Google’s Recent Exact Match Close Variant Update: 3 Things Advertisers Should Do Now

Featured Image of Derrick on Close Variant Exact Match Update

Recently, Google introduced a change in how match types work that is going to take control away from diligent advertisers.  Exact match is now less exact as Google has begun including close variations of exact match terms that have the same meaning or intent.

In short, we suspect the result of this update will cause more pain than pleasure to sophisticated advertisers.  Read on, to learn what you need to do about it…

Why does this matter to advertisers?

  1. Advertisers will have more difficulty analyzing the performance of specific keywords.The search term report will be increasingly important in order to truly understand performance by the user’s exact query. It is not yet understood what impact negative keywords will have on this in the near-term, but it will add complexity for those really concerned about only showing up for 1 specific keyword.
  2. Expect inflation. 
    Advertisers will notice increased competition on exact match terms, which should cause inflation of CPC prices in the near-term.
    Advertisers are typically willing to spend more on exact match keywords, due to the consistent return they drive. Prior to the update, advertisers would have had to bid on each exact match variant of “Yosemite campground” “campsites in Yosemite” and “Yosemite national park ca camping” to show up on these terms. Advertisers who did thorough keyword research were rewarded by showing up on terms that the majority of their competitors hadn’t discovered. Now, that effort isn’t going to be rewarded.

What does this look like in practice?

Google offers the example of the exact match keyword [yosemite camping]. With this change, [yosemite camping] will now match to queries such as “yosemite campground” and “campsites in yosemite.”

Consider the following scenario…

  • 10 advertisers are interested in marketing campsites for Yosemite.
  • All are bidding on the exact match keyword [Yosemite camping], but only one of them is bidding on [campsites in Yosemite].
  • Because of this change, all 10 advertisers will now show up for that keyword – dramatically increasing competition, as a result.
  • More competition among advertisers for this spot means they will likely be prompted to increase their CPC’s to continue to show up for, not only the term [campsites in Yosemite], but also [Yosemite camping].

3 things advertisers should do now:

  1. Begin testing with phrase match to see if using this alternative match type mitigates the impact of Google’s same meaning variant update.
  2. Add observation audiences into your account if you haven’t already to increase the marketing levers available to you to get ahead of potential CPC inflation for your core terms.
  3. Monitor the impact on bidding algorithms as they are likely to be affected.


Director, Services at Augurian
Derrick Turner is a Partner and Director of Services at Augurian. Derrick has a passion for digital media and has seen how effective it can be when managed by the right hands. A digital marketing veteran, Derrick has executed successful campaigns across many industries. He has an interest in connecting strategies, teams, & platforms together to support business objectives.
Derrick Turner
Explore Our Latest Digital Marketing Tips