Last week, Google announced significant changes to its criteria for Exact and Phrase match keywords. Starting in mid-May, Google will expand the relevancy factor for queries in order to capture misspellings, plurals, and stemmings.
What does this mean for you?
Well, it means your Exact Match and Phrase keywords will go further by showing up in more queries. For example, with this new policy in effect, a query for “single serving coffee maker” will result in your ad for the keyword “single serve coffee maker”, even if it is in Exact Match.
Google’s data shows that 7% of all search queries contain a misspelling, and as queries are getting longer, this means the occurrences of misspellings are likely to be more frequent. With that being the case, it makes sense to pair results up with queries that have typos in them.
The upside to this is that now your keyword lists don’t have to be as exhaustive since a singular form of the keyword will help capture its different variations. So, using the example of “single serve coffee maker”, this phrase will now also capture queries for “single serve coffee makers”, “single serve coffe maker”, “single serving coffee makers”, etc. You’ll notice this isn’t like Broad Match, where a query for “sneakers” can result in an ad for “shoes”; this is much more tight-knit, ensuring the highest relevancy. This change will be a huge help since it saves the step of manually adding in all forms or potential misspellings of a word individually. With the expanded relevancy factor, Google automatically does this for you.
The downside, however, is that your Phrase and Exact Match keywords may be in those match types by design and you only want to show up for those queries, not ones that are close to them, no matter the similarity. Advertisers with a very robust keyword list carefully build those out to ensure that they are only bidding on those keywords. An example of where this can be detrimental is the term “ice skate”. In its original form it is a venue, but making it a plural will turn it into a product (i.e.; “ice skates”). The results page looks very different for the two terms:
Results for “ice skate”:
Results for “ice skates”:
In the first example, there’s a glaring absence of Paid Search ads while the second example is focused on them. This is just one of many instances where the problem of unwanted impressions can occur and may defeat the purpose of placing your keyword on Exact Match in the first place. Here’s another example, similar to what Google provided in their blog with the coffee maker:
Results for “coffee maker”:
Results for “coffee making”:
Again, notice the absence of ads when the term is referencing the act versus the product.
One way to mitigate the issue of unwanted impressions potentially caused by the expanded relevancy factor is to beef up your list of Negative Keywords. For example, Chase Bank would want to be sure to add “chasing” and “chases” to their Negative Keyword list to ensure they don’t appear for those terms. If you’re on the extreme end of the spectrum and don’t want any term other than a select few variations to show up, then you’ll need to add all the plurals, misspellings, stemmings, and abbreviations for those terms as negative keywords. This may be quite time-consuming, especially if you have a large keyword list. Although, with the help of Search Query reports over time, you should be able to determine which variations are bringing traffic, adding those to your list, and then turning the feature off.
Google’s new expanded keyword relevancy factor also has implications for Dynamic Keyword Insertions (DKI). For DKI, if your existing keywords are already maxing out the headline limit, then the plural version or any other variation will result in your back-up headline showing up more often. One thing to watch out for here is how this affects your CTR, especially if your back-up headline is more generic than the keyword insertion. One way to mitigate this would be to add the variations of the keywords you have as negatives to all ad groups that utilize DKI.
So, as an advertiser, should you turn this feature off for all your campaigns? The short answer is “no”- test it on a handful of campaigns to see what effect it has, if any. If you’re an advertiser who is strapped for time and resources, leave this feature on to see what incremental traffic it brings. However, if you have a fully exhaustive keyword list with just as many negative terms to match, then turning it off may be wise.
Unlike the display variations of sitelinks (2 lines vs. 1 line), fortunately this feature gives you the option to opt-out. This comes with a sigh of relief as advertisers have the option to test the waters on a small scale, rather than going all-in. How this new feature will fare depends on the advertiser/vertical, but one thing is for sure: Google is moving from keyword-based search to intent-based search.