Sandeep Amar Google AdWords will no longer have the facility of disabling close variants for keywords from September 2014. Close variants are keywords which are close to exact match – and are there to tackle mis-spellings and keywords close to the exact search terms.

This facility was introduced as an option in 2012 and it worked very well as long as the advertisers had an option to choose only exact match. Even today, this option in visible in Google AdWords console which will be taken away in September:


Just to understand close variants, exact match and phrase match – let’s take the example which is used in Google AdWords help itself

Adwords close match table

The above table explains the close variations – other than exact match – where similar keywords to exact match are targeted. It is a great option and facility – but not having exact match as the only option to choose is not the best idea. Also notice the negative match, which allows advertisers to remove some keywords from searches.

The option obviously means more competition for close variant keywords, and more money for Google as advertisers will be forced to advertise on close variants. Here are the issues anticipated, once this comes into action:

For advertisers using exact match, it may bring in clicks from irrelevant keywords and make campaigns more expensive and bring down the ROI. It also may broad base your campaign and bring in more clicks and more conversions but it needs to be seen if this will have any impact on quality of conversions.

The highest impact can come to the long tail SEM where advertisers are looking for very specific keywords and have limited budgets. This is expected to impact B2B advertisers – the kinds those advertise on Indiamart, trademart, Alibaba and others. This was the best option for these advertisers since they invest on a limited budget, with exact matches and cannot afford best SEM resources. With this option no longer being there, they might wake up to see double of budget spent than earlier and they will have no option but to continue like this.

– As this comes into play – keyword wise ROI analysis will become more complicated. Advertisers have to see analysis on many more keywords to judge the ROI of them. And then to make sure the ROI is maintained, they may have to add lot of negative keywords. The keywords with lower ROI have to be removed using negative keywords. This can take a lot of time for SEM managers.

For users who view the advertisements – there will be more advertisements and from advertisers who may not want them to see their ads. Users ideally should see the ads, which advertisers want them to see – that was the whole Adwords proposition. So now, user will see an ad from an advertiser, which is not intended for him – and it may waste time and money for both user and advertiser. It basically means that advertisers cannot stop their ads being shown to searches which are not relevant to them.

– For big advertisers who are happy with close variants today, there may not be many issues since they want to capture the entire market. They may already be managing the show with some negative keywords to manage the ROI. All in all, it is something which clearly could have been avoided. Google is doing this, to make more money and that may be all right as long as they are the monopoly in search engine advertising.

Sandeep Amar is Chief Operating Officer, IWPL. A senior digital leader in the Indian digital space, he’s a veteran of the industry with nearly two decades of experience. In addition to holding leadership positions in top internet firms, Sandeep has been an entrepreneur, speaker and a leading blogger in Indian digital ecosystem.