As if there were not already enough changes in the world of Google, they have now announced yet another change. This change will take place in late September, where you will begin to see slight variations in the matching behavior of Google AdWords.

Google is applying a close variant keyword matching technology to all phrase match and exact match keywords. You may be thinking, well this is not new, and yes, Google has been using the close variant matching as the default behavior since 2012 in new campaigns, so for those advertisers, little to nothing will change.

For those who have been opting out of the default setting, they will see the changes take effect in their campaigns after September 2014.

The actions below are designed for those who have not already been using close keyword variations, but they are also helpful for those who have already been using the behavior in their campaigns. The 5 steps below should be used to help you manage close keyword variations.

1. Get Prepared for More Volume

This step may be unnecessary for some, but crucial for others. Anytime you are working with an AdWords campaign, certain things will vary by the account structure used, and the history of the account usage. For those using broad match keywords as well as exact/phrase keywords, there is a good chance they are already getting close variant coverage.

For those who have used only exact/phrase match, a slight bump in impressions and clicks will be noticed.

Monitor your keyword list if you are using the exact/phrase behavior so you can see the difference when the changes occur. An estimated 7% of all Google searches come from misspelling a keyword, or bad timing with hitting the space bar, so that should give you an idea of what extra volume to prepare for when the change occurs. 

Again, if you are using broad match behaviors more frequently than exact/phrase keywords, there will be less of an increase in impressions and clicks after the change.

A good option to eliminate all of the guesswork is to simply opt into the close variant keyword matching behavior now instead of waiting for the change to take place. This would put you ahead of the game.

If you are unclear as to what keywords are considered for each match type, the chart below should help.

2. Quit Building Keyword Variants Regularly

The system will continue to use identical matched keywords or phrases overbroad search terms in the search query, and only existing misspellings, stemming and plurals will receive impressions and clicks if they have a higher Ad Rank.

So, this means that your close keyword variations cover a broader range of traffic to your site from the queries. When you begin working on keyword discovery, check for high-volume, prominent query options, and then use the highest volume terms first. The query data will make it easy for you to determine how to proceed with your close variant terms in place.

You should not see much of a change with the close variations, so in most instances, there is no reason to add those to your account. However, if you do see a difference in performance, adding those close variations to your account as their own keywords can help control the bidding and messaging they have. 

Negatives: Adding negative keywords to your close keyword variations is an option. The negative keywords will not expand past their close keyword variations, and so they allow you the ability to control your website traffic by filtering out poor-performing queries without blocking out main keyword impressions. 

3. Prepare for Traffic Redirection

If you are using modified broad, broad, or phrase match in your account, then you may have already noticed the exact/phrase keywords running auctions more frequently, and in many cases, at the same time as one another.

The internal system determines which keywords will enter the auction, so you will not be driving your CPCs up with the internal competition. There is a variety of factors considered for choosing the single keyword for auction. The approximate order in which a single keyword is chosen is below:

  • A keyword that matches a search term exactly
  • If keywords are the same, the exact match keyword will be used
  • In the case of multiple exact keywords, the one with the highest Ad Rank will be chosen

Ad Rank fluctuates around various keywords within your account, so the same query could be responsible for triggering multiple keyword ads.  The most competitive keyword will display in your account, but the new matching behavior could change how your budgets are set in your account depending on its structure. 

4. Know That Query Still Rules the Roost

Keywords are simply tools that are used for advertising, which is not the same as a user query. Anyone running an AdWords account should know how user queries match up to the keywords in the account. With a basic understanding of queries, you gain insight into how potential customers are finding your business when they conduct a search.

Check your search terms report frequently to see what new queries are creating impressions for your site. Make sure when you run the reports that you add the keyword column. This allows you to see the new matching behavior (if any) within your account settings. The new knowledge you have on what is counting as a close variant will help you to better manage your account, and that can only mean more traffic for your site. 

5. Understand How These Changes Will Affect DKI

Your close keyword variations in most cases, will not affect any ads you are running with Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI). The editorial standards within the AdWords account prevent incorrect grammar and misspellings already, so any keywords that fell below standards should have been kicked out already.

The only change you may see in the DKI is if you closely misspell a keyword. The correctly spelled keyword will be replaced with the close match and then be inserted into the ad. So, any changes affecting DKI actually make running the ads easier, not more complex. This means you do not have to worry about misspelled words being disapproved, as long as the spelling is close to the correct version.


The change that is coming is actually going to help offer more coverage on keywords, without the exhausting task of building extensive lists. For those of you that will see a change in your account due to this new behavior, the change will bring more volume, increased traffic, and a more comparable CTR and conversion rate as seen with exact keywords.

Accounts that have already been using this matching behavior will not see much of a change if any. Control is still the account holders, so you are not giving up the driver’s seat with the new behavior; you are simply picking the direction you want to go, and then setting cruise control for a nice ride.

The main goal of the change is to enhance the searches that come up for user queries. Google has been working for a long time trying to determine the user’s intent when they insert a search term into the search bar, and now AdWords is catching up with all the changes and trying to determine the user’s true intent as well, for a more effective searching experience. 

What used to be considered an exact match still is, but now there are more options for exact match variants to help users find your business, and that is a great thing…so embrace the change and enjoy the traffic!