Google Expands Same Meaning Close Variants – So, What Does That Mean?

Just when you thought Google couldn’t make things more confusing - they done did it again. 

Google has just announced the launch of “same meaning” close variants to broad match modifier and phrase match keywords, in addition to the exact match close variants that rolled out late last year. 

According to Google, “On average, we expect advertisers using broad match modifier and phrase match keywords to see 3-4% more clicks and conversions on these keywords. And of those new clicks, 85% are expected to be net new on average—meaning they’re not covered by your existing keywords.”

Naturally, our team has a lot of thoughts. Check out our interpretation of this update, how we think it will impact campaigns, some “in the wild examples,” and how you can maintain control within your accounts.  

What This Means

Google’s intention is to drive “more, relevant traffic.” They describe the update for broad match modifier and phrase match keywords as “now including queries that contain words that share the same meaning as the keyword.” TL;DR: forget misspellings, singular and plural, abbreviations, and word order in your keyword builds.

“In theory, we will likely see more advertisers in the auction and it may also favor matching to more expensive match types. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, but definitely a shift that will require strategy changes.” Brittany Mara, Sr. PPC Account Manager 

On the other side of things, we view this as another step closer to “smart keywords”  and complete campaign automation within Google Ads.

“I think we are nearing the death of the keyword; Google is obviously leaning in hard on 'smart' campaigns and this is another example of that. They must be pretty confident in the progress they've made in their ability to match intent/meaning through machine learning” Audrey Bloemer, Associate Director of PPC

How Will This Impact Campaigns?

Across the Paid Team at Seer, we expect the immediate impact to lead to an increase in volume within campaigns (clicks and impressions).  Does this mean an increase in conversions? Well, that depends on how relevant these close match variants are to the searchers intent. 

“We should expect to see an immediate increase in clicks and cost. My hope is that over time, in conjunction with other "smart" features like smart bidding and responsive text ads, we will see improved performance.” - Tim Moorhead, Sr. PPC Associate

Aside from increased volume, we expect there to be an increase in the need for adgroup, campaign, and account wide negatives.

“More frequent Search Query Analyses (Seer’s way to discover irrelevant keywords)  will become increasingly necessary as match type begins to fade and everything becomes some variation of broad match. It will be important to begin accepting the fact that Google is pushing automation, and lean into feeding it's algorithms as much data as we can so that we can optimize towards what actually drive success.” - Chris Konowal, Sr. PPC Associate

This also means keeping up with keyword intent, news headlines, and potential PR stunts.

“We have to be more cognizant of our keywords, and make sure that we're always proactively getting ahead of things. We also will need to have a pulse on any PR stunts that are unplanned and/or planned. This will help us prevent irrelevant spend.” - Vinncent Nguyen, PPC Account Manager

Examples We’ve Seen So Far

For one client, our team identified 666 clicks and 2,027 impressions on phrase match close variant queries just this week. Currently, we’re working to see what this looks like at scale across all of our paid accounts. 


I don’t think someone searching for GA 360, the powerful web analytics platform, cares about 360 Georgia, a peach flavored vodka...

However, someone searching LLM is being matched correctly to a Master of Law degree program.

Same with the example below. Another user searching a common acronym is being served an ad that matches their intent.

How To Maintain Control

Review Search Query Reports

  • The most obvious way to take and maintain control of your keywords is by consistently reviewing Search Term Reports for irrelevant queries to negate. Get in the engine and review those queries, especially over the next few weeks. Because you don’t want this to happen to you.
  1. 💡 Pro Tip: “Look through Keyword Planner to get a sense of where keywords could go directionally.” - Molly Nash, PPC Account Manager

Smarter Keyword Research

  • Be strategic. Think about the user.  What is the intent and context of the keywords you’re seeing. Review similar meanings and types of service offerings.

Leverage Big Data Analytics

  • When it comes to data, more is more! Don't limit your analysis to only the data that's collected within Google Ads itself. At Seer, as part of our PPC Efficiency Audit, we combine multiple sources of data from SEO and PPC to identify wasted ad spend and implement negative keywords quickly and at-scale.

Overall, like most Google updates, we recommend keeping this in mind when looking at your PPC strategy with your clients. Maintain control by staying on top of search query reports, doing your due diligence with keyword research, and leveraging our Saving Benjamin tool to find wasted spend in your account.

Be sure to reach out with any questions - we’re here to help!

Update - November 15, 2019

We continuously collected data and monitored performance for all clients after the match type update on 7/31. This helped each of our account teams to better serve individual clients as we were able to identify trends at scale.

When looking at the first seven days after the update was made, we noticed that almost every single industry we serve saw an increase in the number of search terms an individual keyword was matching to. Some notable industries can be seen below:

  • Financial industry clients saw queries / keyword increase by 22.73%
    • The number of unique queries for financial clients increased from 3,661 to 3,987
  • Education industry clients saw queries / keyword increase by 5.89%
    • The number of unique queries for financial clients increased from 7,240 to 8,065

As mentioned above in our original post, an increase in volume and search term variety isn’t a bad thing; Google does claim that the new searches will be relevant traffic after all. That being said, the only industries from Seer’s client portfolio to see an increase in CPA the first seven days after the update were the financial industry as well as Seer’s grouping of miscellaneous industry clients.

Clients in the Financial industry seemed to be hit the hardest by this update, seeing the largest swing in queries / keyword, as well as seeing CPA increase 77.8% over the first seven days. However, Seer implemented many of the tactics mentioned in this post, and over the course of the next 90 days managed to take advantage of the new traffic and bring the net 90 day CPA change to +7.9% for Financial industry clients. That’s an 89.8% improvement in CPA over 90 days.

If you’re still feeling any of the negative effects of Google’s match type update, reach out and see if Seer is the right partner for you to turn performance around!


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