New Exact & Phrase Matching Behavior: Early Findings

In a world where lots of search marketers are still reluctant to use broad match type due to its lack of relevance and control, Google has released two features to have more advertisers show their ads on all those very long tail queries:

The broad modifier feature was rolled out in July 2010 in the U.S and was mostly aimed at scaling up those accounts not already using regular broad match type. Search marketers have to then build new broad keywords using “+” signs to effectively unlock the broad modifier feature.

Because it requires some time and effort, not all advertisers have actually implemented this feature – particularly those advertisers already using broad match type. Some of our clients reluctant to use standard broad match type did test broad modifier, and it turned out that it performed surprisingly well – with an incremental revenue volume up to 15% while maintaining efficiency on target.

The new matching behavior for exact and phrase match types announced on April 17th  (and just rolled out last week) is going one step further since it potentially impacts all advertisers by automatically updating the default matching behavior from standard exact and phrase matching to a more lenient matching behavior including plurals, misspellings, and other close variants.

In that sense, it can be seen as a logical sequel to the broad modifier feature. Advertisers have the option to opt out – however, most of them will allow the update to occur.

There has been a lot of speculation and skepticism about the latter one, as it seems it is just another way for Google to generate more ad revenue. Hence the question: what are the first takeaways a couple of days after the new matching behavior roll-out?

Where Can I See The Impact In AdWords?

While I couldn’t find any details in AdWords about those incremental queries corresponding to “plurals, misspellings and other close variants” in AdWords, you can now see that the “Other search terms” section shows impressions and clicks even for exact keywords:

In this particular case (a strong trademark keyword in exact match), we have measured an impressive 18% lift in impressions at a stable CTR. Conversions did follow with a slightly higher conversion rate and a slightly lower cost per order – not significantly though.

Overall Impact On Traffic & Conversion Volume

In this section, I will attempt to answer two questions: what is the average impact on traffic? And what is the average impact on conversion volume?

According to Google: “on average, the new matching behavior increased AdWords search clicks by 3%, with comparable CPCs”. Looking at 15 top brands managed through eSearchVision’s proprietary search query report, early findings show that clicks from queries not containing the actual keywords actually increased by 3.5/4.5% on average with comparable CPCs.

More specifically, the below graph shows that the percentage of clicks generated through exact and phrase without close variants has slightly decreased, while the percentage of “All Other Queries”, i.e. when the keyword is not included in the query, has increased from 23% on average the week before the roll-out up to roughly 26-29% the week after.

In the meantime, conversions have increased by 2.0/3.0% on average. However we can expect this number to go slightly up over time due to the post-click effect – since users who clicked over the last couple of days are likely to convert in the next couple of days or even weeks.

Main Takeaway

The new exact and phrase matching behavior seems relatively promising so far. As expected (and even a bit more than expected) we’re seeing more impressions and clicks at a stable CPC, as well as incremental conversions, even though conversions are not following as fast as the clicks for the time being.

As a result, search marketers no longer need to create additional keywords using the broad modifier feature. The new matching behavior seems to be doing pretty much the same job with no effort. Just keep an eye on search query performance and maybe add more negative exact and phrase keywords if you identify any poor performing or irrelevant queries since this roll-out.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Google: AdWords | Search & Conversion | Search Ads: General

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About The Author: is a Business Analyst in the Digital Marketing team at Adobe, providing advertisers and account management teams with data-driven and actionable insights on strategies to optimize their online marketing mix. One of his specialties is to develop tools and simulators for analysts to use, and executives to use for making business decisions.

Connect with the author via: Email | Google+



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  • Terry Whalen

    Benjamin, those are some beautiful charts – great use of data. I’d like to clarify that each account is different. For many folks, it may still be a great combination to include opt-out exact-match keywords and also BMM keywords. It all depends on the individual advertiser. Thoughts?

  • Benjamin Vigneron

    Thanks for the feedback, Terry.

    Right, each account is different, and AdWords’ new matching behavior definitely has a bigger impact on those accounts not – or marginally – using broad match type/broad modifier.

    Also, it all depends on your keyword list and whether or not most plurals, misspellings, and close variants were already covered in exact and phrase match types.

    As for the use of opt-out exact-match keywords, it does make sense to me as long as it is worth the effort – i.e. I can see that being useful for top cost and/or revenue keywords in order to manage separate bids for the singular and plural forms of the same term. However, an efficient negative keyword strategy might be a better way to scale up your account and fully leverage this new feature, given that we’re not talking about weird/irrelevant queries here but just close variants.

  • http://twitter.com/jennyhalasz Jenny Halasz

    Thanks for taking the time to analyze this for everyone. I think it’s important to  point out though that this is only one account. The impact of expanded broad match (what I’m calling it) could have a significantly different impact depending on the industry. It’s akin to saying that only 8% of keywords will be (not provided); depending on the industry, it could be as high as 70-80%.

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