Google is Making Even More Changes to “Exact Match” to Make it Even Less “Exact”

Remember back in 2014 when Google updated Phrase & Exact Match settings to include such close variants as plurals, typos, and common misspellings? Well, they’re at it again.

On Friday, Google announced that AdWords Exact Match will be updated again: this time, to include variations in word order and function words, such as “the”, “for”, and “to”. In essence, this will have the impact of diluting the differentiation between Broad, Phrase, and Exact Match keywords even further for advertisers—though, there will still be some minor distinguishing features to take note of.

For example, let’s consider the keyword phrase digital marketing jobs chicago. In the below chart, you will see the same query triggering Broad and Exact Match variations of an advertiser’s keyword, but not matching for the Phrase Match keyword.

Adding the state qualifier to the query, however, changes this result entirely—as the new AdWords Exact Match settings do not include adding words to keywords outside of function words.


Google has put together the below chart to help advertisers understand the concept of adding/substituting function words in Exact Match keywords:

There will be exceptions to the function order rule: for instance, a query like “chicago to LAX flights” wouldn’t trigger an Exact Match keyword “LAX to chicago flights”—as, clearly, the two have completely different intent. Whether or not Google can recognize other queries (especially from the onset of this change) that don’t mean the same depending on their word order remains an open question. Advertisers may want to take note of BrainLabs’ script to make Exact Match keywords Exact to maintain a less blurred line between Match Types as this changes rolls out.

Google hasn’t given a precise date for this update (or, “revised definition”, as it were) to Exact Match; only to say it will happen “over the coming months”.