when Google made exact match “not so exact” anymore.

Here’s a couple of examples of how the new updates will play out.

  • The phrase match keyword “coffee cups” could now match with “coffee mugs for sale”
  • The broad match modified keyword for +baseball +glove could now match with “cheap baseball mitts”

While this is clearly a move to squeeze a little bit more out of a stagnant channel, I do believe Google’s intent is still good with an aim to facilitate account management. In a perfect world, this update would ideally broaden reach and mitigate keyword redundancy and crowding. That said, anyone who has ever run a search query report knows this undoubtedly means more irrelevant traffic will be flowing through. In any case, whether you’re open to change or already running full-force toward the resistance bandwagon, I’ve outlined a few of my thoughts around the update. Here’s a summary of a few of the pros, cons, and additional thoughts you should be considering.

(Let’s kick off with the negatives and end this thing on a high note.)

The Cons

  • Obviously, we’re going to lose some control over keyword targeting.
  • (Just as) obviously, we’ll need to be much more vigilant/frequent with search query reports. (We’ve already noticed a few of our accounts being impacted.)
  • Google will likely not update the naming conventions of match types (based on how they’ve handled exact match). This could create some confusion/be misleading for newer digital advertisers.
  • Broadened targeting means more indirect overlap with competitors (and potentially non-competitors), ergo higher CPCs.
  • For those PPCers who like to segment by match type, I see some potential headaches on the horizon.

What To Be Mindful Of/Things To Consider

  • Be extra-mindful of your brand campaigns. When broad match keywords loosened, it actually impacted one of my account’s brand campaigns quite noticeably. More specifically, it was bringing in non-brand traffic and even bidding on competitor keywords. While that is fine to do, you don’t want it in your brand campaign. After making some adjustments I was able to lower my brand CPA by 90%. I wouldn’t put it past this update to have similar effects – so again – be mindful!
  • CTR could potentially drop, not only due to more impressions but also due to “similar intent” phrases not being in your ad copy. So, test Responsive Search Ads if you aren’t already.
  • This is even more so a reason to make sure you’re layering audiences onto your Search campaigns (especially if you utilize automated bidding). Someone searching “close to” or “similar to” the keyword you’ve called out is going to be much more valuable if they’re at least falling in one of your targeted audiences.
  • This update is going to likely create more cases of overlapping/redundant keywords that Google will flag. Be prepared to adjust accordingly.

The Pros

  • We can use these updates to help uncover the different ways customers are searching for our products/services. In theory, this broadens our catch-all abilities since Dynamic Search will only match to what’s on the site. So, this can help us stay relevant across different terminologies within whatever vertical we’re advertising in (perhaps even creating some new insights).
  • To a similar tune as the above point, this update could potentially uncover some growth opportunities for your more tenured accounts.
  • Google claims this will increase clicks and conversions by 3-4% (85% of that being net new).
  • I had a point in the con section above about match type segmentation. But, I’ve actually never been a fan of segmenting by match type and this update adds another case for not doing so in my opinion.

Closing Thoughts

I have a theory – and it’s a little out there – but I could see Google retiring match types all together at some point (or at least how we’ve traditionally known them). Then, they’d maybe replace them with single “keywords” that act as intent-based signals. I’m not saying this would be the ideal setup by any means, but rather one that would play on the same field as recent audience updates, the automation of ad copy/delivery, and obviously the continued emphasis of automated bidding strategies. Regardless, if it ever comes to this, we’re a long way from it.

As with many updates, this one is a little frustrating. However, it’s also laced with opportunity. As digital advertisers, it’s important we voice our thoughts and concerns; but, it’s equally as important to stay optimistic and continue to find innovative ways to evolve with these changes and see the upside. (Also, as with most updates) this one is here to stay, after all.