If you advertise on AdWords, you probably use Exact Match keywords.
If you use Exact Match keywords, you probably know that Google recently changed how they define “Exact.” What you might not realize is that this change could have a [LEVEL OF FEAR MONGERING] on your account.
Whether used to bid on branded terms, top-performers, or product-names appended with high-intent modifiers, Exact Match keywords were the lynchpin of many an AdWords account; their, well, exactitude, provided ROI where broader match types might have raked in unqualified riff-raff.
But things done changed.
How Have Exact Match Keywords Changed?
In the good ol’ days (read: weeks ago) Exact Match keywords only matched out to two things:
Parallel search queries (the keyword [buy aubergine crocs] would match the search query “buy aubergine crocs”)
Close variants which, before mid-March, only included: misspellings, singular forms, plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents.
Since then, Exact Match has become less discerning.
Now, this may very well help some advertisers. The theory behind close variants was a good one. If you sell shiny baubles and bid on the Exact Match keyword "shiny bauble," you may still want your ads to show when someone searches for “shiny bobles” or "shiny baubles". Through close variants, Google eliminated an advertiser’s need to add oodles of keywords that, ostensibly, meant the same thing.
But while simultaneously lending busy advertisers a hand and “connecting more people with what they’re looking for” is a noble pursuit, that isn’t what “Exact” means.
Introducing: Exact-Enough Match Keywords
The new version of Exact Match keywords can match out to search queries that share the same words of that keyword, but in a different order.
The Exact Match keyword [men’s dress shirt] is now eligible to show ads for the exact search query men’s dress shirt and to the not-so-exact search query dress shirt men’s.
But wait, there’s more!
There are a handful of other cases in which Exact Match keywords can now be triggered by search queries that do not match the keyword exactly, all of which are contingent on the existence (or absence) of function words and “other words that often don’t impact the intent behind a query.”
What’s a function word?
Think back to fourth grade,