The New Google AdWords Exact Match

"The new adwords exact match"

The New Google AdWords Exact Match

If you’re like me and have a business that you advertise online, there’s a good chance that you take advantage of Google AdWords.

One popular option for Google AdWords that many people choose to use is exact match keywords — which allows us to reach the people that are only searching exactly for the keyword you’re bidding on (or something very close to it). Using exact match keywords allows you to have the tightest control over your PPC advertising and budget: Our result isn’t going to show up (and get clicked on) unless someone is looking for what we’re selling.


Now, for a good while, “exact match” hasn’t exactly meant exact. Google expanded the definition of “exact” to include close variants of a keyword. That meant that things like plurals, abbreviations, alternate spellings, typos, etc. also resulted in a display of your ad. (For a while, Google allowed advertisers to opt out of including close variants in exact match. However, they removed the ability to opt out in 2014.)


However, Google recently made further changes to what exact matches actually mean — and now exact means something even further from exact than it did before. However, before you freak out (I did for a second) — check out more about the changes below. We haven’t lost total control over our PPC campaigns, and there’s some learning we can do to ensure you continue to target the right, specific audience.


Changes to Exact Match Keywords

Google recently expanded the definition of “exact match” to include more close variants. They explained that their goal was to “help connect you with the people who are looking for your business, despite variations in the way they search.” Here’s the run-down on the updates to close variants.

Different Word Order

Now, the word order of a search query does not have to match the word order of a keyword — specifically when that change in word order does not change the meaning of the phrase. For example, if a keyword is “brown leather loafers” and a query is “leather loafers brown,” they will match.

Function Word Changes

Function words are words that help elucidate the meaning or intention of a phrase or sentence (we probably all learned this in 2nd grade). Some popular function words include conjunctions (and, yet), prepositions (to, from) and articles (the, an). Google decided this year to assume that most function words don’t have an impact on the intent behind a search query. So, function words will now be ignored when it comes to exact match keywords — but only when the function words don’t change the meaning of a search query.


For example, “restaurants in the Hudson Valley” will match “restaurants in Hudson Valley.” However, a query won’t match a keyword when their meanings are different (e.g. “directions to Memphis” and “directions from Memphis.”)

"Exact Match Example"What to Do About the Changes to Exact Match Keywords

I’ve always liked taking advantage of exact match keywords to have complete control over my ad spend, and I was not so happy about the expansions of the word exact. However, we can take solace. First, the changes do not apply to phrase match keywords (a less restrictive match type). Also, there are some ways we can get through the changes together. Check them out below.


    • Determine If the Loss of Function Words Affects Current Exact Match Queries. You should go through every single one of your current exact match queries. If losing a word in there totally changes the meaning, add those particular variations as “negatives” so Google doesn’t show them when they’re not really relevant.


    • Determine If Reordering Affects Your Current Exact Match Queries. Look at exact match keywords. If they include multiple word phrases, write down the phrases — then every permutation of those with the words in different orders. If any reordered phrases don’t make sense or have a meaning that is not related to what you do, then add them as negatives.


    • Don’t Forget Your Current Close Variants. You can’t forget to look at all of the close variants in your search query reports — and then see if any of those will be affected by the new changes (regarding the order or the loss of function words). Don’t forget to also add those as negatives


    • Take Advantage of Phrase Match. As mentioned above, these changes won’t apply to Google’s phrase match keyword type, and it will retain the word order requirement. This means that advertisers can choose to use it for closer matches and if word order is important. However, since phrase match allows additional words to be added before and after the search phrase (e.g. “polka dot shoes” and “red and white polka dot shoes” will match), advertisers should take care to use negatives to rule out any added words that change the intent of the query.


Impact So Far

So far, Google reports that they have seen a 3 percent increase in exact match clicks since the change. While an uptick in traffic is good, the changes could have some drawbacks. While many advertising experts believe that the change won’t have too huge of an impact on PPC novices, it may be a little bit of a headache for advertisers who work at agencies or who have long, structured keyword lists. They will now need to do work with negative keywords and keep a close eye on their QueryStream. They may also consider the shift over the phrase match for tighter control.


Note: The beautiful image above is by Malika Favre
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Shawn Catherwood
Content Crafter at

Shawn has worked in the marketing field for many years. He stays current with the latest SEO keyword strategies, which change often and loves writing about it.


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