Google AdWords Near Match is a Sucker's Bet for Lazy PPC Management

By Tad Miller | Apr 18, 2012
More Articles by Tad

Google just announced its “New Matching Behavior for Phrase and Exact Match Keywords” for Google Adwords:

Starting in mid-May, phrase and exact match keywords will match close variants, including misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents and abbreviations. Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers.

People aren’t perfect spellers or typists. At least 7% of search queries contain a misspelling, and the longer the query, the higher the rate.

As an agency that handles Pay Per Click advertising for advertisers both large and small the news that searchers can’t spell very well is not a shock at all.  In fact, 7% seems like a low percentage of typos in the search queries we see.  That being said, we will NOT be using the new feature, dubbed in some circles as “Near Match” for our clients.

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The explanation is simple, and I’m frankly amazed that I’m seeing people rejoice about this new feature.  It’s not in an advertisers interest to let Google do all of the heavy lifting and match plurals, singulars, stemmings, abreviations, etc.  Advertisers that do this are doing it out of laziness and will be paying a premium price for the privilege of just setting and forgetting their PPC.

As an AdWords advertiser at a minimum you need to have every variation of your keywords as an Exact Match keyword.  The reality is that Click Through Rate, Cost Per Click, Quality Score and most importantly Conversion Rate and Cost Per Conversion can vary wildly between “Blue Widget”, “Blue Widgets” and “Blu Widget”.  You need to be as granular and as exact as possible with your Pay Per Click keywords in order to optimize performance and Near Match does not do that.

Even the Beta Testers of Near Match have identified the same problems:

In early testing of the new Near Match type for select Group M clients, an increase in impressions was found – but costs per click also increased 13%. This is likely because advertisers were suddenly having bids, established by knowledge-based decisions against a specific keyword, assigned to variations of those terms that had an unknown value.

Google recently reported its Q1 Costs Per Click are down 12% Year over Year and reported that its Q4 Costs Per Click were down 4% Year over Year.  Making Near Match the default setting for AdWords users is likely to have an impact in Billions of Dollars over the long haul if costs per click go up as a result in using it.

The good news is that Near Match is a default setting that can be shut off.  It looks like its as simple as going into Advanced Settings and shutting it off:

For years at Search Mojo we used to lament that Yahoo Sponsored Search was so inferior to Google AdWords specifically because it’s old Match Driver Technology did what essentially Google’s Near Match is currently purporting to do.  Now Google has taken several steps back in making this the default setting.  It’s a move that honestly smells like a revenue grab that we don’t consider to be in the interest of advertisers.

Most advertisers will never even know it is the default setting and will never do anything to change it – and Google will likely start seeing its average costs per click go up again.

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