The Death of Exact and Phrase Match in AdWords

Last week, Google dropped the hammer on search engine marketers everywhere– coming this September, the ability to control “close variant” queries in Exact and Phrase Match ad groups will be taken away, giving us one less mechanism to manage our campaigns in the way we best see fit.

I first read about this on my former search director Brad Geddes’ blog on Friday (though the Inside AdWords blog did quietly post this announcement Thursday evening). The change, which obviously has not gone over well with SEMs on Twitter and other blogs, will essentially kill Exact and Phrase match as we know it.

And, no, that’s not an exaggeration. Here’s why.

The Current State of Phrase and Exact Match








At the campaign level, AdWords allows PPC managers to choose whether or not exact and phrase match keywords can show for close variations– plurals, misspellings, etc. Many of us, by default, choose to not allow variants to trigger our ads in exact/phrase ad groups, because, quite simply, this is what many of us use Broad Match for. In my campaigns, for example, I utilize Broad Match to “test the waters” with short-tail keywords, which does include misspellings as well. Based on performance, over time, I may move keywords that have done well to Exact and Phrase Match ad groups of their own.

Let’s look at an example of how this works.

With my phrase match ad groups, I may have a keyword such as “digital marketing chicago”. With “close variants” turned off, as I do now, the following queries do not trigger my ads:

chicago digital marketing
digital marketing in chicago
digitas marketing chicago

The Future State

With no option to disallow “close variants”, is there really a point to exact and phrase match ad groups?

Sure. For those sophisticated enough to be using these match types in the first place (the close variant option has been enabled by default), there are still good business reasons to include phrase/exact match keywords; to bid on these separately than broad; and, to concoct original, separate ad copy for each match type ad group.

However, it is going to be interesting to see how this impacts CTR/CPAs on the whole for exact and phrase match keywords. I would recommend taking a 60-to-90 day snapshot of keyword performance before the change is rolled out to your campaigns, and then again afterwards, to see how this effects you.

The “Last-Ditch” Effort to Stop This

Industrious as we are as SEMs, someone has created a petition (which currently has about 40 signatures, including mine) to ask Google to reconsider. One never knows if action like this will have any impact on the company’s decision, but it will literally take you 30 seconds to sign, to why not give it a try?

What do you think about the change Google will be making in September?

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  • SWBmedia

    Now that we’re into October, have you found that this change in match types affected your campaigns in any way? Would love to see a follow up post down the road.

    • Definitely will! I’m waiting to have the full month of October under our belt, and I’ll post an update (and leave the link in these comments). Thanks!

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