February 28, 2015

Written by Mark Smith

Matchmaker, Matchmaker – How Close Variant Matching Ends in Paid Search Bliss

Pair_Aces_KWFAs February passes (along with another Valentine’s Day) and Spring approaches (when thoughts “turn to fancy” as the old saying goes), take a moment to consider the big business of matchmaking. Not the trifling $2-billion industry of online dating. No, let’s talk about a really big matchmaking industry, one that’s at least 15 times larger – paid search.

And in the business of paid search, the predominant matchmaker is Google, of course. The most popular search engine in the world by nearly 3 times its nearest rival, Google arguably is the most successful matchmaker of all times – That is, when it comes to bringing keywords and searches together.

But as many of us know, there’s more to a successful relationship than connecting similar parties. So, when it comes to matching buyers and sellers, Google’s algorithms take into account nuances of semantics to connect search queries and keywords at an AdWords Auction.

Here’s a primer covering the options Google offers marketers pursuing paid search campaigns:

  • The shotgun approach, Broad Match includes misspellings, abbreviations, stems, and related terms. It covers the gamut of potential customer searches.
  • If you select Phrase Match, only searches containing your specific phrase will show. No one will see your “gluten-free recipes” ad when searching “free recipes”.
  • If you’ve honed your keywords to perfection, Exact Match is your best bet. Use it when no other words will do.
  • Google lets you “subtract” keywords, too. Among other things, Negative Match can save you from advertising wedding rings to those seeking show times for “The Wedding Ringer”.

Introduced in 2012 and applying only to the Phrase Match and Exact Match categories, Google’s Close Variant Matching actually simplifies your paid search campaigns. Using fewer keywords, Close Variant Matching can rope in more search terms. By including errant, misspelled results into your campaign, impressions can increase 7% or more.

A good analogy for Close Variant Matching is autocorrect. By guessing sender intent, your cell phone makes hasty messages appear legible (and bad spellers, intelligent). In the same way, Google Close Variant Matching improves paid search results by guessing searcher intent.

The downside, you ask? Some might argue the algorithm also shares autocorrect’s downfall: lack of user control. While digital marketers could previously opt out of Close Variant Matching, Google made it mandatory last fall.

For a better play-by-play analysis, read our recently published article in Social Media Monthly. While you’re at it, watch for our next post tackling pros and cons of Google’s decision – Is Google really the matchmaker it claims to be?