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Same meaning close match variants: Google extends to phrase match and broad match modifiers

Google’s recent announcement has again highlighted the shift in control we as advertisers now have over the management of PPC accounts. Here’s the context and timeline of where we’re now at.

Timeline of events

  • Update 1: 2014 – Close variants implemented. This included “plurals, misspellings and other variations of exact match and phrase match keywords”.
  • Update 2: 2017 – Inclusion of function words and word order for exact match terms.
  • Update 3: 2018 – Same meaning keywords added to exact match queries.
  • Update 4: 2019 – Both phrase and broad match modifier keywords to match against same meaning queries.

The new update will again mean a further loss of control in terms of what keywords will trigger ad copy, especially across phrase and broad match modify terms.

Here’s an example of how the new update will look as provided by Google. Using the keyword +lawn +mowing +service, ad copy would trigger against ‘local lawn cutting services’ and ‘grass cutting services near me’. This is a clear loss of control in terms of what keywords we want to trigger an ad copy.

Why the update?
Google has stated that 15% of daily searches are new, and therefore to mitigate against the risk of advertisers missing out on volume, Google has shifted its reliance to machine learning as a way to fill any potential keyword gaps. This again, is a clear and fundamental movement towards automation, taking the shift away from the mechanics of tightly knit crafted account. We only have to look at recent introductions such as responsive search ads, smart display, UAC, refinements to Dynamic Search Ads, and as stated above, the evolution of close variants and same meaning keywords to highlight this. We’re approaching the point now where keyword targeting will become of secondary importance in paid search. 

How do we react?
Firstly, we need to expect an increase in volume from our broad match modify and phrase match (if used) keywords. Therefore, over the coming weeks there needs to be further integration into search query reports to ensure Google isn’t triggering any irrelevant ad copy. To an extent, yes, we have to accept these changes and move with the forcible tide that Google is creating. The update has come at the expense of control, but there needs to be a focus on channel strategy and the inclusion of audiences (where that be Google in-markets audiences for example or remarketing). However, this doesn’t mean at this stage we rely on the ‘machine’ driving relevant traffic to the site. There still needs to be a degree of adhering to the 101 fundamentals of PPC.

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