Google to launch mandatory close-variant matching

Posted: Friday 15th August 2014 in Paid Media, Thought Leadership.
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Google are planning to remove the opportunity to opt out of close variant keyword matching

This week Google announced that as of next month they will be removing the opportunity to opt out of close-variant matching in paid search. Close-variant matching enables you to extend the reach of exact and phrase match keywords to cover misspellings, abbreviations, etc.

Removing this opt in/out option further limits the amount of control retailers and agencies have over match types and understanding of user behaviour. Summit best practice is to accept close variants apart from where we have split out our campaigns by match type, in that case exact match campaigns should not accept close variants as we only want the exact term to trigger our creative/s. There are however, some pros and cons to this change:


  • Automatically matching for misspells and plurals etc. may encourage an increase in traffic and perhaps conversions (if the close match is as tightly themed as Google suggest)
  • It may also save time for those people who build out misspell ad groups manually as they could now just use appropriate search queries from those campaigns which are opted in to ‘close variants’



  • When we create strategic and exact match campaigns we require the user to match the keyword exactly for the ad to show. The change which Google is enforcing at the end of September limits our control meaning we no longer know, within our exact or strategic campaigns, that the user’s search term matches our keyword exactly. This change means that we cannot therefore be certain which exact keywords are driving our traffic and ultimately conversions, thus reducing our understanding of consumer behaviour
  • Search query analysis is going to become increasingly important in order to ensure that the search terms which are triggering keywords and creatives are relevant to the client’s product range


Although the majority of Summit’s clients have been opted in to accept plurals, misspells and other close variants since the launch in 2012, there are implications on those campaigns which are specifically strategic or only contain exact match keywords.

Accounts where we have exact match only campaigns will now trigger creatives for close variants of the keywords, meaning search query maintenance will become more important in order to try and retain some of the control which Google are removing.

At Summit we are encouraging our teams to continue to add misspelled keywords which have driven traffic or sales in order to maintain control and optimise effectively.


For more details on this change or to find out more about our products and services please contact Dave Trolle on (01482) 876876.