Last Thursday, Google announced a change to how advertisers control exact and phrase match keywords. By the end of September, you will no longer be able to opt out of close variant keyword matching. Close variant keyword matching helps advertisers capture additional search query traffic by matching misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings and abbreviations to exact or phrase match keywords.

At first glance, this may seem like a major change but, in reality, close variant matching has been in place for a majority of AdWords advertisers since April, 2012 when Google introduced it and made it the default setting for all campaigns. Due to the fact that this setting has been in place for 2+ years and only disabled through a manual campaign-level opt out, we believe that most advertisers will not see much of an impact to their paid search programs when this setting option is removed.

If you are an advertiser that previously opted out of close variant matching in order to better control matching keywords to search queries, this change will remove a level of your keyword targeting precision and potentially increase your costs. If you did opt out, you should monitor your exact and phrase match performance for any spikes in cost or drops in ROI as the change rolls out in September.

To help minimize the impact and any potential overlap in search query mapping, we recommend using Kenshoo’s Cannibalization Report. This report identifies overlaps in search targeting across keywords and provides negative keyword suggestions to direct traffic from each search query to the most relevant keyword. Additionally, Kenshoo’s model-based bid policies will continue to detect, learn, and automatically react to any performance changes. When calculating bid recommendations, greater weight is placed on more recent data which allows the policies to adapt to performance changes quickly.

If you know there are large fluctuations in searcher intent, bids, and/or performance between similar keyword variations and you want to maintain greater targeting control, you may consider breaking out those keywords into separate ad groups and using negatives to limit which search terms query which keywords. For most advertisers, this is likely unnecessary as this type of matching was probably occurring for your campaigns already.

An argument can be made that this change will simplify campaign management by lessening the number of keywords that you need to build and manage to capture long tail keyword traffic. That said, there is a tradeoff: sacrificing control for the sake of simplicity. Through Kenshoo, advertisers can enjoy this simplicity but with greater confidence in your campaign structure, search query targeting, and bid management.