Insights & Analytics

Google’s Exact Match Changes Will Impact Marketers Everywhere


Exact match will not be as “exact” as it once was. Google first made changes to this match type in 2012 when it introduced close variants as a way to capture plurals and misspellings, which helped advertisers broaden coverage while saving time building out keyword lists.

This latest update means exact match can include close variants of the keywords and can also include the same words, but in an entirely different order. For example, someone searching “parks in Philadelphia” may now exact match to the keyword “Philadelphia parks” as the intent is the same. To clarify, not all syntactic variations of the same set of words will match; for instance, someone searching for flights “EWR to MIA” will not match to the keyword “MIA to EWR” as the intent is completely different.

This change will be made to AdWords accounts on a rolling basis throughout 2017.

Google Exact Match Changes

What This Means for Advertisers

Many industry experts have taken up arms at what they see as Google taking away more control from advertisers in favor of its machine learning capabilities. Others see it as a positive, especially advertisers with limited time or resources, as this will save them time building out keyword lists. According to Google, early indications show that advertisers can expect to see a 3% increase in exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable click-through and conversion rates.

How this change will affect each individual advertiser account may vary, and we recommend the following:

  • Keeping a close eye on exact match traffic and monitoring for any upticks.
  • Monitor overall performance of front end and back end data for any positive or adverse effects of the change.
  • Regular vetting of search query reports, which can also help ensure that all queries being matched to the account are relevant.
  • Preemptively adding negative keywords, if possible, to your account if there are certain queries that may now match to what you wouldn’t want to show up (e.g., Rittenhouse Apartments, which has the name but is not located in Rittenhouse, will not show up for users searching for “apartments in Rittenhouse”).

In the future we hope that Google will offer advertisers the ability to opt out of this change, but until then, pay close attention to those exact match keywords, as they may start eating up your budget faster than anticipated.


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Alexandra Gilson
Alexandra (Alex) Gilson originally hails from NYC where she gained extensive paid search and paid social expertise working with Fortune500 brands. She is also passionate about education and has been a guest lecturer for the NYU SCPS Integrated Marketing program. Alex currently spends her “downtime” looking after her toddler and infant. New to the Philadelphia area, she is always open to suggestions for family activities.

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