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Adwords Close Variants – Control with Less Complexity

Adwords Close Variants – Control with Less Complexity

Adwords Close Variants
  1. Steve McQueen and Dustin Diamond – Actors.
  2. Macallan 21 and Miller Lite – Alcohol.
  3. The Clash and The Black Eyed Peas – Bands.

Each of the above are variants of each other. However, if you tell me given these options you’d like to have a tallboy with Screech while singing “Fill up my cup, Mazel Tov”, you are dead to me.

Let’s face it, the devil is in the details…or something like that.

Today’s rant is inspired by the news that the close variant function for Google Search is now a directive instead of an option. It continues a recent trend within Google to implement features that take control away from search engine marketing professionals and, in essence, “auto-tunes” Google campaigns. After all, what could go wrong (he said, having already referenced The Black Eyed Peas) with that?

To those not familiar with the “close variants” option in Google Search, but it allows for phrase and exact match keywords to automatically show ads for close variations of your keywords to – as stated by Google – “maximize your potential to show your ads on relevant searches.” The definition of close variations specifically was “low search volume keywords” such as “misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor and flooring), abbreviations, and accents.”

Up until yesterday, this was an option and those who had no problem with this time-saving, auto-pilot functionality got the benefit of 7-10% more volume that by its very nature was less targeted than a campaign based on a set of absolute keywords and keyword phrases. Additionally, you not only get more volume by default, but the keywords required for each campaign just became a lot more manageable!

Google calls it “control with less complexity.” My Irish grandmother who drank a 750 of Jameson every Sunday while swearing at Steve Grogan & the Patriots would have called it “%$@* lazy” or “&%$*&%$ half-assed.”

Either way, search marketers who want total control find themselves in a similar situation as they did when enhanced campaigns or expanded broad match were launched. With less control, less visibility and a sneaking suspicion that Google may just be looking for a bump in revenue of 7-10%. Happy Holidays indeed.

So what’s search marketer to do if a bid strategy in place varies between singular/plural or misspellings / theoppositeofmisspellings?

What if you’re in an industry where the difference between “electricity” and “electric” is 600% ROAS versus -50% ROAS?

What if you are using manual URL tracking at the keyword level and rely on that specific data as part of your daily optimizations.

Negative Keywords Yield Positive Results

That’s right, negative keywords! Traditionally neglected by the same people who probably like control with less complexity, any search marketer not monitoring their negative keywords and search term reports is not doing their job.

Obvious variant match issues should be negated as quickly as possible with negative keywords. In fact, the same can be said for less obvious, lesser obvious, lessest obvious and so unbelievably not obvious that it seems as if their lack of conspicuousness is some type of illuminati plot.

In many cases, this will not only require the use of negative keywords, but breaking out close variants into separate ad groups in order to effectively manage and report on them as you did before. It’s more work for people who don’t want to take the easy path, but you’ll earn your client’s gratitude and Grandma Bowers’ respect (pour some out).

In the end, if all it takes is a little diligence to hang out with Steve McQueen instead of Screech, that’s a step you need to take.

Jon Bowers
Jon has seen it all. He is a digital team lead at Forthea and has been part of the online marketing community since its emergence in the 1990s, but don’t worry, he’s vowed to never use phrases like think outside the box, ninja, rock star, or visionary entrepreneur.


  1. Shashi 2 years ago

    You’re right, Jon. Negative keywords is the only way to get back the control on Exact Match.

    But, adding dozens or hundreds of negative keywords can be tedious and time consuming. We have launched a solution to easily control the behavior of Exact Match to make it more like “True” Exact Match. This solution identifies all the close variants for which your ads are appearing, and provides you an easy way to selectively block unwanted variants.

    This solution also proactively suggests variants to be blocked so that you don’t waste a single click on undesirable variants.

    Co-founder, Karooya

  2. mohit nagar 2 years ago

    Thanks for elaborating about neg. keywords by an example . I agree that exact match and short term keywords are only use as negative keywords as compare to long term keywords.

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