Google's recent announcement about changes to their exact match keywords has caused a lot of chatter among marketers. What does the search engine's update to their policy mean for you? Well, if you don't use AdWords, not much. If you DO advertise with AdWords, they've basically expanded the definition of "exact" to include variations that are pretty close to your chosen keyword; it's not out of character, as Google's been fine-tuning their semantic search methods for some time now.
What will this do to your site's traffic? Let's look at the ways that the change in policy will impact your site and your marketing plan for the future.
What is an Exact Match Keyword?
Before we get into the changes to come, let's start with a baseline definition of exact match keywords. As you might assume, an exact match keyword matches the precise words a user might search for, serving an ad only if the user has typed in a certain sequence of words.
Say, for example, you sell curtains. You set up an exact match keyword of [blue bedroom curtains]; the only way that your ad would surface is if someone searched for those precise words in that order. You're in control of when your ad appears, and you have a good handle on how often that particular keyword is searched.
However, with the advent of new changes, an exact match keyword will not only conjure up your ad when someone types in blue bedroom curtains, but also curtains blue bedroom. You no longer maintain control of how people are getting to your site.
The changes will be rolling out over the next few months, and while they'll initially affect English and Spanish keywords only, other languages will follow throughout the year.
What's the Big Deal?
You might be wondering, "WHO CARES? This isn't the first time Google's announced a big change!"
Well, smaller companies are probably rejoicing. Google's essentially offered them many more relevant searches without the headache of coming up with the keywords themselves. Essentially, their net just got a lot wider, and they're primed to benefit from random searchers stumbling upon them by accident. Small businesses are getting more bang for their buck. If that describes you, pop the champagne! Google's done you a solid!
The same goes for companies that don't have very specific semantic requirements. If you're okay with your shoe company getting traffic from women's running shoes as well as running shoes women's, the news probably elicited nothing more than a shrug from you.
Google itself has downplayed the change, saying "Function words are the only words that will be ignored. This should only happen when it won’t change the meaning of your keyword." However, brands that use very specific wording in their PPC campaigns are not happy.
Who's Unhappy with the Changes?
There are people who aren't thrilled with the new changes. These are typically advertisers who have incredibly specific brand requirements or location-specific keywords; removing important function words can be counter-productive as well as expensive.
Any advertiser touting a brand with a common word or a location in the name is probably not happy with the change up in the policy. Why? Let's look at an example.
Say that you're advertising a restaurant with a location in the name. We'll call it The Perkinsville Family Restaurant. You've used an exact keyword of the brand name [The Perkinsville Family Restaurant] with great success.
However, while a search for The Perkinsville Family Restaurant is targeted and qualified, someone searching Family Restaurant Perkinsville is going to be a non-branded search, with many other brands in the competition.
Paid Search Marketers
Paid search marketing just means that you're advertising within a search engine's sponsored listings; you pay every time your ad's clicked by a user, which is why this kind of marketing is also known as Pay-Per-Click, or PPC.
When you're paying every time your ad is clicked, you want to be sure that your ad's ONLY popping up for certain qualified leads. Before, your ad would only appear if the exact match keyword was used. Let's go back to our curtain company. Every time someone typed blue bedroom curtains, your ad would appear! They'd click, and hopefully they'd buy your awesome blue curtains.
With the new rules in place, your ad could populate when someone searches curtains for a blue bedroom. The user could click out of curiosity, but they're not what you'd classify as a qualified lead. They move on without making a purchase, and you've just paid for a click that didn't lead to anything. This could add up over time.
Niche industries often use long-tail keywords as well as nouns as adjectives to target their qualified traffic. We'll use our curtain company again, but now our curtain company specializes in blackout curtains. You want people who are searching black out curtains, but if you're paying for traffic for black curtains, you're going to break your budget.
Niche industries have specific requirements, and they're not interested in paying for a lot of unqualified traffic that's the result of imprecise keywords.
What do you think about the changes in exact match keywords? How will it impact your current marketing plan? We'd love to talk with you about your marketing strategy. Click the link below for a free consultation.