AdWords is now Google Ads. Our new name reflects the full range of advertising options we offer across Search, Display, YouTube, and more. Learn more

2.4K members online now
2.4K members online now
AdWords, ad groups, and campaigns. The heart of AdWords campaign management.
Guide Me

Exact Match Close Variants Update

[ Edited ]
Top Contributor
# 1
Top Contributor

This month the official AdWords blog gave us a heads up that close variants will be expanding “to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords”. We can now expect this update to roll out in the coming months, which is why I want to share some additional insights with you leading up to the expansion.


Why the update?


While exact match keywords are an excellent way to keep a campaign highly targeted, important and relevant traffic can currently be missed if a significant amount of keyword variations are not included in your strategy. Trying to include all of these variations can be rather time consuming both during the construction and management stages of a campaign. This update will allow advertisers to reach additional relevant users without having to invest large amounts of time and effort into building extensive keyword lists.


What does the update involve exactly?


Exact match close variants will receive two new features to help improve the logic and language used when qualifying an ad with a search term. The first of which is to allow for function words to be ignored or reworded. As the blog article originally brought out: “function words are prepositions (in, to), conjunctions (for, but), articles (a, the) and other words that often don’t impact the intent behind a query”.


The second feature is to allow exact match keywords to still display an ad if the search term word order is slightly different. Additional words can’t be added during the reordering process though, meaning that the relevance behind your exact match keyword will remain the same. The system is also smart enough to recognise that travel brand keywords shouldn’t be reordered in the event that it changes the original meaning of the keyword; for example, someone searching for flights from one airport to another won’t allow your original keyword to be reordered as it defeats the purpose of the user’s search intent.


Taking a classic example that is commonly shared in the world of AdWords, that being shoes, here is a table to outline what could trigger an ad on an exact match keyword following on from the update:


Close Variants Update.png


You’ll also likely be happy to know that synonyms aren’t factored into the update, meaning that you will still have plenty of control over what sort of traffic you target. For a quick comparison, the following table shows the current matching behavior of exact match close variants against what it’s going to be like once the update occurs:

Close Variants Changes.png


What happens if I’m already using reworded or reordered keyword variations?


In short, there is no issue with this sort of keyword structure in your campaigns. AdWords still prefers to match keywords with queries that are identical. With this launch, exact match keywords will be eligible to serve on more search queries, but it's not guaranteed that keywords will match to every eligible variation. If you want to ensure that your ads will be served on a particular search term then you should keep this term as a keyword. You may also want to target similar keywords to bid higher or lower on different variations of keywords.


To learn more about how similar keywords match to search terms, I highly recommend reading this article from the official AdWords Help Center.


Are there any best practices to consider?


While no action is required to prepare for the update, there are still a few best practices that can be kept in mind after the update is implemented:


1.) Monitor performance - Due to the nature of the update, it’s natural to expect some fluctuations in the form of ad positioning and bidding for example. Tracking ongoing performance and comparing data from before the update can help you to maintain good results.


2.) Leverage negative keywords - The expansion of exact match close variants will likely increase the size of your search term report also. Keeping an eye on this will allow you to leverage any negative keywords that you don’t want your ads to be served on. Bear in mind that negative keywords are not changing, so all the usual rules apply in this regard.


3.) Ensure campaigns have adequate budget - Considering that this update will allow you to reach a broader set of search queries, there is the potential for campaign spends to also increase. It can therefore be worth increasing budgets, if possible, to maximize the potential of your marketing strategy.


Is there anything else I should know?


Quality Scores - You can expect to see a minimal impact on quality scores throughout the accounts you manage. Ad relevance is determined by how closely your ad matches the intent behind a user's search. The new close variants is all about matching these keyword variations based on that same intent.


Dynamic Keyword Insertion - This is not impacted. It's still the matched keyword that's shown in your ad, not the query. Research has shown that users are happier when they get search results that reflect their intent, even if it’s not a precise match for what they’ve typed.


And one final snippet of information to share with you that I personally found interesting...


In the United States over 20% of searches are now by voice.


As a result, it is becoming harder to identify all query variations that users may use to express intent. You can therefore see why this update is a very beneficial step in the right direction (among other reasons that we touched upon above).




I encourage you to leave any questions or concerns you may have below, I’ll do my best to address them!


ScottyD, AdWords Top Contributor
Was my response helpful? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer.’ Learn how here.
1 Expert replyverified_user