Google AdWords advertisers need to be aware of a change that reminds us how important is to understand Google's algorithm.
In March 2017, Google announced that Google AdWords’ exact match keywords would not be exact anymore. They would include close variants so as to ensure that the keyword algorithm would grab and properly interpret the user intent. This is a change that has flown under the radar but changes fundamentally how Google AdWords works.
This might seem like a somewhat specific change Google is making in a pay-per-click platform only some businesses use -- so, why should we, as consumers, care at all about it? Because we have become numb to the way we connect with the world, with the world wide web or in other words, with Google. And that, in itself, is newsworthy -- even more so than the aforementioned Google AdWords update that has made us realize it.
The Google AdWords update and why it matters
Up until today, advertisers could add into their AdWords ad groups any amount of keywords they deemed fit and relevant to it. For instance, if a shoe retail business based in Los Angeles, CA had a campaign targeting both Los Angeles and neighboring Beverly Hills, it likely had ad groups for sport shoes, home sandals and dressy shoes. Within each of them, the retail business could add relevant and specific keywords, following Google AdWords best practices. For the sport shoes, it might have had the following keywords: best sport shoe, most comfortable sport shoe, top rated sport shoe and so on and so forth. These keywords could come in any or all of the available keyword types -- namely, exact, phrase or broad. Up until now, exact meant exact, phrase meant the user search query could include some wording before and/or after the keyword and broad meant that if Google deemed the user search query related in intent, the advert associated with the adgroup in which the keyword was added would be triggered.
Here is the key - the user's intent and Google's ability to understand it.
As a consumer, is Google able to understand, suggest and display content based on the intent and not merely on the search query itself an opportunity or a threat? We think of it as an opportunity, and a great one at that. No percentage of users going to the second page of Google has ever been disclosed by the search engine. Some Academic literature, and even an AOL leak back in 2006, suggests it is less than one percent. Academic literature aside, when is the first time you have gone to the second page of Google to find what you could not find on the first? Exactly.
Google, founded in 1998, initially handled 10,000 search queries per day at that time. Now? Google won’t say, but back in August 2012, Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President at Google and responsible for the development of Google Search, disclosed that Google's search engine was handling 3.3 billion searches per day. This means Google has enough information to make useful and relevant suggestions and recommendations.
Google AdWords’ exact match keywords would not be exact anymore.
Consumers need not to worry or be concerned -- not that they are. Google AdWords’ algorithm continues to excel at user intent, and the adverts displayed continue to increase in click percentage. This increase was due, in part, to a more accurate algorithm but also to the removal of the ads that used to appear in the right side of the search results leading to AdWords extensions becoming key to advertiser’s campaign.
Advertisers, do not need to take any action regarding this AdWords change, however, unless they want to remain in full control. Should they want to control what search queries can trigger their ads, they will need to replace their exact match keywords for phrase match keywords. Fortunately, this is a very easy change that can be done via the AdWords web interface. Phrase keywords are different than Exact keywords and will still create a match when the search query text has additional text either before or after the advertiser's matched keyword, but they will not allow it in between.
1. Go to the adgroup that houses the exact keywords and pause them. It is key to pause and create a new keyword instead of changing the existing keyword type from Exact to Phrase. Replacing instead of pausing and adding a new one will remove all data from the old keyword which is something that no advertiser wants. Data is key to optimize the AdWords account performance, so we will need to pause the keyword and create a new one.
2. Create new keywords, in this case with the type Phrase.
It is worth noting that to create Phrase type keywords, we will need to add double quotes in the beginning and the end.
This solution might prove helpful for advertisers who want to remain in full control of what search queries can trigger their adverts. Although we have already went over why this is not needed given the great accuracy of Google's keyword suggestion engine, there might be cases where advertisers don’t want any preposition or article added into their keyword term and remain in full control. Phrase type keywords, in this case, are the only solution available as they are not part of this Google update.