Ups and Downs of PPC Close Variants

By October 7, 2014Pay Per Click

In recent months, noteworthy changes in PPC have been taking place surrounding close variants. Here is a recap of what changed and how you need to adjust your PPC campaign moving forward.

What Are Close Variants? Close variant matching is a match type setting that Google introduced in 2012 for phrase and exact match keywords. The setting opened up keywords to match out to misspellings, plural variations, etc. of a keyword in an effort to capture missed traffic. According to Google, at least 7% of search queries include a misspelling and while organic results accounted for the variations, this new feature was a step towards addressing the behavior in paid search results.

Benefits: Prior to, sophisticated advertisers spent immense amounts of time building out keyword lists to include every variation of a targeted keywords. While the previous strategy did allow for more control, especially with regards to bidding, it was time consuming. Close variants removed the need to build out extensive lists by covering all similar variants and for the less savvy advertisers, allowed them to match out to traffic they were previously missing. Bonus – If advertisers were unhappy with results from close variant matching, they could opt out.

What Changed? Two big changes have rolled out in recent months:

1. Google removed the ability to opt out of close variant matching in late September. All advertisers are now bound to close variants default matching, making true “exact” match type nonexistent.

2. Bing rolled out close variant testing (ability to opt out)

Since close variants rolled out as a default setting in Google, most advertisers have been opted in since 2012 and should not see a large impact from this recent change. For more sophisticated campaigns though, the keyword strategy will need to be adjusted moving forward:

Search query reports and negative keyword mining have become that much more important. Each keyword variation could have a different intention; it is important to monitor what you are matching out to and reduce irrelevant traffic or segment the traffic to match out to the most relevant ad and landing page.

While these changes are driven by continued efforts to further increase relevancy of search results and improve CTR, it is also one more step towards limiting the controls advertisers have over their PPC campaigns.

Read more about Bing’s close variant testing, Google’s close variant change, and one advertiser’s workaround for the tech-savvy individuals.

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