Alive in Name Only: Google kills AdWords Exact Match

Should Exact Match still be called “Exact”? Advertisers are asking that question after Google announced changes designed to trigger more ad impressions and clicks from AdWords’ most frugal keyword match type.

Beloved of budget-strapped advertisers and ROAS-conscious search marketers alike, friends say that Exact Match had not been feeling quite itself for several years.

Close friends were reportedly worried that the match type, never having had the mass appeal of Broad Match, might simply waste away from neglect. This fear was compounded when, in 2012, Google introduced close variants, a surgical procedure from which Exact Match never fully recovered.

Following the operation, the once-discriminatory match type started to trigger ads for search queries that were a close match (but not an exact match) to an advertiser’s keyword.

In later years, Exact Match has increasingly resembled its sibling Phrase Match, serving ads for plurals, abbreviations, adverbs and even typos. Even family members admit struggling to tell the two match types apart.

Exact Match’s chances of recovery worsened when, in 2014, Google removed the ability for advertisers to opt out of close variant matching.

What proved the telling blow, however, was Google’s insistence this week that the match type disregard word order. The company also required that Exact Match ignore, replace or add function words like “in”; “to”; “for”; “but” and “the”.

Why should you care?

Google’s positive spin on these changes? They say “you’ll no longer have to build and maintain lists of reworded and reordered exact match keywords to get the coverage you want.”

Yep, thanks. Concerned search marketers still trying to use Exact Match will instead need to spend more time combing Search Query reports for negatives.

In good news for shareholders, Google expects up to three percent more ‘Exact Match’ clicks following these changes.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.