Google Makes Exact Match Less Exact Again

Some time ago Google changed the settings on Exact and Phrase match keywords to allow them to match for slight variations such as plural vs. non-plural and misspellings  – for example, [tennis shoes] would also match for the search ‘tennis shoe’ and ‘tennis shos’.

As is often the case, there was a bit of an uproar from the paid search management community, which subsequently died down as everyone accepted the new normal, as is also usually the case.

Google just announced that they will be further loosening exact match. This time the algorithm will allow exact match terms to match for additional searches with slight word re-ordering or ‘function’ words like the, of, etc. either present or not present.

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As a long time paid search manager, I cringe a bit as Google continues to chip away at the ability to precisely target in the Adwords platform. But realistically, this is just another step in the long road to more audience-based targeting rather than entirely keyword-based targeting.

And let’s be honest: is it really prudent to force an advertiser to conceive of, create keywords for and manage bids for every single possible permutation of word order and misspellings for every possible keyword that is relevant to their business?

Obviously that’s absurd. If you bid on ‘tennis shoes’ you probably also wants to bid on ‘shoe tennis’ even if you forgot to create that keyword.

Of course the primary motive, as with most changes from Google, is to increase search revenue without harming the searcher’s experience (too much anyway). In this case, likely no harm to the searcher, while increasing the number of advertisers taking place in more search auctions. As indicated in the blog post: “early tests show advertisers may see up to 3% more exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable clickthrough and conversion rates.”

What do you think, good or bad?

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