Google AdWords has changed and evolved a lot over the years, like the recent massive overhaul in its text ads, and now Google is going one step further and ditching exact match keywords. What!?! I hear you cry.

Just over a week ago Google announced that it is making changes to what its “close variations” actually are, it said the following:

“Over the coming months we’re expanding close variant matching to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords.”

Close variations previously included; misspellings, singular forms, plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents, so this basically means that exact match no longer means exact match.

We can take comfort in the fact that exact and phrase match will still give us more control than broad match. Thank goodness! Google says that ads will not be shown for synonyms and related searches, which aren’t considered close variations, like they would if you opted for broad match keywords, but we’re definitely still losing a lot of control.

What exactly does “additional rewording and reordering” actually mean?

It means that if your keyword match type is set to exact match your ads will no longer only appear for the users that type in that exact phrase (and misspellings, plurals etc). Google will now ignore the use of function words; prepositions (ie. in, to), conjunctions (ie. for, but) or articles (ie. a, the), within their query. For example, these phrases would now be matched for exact match:


Reordering means that if the terms within your exact match phrase appear in a user’s search query in a different order, then your ads can still show, so “buy new cars” and “new cars buy” would be the same in Google’s eyes.

Google claims that it is doing this to stop advertisers from having to create an exhaustive list of keywords to cover every variation of a search term, but isn’t that more or less what broad modifier match is for? If an advertiser didn’t want to create that exhaustive list, then they could opt to set their keywords to broad modifier match:

“Ads may show on searches that contain the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order. For example:

Symbol: +keyword
Example keyword: +women’s +hats
Example search: hats for women”

This latest change from Google is essentially taking that choice away from the advertiser and giving Google a lot more scope to show their ads for pretty much whatever searches it likes. OK, that might be a bit strong, but it is definitely taking the control away from the advertiser and opening up the opportunity for ads to be shown for potentially, irrelevant searches.

What do you think of this latest play by Google? Can exact match really be called exact anymore or should they rename it to something like; imprecise match, loose match, or approximate match? Have your say below…