Google recently announced a change to the way Exact Match keywords work.

In a nutshell, Google are taking further control of how Exact Match keywords match to search queries.

Traditionally. this is how an Exact Match keyword works:


Keyword = [running shoes]

Possible search queries that can match to the keyword:

  • Running shoes
  • Running shoe
  • Runing shoes
  • Runing shoe
  • Runningshoe

Here we’ve got both the singular and plural of shoe, as well as typos and a missing space.

Following Google’s changes, which can be read about here, the same keyword would now match to (as well as the above):

  • Shoes for running
  • Shoes running

Google’s reasoning for this sounds fair enough:

“To make it even easier for you to reach more of your customers, over the coming months we’re expanding close variant matching to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords.”

Great, right? Google’s making it easier for us to manage accounts by reducing the level of complexity required to build them out in the first place.

Well maybe not. We’ve thought long and hard about the implications of this change for our clients and their accounts.

Let’s go back to the example of running shoes. Suppose our client sells running shoes. We have an ad group with the keyword [running shoes] on exact match.

In our ad group we have some ads that read “running shoes” in the headline and ad copy. All is good in the world; we have our exact match keyword which is present in our ad, and our landing page says “running shoes” in the main header.

We also have an ad group with the exact match keyword of [shoes for running]. Like the previous ad group, we’ve been sure to make our ad match our keyword. We can even have a dynamic landing page, that alters the header on the website to match the keyword.

A search for “running shoes” will go in to the Running Shoes ad group, and a search for “shoes for running” would go in to the Shoes For Running ad group, at least before this change rolls out.

In reality, even after this change, these two search queries should automatically filter in to the correct ad groups, as the equality score will be higher, and Google favours keywords with higher quality scores.

However, there’s a chance (after the change) that the keywords will go in to the wrong ad group, especially if we have a higher bid for one of them.

To remedy this, we can simply put in some cross-negative Keywords.

But hold on, what about new accounts? This change seems to be focussed toward making it easier to build accounts, because they needn’t be so complex.

So, if our example account hadn’t be built yet, following this change and based on Google’s recommendation we would only need one keyword instead of two.

If we kept [running shoes] as our keyword, it would attract search from both the queries “running shoes” and “shoes for running”.

We’ve saved some time here by not having to build a second ad group, and we’ll save time in the future due to the account being easier to manage.

However, our ad reads “Running Shoes”, and our landing page too says “Running Shoes”. If someone searches for this then it’s as it was before.

If someone now searches for “Shoes for running”, it will match to the keyword as well. However now our ad and landing page don’t match the search query. Our keyword will therefore get a lower quality score, when compared with our original example’s separate ad group for [shoes for running].

For full control, we’ll still have to build the structure described in the first example. However, now we’ll have to add cross-negative keywords in both ad groups, covering typos and plurals / singulars as well.

In their announcement, Google even admit that they still prefer to match search queries to identical keywords:

“If you already use reworded or reordered keyword variations, AdWords will still prefer to use those keywords identical to search queries.”

In summary, this change can make it easier to build and manage accounts, however, if you’re striving for the most efficient and highest-performing account, regardless of added complexity, this change may actually increase your workload.