Close Variant Matching – 3 Important Points to Keep in Mind


The AdWords community was once again hit by a new change – Google announced last Thursday that in September, you could no longer disable close variant matching to all phrase and exact match keywords.

And there is no longer going to be an opt-out option as before.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and posts about this over the last few days. And have also heard from many people in the community as well as customers. Although many AdWords clients have gone with the standard default, there are quite a few who have not.

Personally, I have not always used it. There have been many occasions that I have opted out of using close variants with certain clients, or even within certain campaigns. Why? I wanted to have a real exact or phrase match campaign, so I could have the control and use the keywords I wanted. Or I had a client that had a small budget, and we wanted to control costs more effectively. And having a stronger control on the keywords allows for more quality clicks.

Below are the three changes about the close variant change that you should keep in mind, and what you need to know in order to prepare ahead of time.

The Match Type Trilogy No Longer Exists

We all know the trilogy of AdWords match types, and what they mean.


But now phrase and exact are no longer – exactly phrase and exact. In Larry Kim’s recent article, having a “true” exact or phrase match is no longer going to be possible. Close variants keyword matches will trigger keywords for not just singular and plurals, but for misspellings, acronyms, stemming, and abbreviations.

What You Need to Know: Start building out your negative keyword list – now. Review your keywords carefully and think about what terms you do not wish to show up for. Especially for stemming keywords – there can be many variations that can be matched against the root word. Once the variant change goes into effect, monitor your SQR report closely. Look at the terms for exact and phrase match variants, and determine if these terms should be included or added as negatives. Building a solid negative keyword list is key – and maintaining it is critical.

Your Volume Will Increase – and So Will Your Costs

With close variant matching, you will see an increase in your impressions and clicks, because your keywords will be matching against more keywords. Per Google, close variant matching gives customers an average of 7 percent more exact and phrase match clicks.

But with more clicks – come more costs.

And for smaller companies that have a small paid search budget, excluding close variants helps to keep costs more controllable.

What You Need to Know: If you have a small or fixed monthly PPC budget, you will want to carefully watch your SQR report. Monitor your account costs daily, and look for any new close variant matching keywords that could be attributing to this. Mine your SQR report for possible new keyword opportunities – this is important whether you are using close variant matching or not.

More Coverage – But You Will Need More Negatives

Close variant matching will allow you to show for additional variants, and possible missed opportunities. However, if you are running a very targeted campaign that you want to show up for specific keywords, this could be a challenge.

What You Need to Know: If you only want to show up for certain keywords, build out your negative keyword list to exclude those additional terms. Check your SQR report daily to ensure you are matching for the keywords that you want to be matching for.

While the close variant matching change may not impact everyone, it does impact our control level. And it does emphasize that change in AdWords is always a constant, and that we must be agile in adjusting our account strategy.

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