Google continues broadening keyword targeting

Google Continues Broadening Keyword Targeting

August 08, 2019

Lauren Beerling

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Google applies same-meaning close variants to broad match modifiers, phrase match


Google announced that in coming weeks it will further loosen precision around keyword targeting with changes to same-meaning close variants for broad match modifiers and phrase match keywords. What this means? Broad match modifier and phrase match keywords will begin matching to words within the search query that share the same meaning as the keyword.

This comes as no surprise to marketers, as Google has made multiple shifts toward making keyword targeting broader in the past several years. Most notably, Google changed exact match keyword targeting last year, so exact match keywords are now matched to all close variants based on implied words and phrases. Meaning exact match targeting no longer adheres to its name.

Quick Refresh on Keyword Match Types + Close Variants

Keyword match types help control which searches on Google can trigger an ad. There are four different keyword match types – a full overview directly from Google is listed below.

Close variants allow keywords to match to searches that are similar, but not identical to the targeted keyword. Close variants can help searchers connect with a brand despite slight variations in the way they search, therefore reducing the need to build out exhaustive keyword lists to reach these customers.

Close variants in all match types may include misspellings, singular or plural forms, stemmings (for example, floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents. For exact match keywords, close variants may also include: reordered words with the same meaning; or adding or removing function words (like prepositions, conjunctions, and other words) that don’t impact the intent of a search.

Quick Refresh on Keyword Match Types + Close Variants

What’s Changing With Broad Match Modifiers

Historically, broad match modifier close variants have only included misspellings, singular or plural, stemmings (i.e. floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents. Moving forward, close variants will also include words with the same meaning as the keyword. See our example below:

What's changing with broad match modifers

What’s Changing With Phrase Match

Phrase match keywords allow search ads to show when the query includes a keyword or close variants of the exact phrase of a keyword, with additional words before or after. Similar to the update to broad match modifier keywords, this now includes queries that contain words that share the same meaning as the keyword. See our example below:

What's changing with phrase match

What Marketers Need To Know Moving Forward

Essentially, all keywords are now broad match keywords. Google will trigger an ad for any searches that are semantically related to targeted keywords regardless of whether a targeted keyword appears in the query or not.

The bottom line: paid search has always been about reaching the right people with the most relevant content to meet their need. With the recent updates, the art of reaching those people is changing, much like with search engine optimization (SEO). For several years now, SEO strategists have been optimizing for Google’s semantic indexing, which has shifted many optimizations from keyword-based optimizations to truly strategic topic-based optimizations. This new SEO approach has made dramatic improvements to how websites are optimized, so it is exciting to see paid search finally headed down the same path.

If you’ve been following this trend (we have), feel prepared. There are a number of different targeting strategies marketers can start testing that have shown to improve performance amidst all the changes – such as testing audiences, bidding strategies, and implementing dynamic search campaigns.

Make Way For The Dynamic Search Campaign

Dynamic Search Campaigns (DSAs) are a great example of how this new age of keyword-less campaigns can operate. Since their launch, DSAs have not only matched relevant searches to the appropriate landing pages, but also have proven they can utilize historical data to understand which users may convert, even if a search is broad or unique to where the majority of conversions come from.

At Nina Hale, we’ve seen DSA campaigns outperform legacy campaigns almost immediately upon launch, if the website is well optimized. Queries that we would never think of – or frankly would find irrelevant – have provided efficient and incremental volume. For example, Google has been able to match a query like “Windows that open outward” to a landing page about casement windows, which are in fact windows that open outward. Layering on audiences to DSA campaigns makes these campaigns all the more powerful.

As more long-tail searches are captured, marketers can focus attention on who the user is in order to drive more conversions, rather than focusing on what the user searched. While long-tail searches don’t have high search volume, they are extremely high-converting. But covering the entirety of long-tail searches has been nearly impossible. By shifting away from solely focusing on targeting keywords to prioritizing a focus on converting audiences, marketers will increase their opportunities to show up for more of those long-tail search queries.

As marketers, having less control of keywords might seem counterintuitive to past best practices. However, if users are converting, does it matter if someone searched for lawn services or grass cutting? Focusing more on searchers’ intent and behavior instead of what was specifically searched will benefit brands in the long term.

Broader Targeting Means Increased Cost Per Click

With a lack of control over keyword targeting, one of the biggest implications will be increased costs. Google says advertisers can expect an increase in clicks and conversions because advertisers will now show up for queries they’ve never targeted. However, there are cost implications to the increase in traffic and conversions.

Because more advertisers will be in every auction, cost per click (CPC) will become more competitive than ever. In order to keep costs down, determine the right mix of audiences and bid strategies. Cost per acquisition (CPA) and return on ad spend (ROAS) goals are the best ways to control clicks. It is also important to define and review a co-optimization strategy. Because organic search has paved the way for intent-driven optimization, utilizing organic search insights will also help to decrease cost.

Even though keyword targeting is becoming broader, marketers can still optimize data for results – the usable data is just changing. There will be far more information about a user (versus the query searched), and if done correctly, it can serve as a powerful tool for optimization.

Sources: Phrase Match, Broad Match Modifiers Update , Exact Match Targeting Update , Dynamic Search Ad Campaigns

Image Source: Unsplash

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