If you have been running Adwords long enough, it shouldn’t surprise you that Google keeps announcing changes in functionality of its core components, time and again. One of the major changes was the replacement of standard text ads with expanded text ads where the character limits and structure of earlier was altered, yet its impact was large which gave advertisers opportunity to experiment with ad content, especially to include additional details allowed by increased character limit.

A similar change, although associated with a different component of Adwords, was announced by Google recently.

So what is it this change exactly?

The change announced recently says that exact match keywords will not remain exact any more.


Alright, let’s simplify it a bit.

As per the (Earlier) definition of exact match keywords, the ads could be shown only when the search query entered by the user matches exactly with the keyword present in your Adwords account, with same constituting words and in same order.

This has changed.

As per the changed definition, your ad can be shown for search queries which contain same words/phrases as that of exact match keyword present in your account, but in different order. For example, for an exact match keyword [buy shoes online] your ad shall be eligible to show for search query shoes buy online.

This is not all. As per changed policy, exact match keywords allow a discount of functional words to the search queries. Meaning, exact match keyword will also cover for search queries consisting of same words as the keyword but also contain functional words. These functional words contain propositions (such as “in”, “for”), conjunctions (such as “and”, “or”) and articles (such as “a,” “an,” and “the”).

Below instances will simplify it more:

Keyword [restaurants in mumbai] will also be eligible to show ad for a query ‘restaurants mumbai’ while covering for the removed proposition ‘in’.

Keyword [hospitals mumbai] will also be eligible to show ad for a query ‘hospitals in mumbai’ adding the missing proposition ‘in’.

Keyword [tables from mahogany] will also be eligible to show ad for a query ‘tables of mahogany’ while replacing the proposition.

Keyword [jobs for an engineer] will also be eligible to show ad for a query ‘jobs for engineer’ while removing the article ‘an’.

Not that difficult, eh?

How is it going to impact my account? 

We understand there will be lot of such questions dancing in your mind now that you are aware of this change of policy, and yes, this change is already in effect.

There are expert opinions available based on their experience and data after this change was in effect, and it certainly is impacting the account performance. This impact varies depending on number of keywords present in an account and size of the account, read spends.

Below are few of the instances which are potentially affected by the change:

Reversal of order

Advertisers for businesses for which search query are highly probable to contain functional words, especially the conjunctions, will be impacted by this change. For instance, if your keyword is ‘food store’ it may show up ad for a query ‘store food’ looking for a storage apparatus for food and not a food selling store. This will require you to refine the exact match keywords factoring the policy change to avoid incorrect targeting and wasteful spends.

Location sensitive brand name

If your brand name contains location and you are running brand campaign targeting exclusively exact brand name searches, this policy change may need you to be watchful of the search queries triggered by your exact match brand keyword. For instance for a brewery brand running a brand keyword ‘mumbai brewers’ , your ad may also show up for queries such as ‘breweries in mumbai, ‘breweries from mumbai, ‘mumbai breweries’ and more. Add such queries as negative keywords to avoid it.

Function words sensitive keywords

While this policy implementation enables your keywords to cover up function words, it also may impact the search queries which are function word sensitive, where replacing the existing function word by another alters the meaning and hence intent. For instance a keyword ‘certificate for medical examiner’ may mean to find information about a certificate that enables you to become a medical examiner, ad may also show for query ‘certificate of medical examiner’ intended to find a medical examiner’s certificate probably to acknowledge one’s medical fitness.


So what’s the best course of action for me?

As we already stated, above are few of the instances of how the policy change may impact account management. We still may need time to collect significant data in order to understand true difference this policy change may have. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take preemptive actions.

Following are advisory measures and it is entirely up to account manager’s discretion to perform or not.

De-duplicate your exact match keywords

Take a proactive initiative and take a look at your exact match keywords. List all of your top traffic generating exact match keywords and remove the functional words from each keyword. After you have done this, find out which ones happen to be the duplicate keywords and remove them.

For instance if you are running [hotels in pune] as well as [hotels pune], after you remove ‘in’ from the earlier keyword, you are left with two identical keywords, remove one of them.

Add negatives – preemptively

Now that you know your one exact match keyword will show ads for multiple search queries, you can add those ‘unnecessary multiple’ queries as negative keywords, provided you exclusively want to bid on the same exact keyword and no other variations.

This will be useful in case you are bidding for brand keywords or you have list of top converting keywords which are exactly identical with search queries they triggered ads for.

There are other match types too

Yes, we already know that, but this might be the best time to exploit them as response to the policy change.

While exact match may cover variations in order and absence or presence of functional words, it may be phrase match that is best match type to improve the degree of keyword relevancy with the search query.

Phrase match is one match type where you have control over the order of the words making up the keyword. So, if you are running keywords for which order of words is critical, it is best advised to use phrase match type keywords instead of exact.


The takeaway from the new avatar of exact match keywords is to understand what type of match type and which order of constituent words of the keywords make the most sense to your Adwords account. Also it is critical to check if there are any keywords which are competing with each other for same search query.  Let’s take preemptive measures and be ready for any surprises thrown at us by mighty Google.

If you would like us to look at the exact match keywords you currently use for running your Adwords campaign and perform analysis to adapt to the policy changes, get in touch.

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