When Your Exact Match Isn’t Your Exact Match…

Google announced important changes coming to Exact Match last month and implemented these changes last week. Google is including (and excluding) function words, such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘and’ in an effort to reduce the workload for advertisers, and swapping terms in an attempt to make it easier for shoppers to find what they’re looking for online. But is this really a positive change? 

The move can go both ways. One the one hand, it can make it more expensive for advertisers because of the sudden increase in generic search terms triggering for brand keywords, which are more competitive, resulting in higher CPCs. NMPi Account Manager, Sophie Worton, noted, “Looking at brand exact in the UK after the first few days of this roll out, the close variants have 15p CPCs, and Exact Match has 7p so it’s a big increase.”

In terms of word swapping, it can also negatively impact conversion rates since user intent is not the same: i.e., ‘The Perfume Shop’ (brand) and ‘perfume shop’ (any perfume shop, or ‘shopping for perfume’) – the intent here is unclear as to whether the user is searching for the brand, or for a generic perfume search. If advertisers set up an exact match keyword in the headline of the ad, word swapping can decrease the relevance.

As for the idea that this will alleviate advertiser work loads, it’s been the opposite. Google has tried to sell this as full coverage, so that advertisers no longer have to create a lot of keywords, but this latest tweak has actually increased workloads. Before the change, advertisers were able to allow exact match terms to run, now, they must perform negative SQRs across all exact matches focusing on brand terms to ensure accuracy. 

It will be interesting to view the results three months down the road.  It’s still ‘early days’, so whether the change is a blow to advertisers, and a boon to shoppers remains to be seen.