Google's "Near Match" Keyword Update: Swing and a Miss?

by Cleofe Betancourt May 10th, 2012 

google near match Moving beyond their recent fascination with pandas and penguins (can "project platypus" be far away?), the "do no evil" crew is at it again. This time around, team Google will be releasing an update to their keyword matching behavior, adding a "near match" element to that algorithm which should aid marketers in increasing exposure for their ads.

Google Knows User Intent?

According to the Inside AdWords post,"Google's organic search systems detect and compensate for misspellings and close variants. We know users are happier when they get search results that reflect their intent and help them achieve their desired action, even if it's not a precise match for what they've typed. So we're extending this behavior to ads."

If properly executed, "Near Match" could provide a nice boost in exposure and traffic to existing campaigns. It could also limit the amount of keyword research time needed to launch an advertisement by triggering user's offers on common misspellings,plurals, etc. Less time building, more time earning (great for newbies :)). What's not to like?

Could "Near Match" Be A Risky Proposition?

Well, for starters, not all misspellings are created equal, and most SEMs will likely have their most effective misspellings and/or plurals in their account already. While the additional exposure can result in more leads, the keyword variations delivering your visits will likely result in more ad spend that needs to be accounted for. Although Google's own post claims that the new matching behavior won't become active until mid-May,PPC Specialist Melissa Mackey found out recently, that Google's Near Match algorithm leaves something to be desired. She wrote,"Just yesterday I was reviewing some search queries for VoIP keywords, and apparently Google thinks that's the same thing as 'voice recognition apps' and 'cheap prison telephone voice'.

But, at least we have phrase and exact match to counteract the silly broad matching. Right? Wrong."

Google's intent to apply this new matching option to Exact match keywords also strikes me a the answer to a question no one is asking. Exact match keywords are set as such for a reason. From a company claiming to understand intent, it seems like a shortsighted to meddle with the exposure for these terms. If the user wanted variety, they would choose make use of the existing Phrase and Broad match settings, and not to trust Google to know what is best for them. This decision only fuels the grumbling by some that this new matching tweak is nothing more than a "money grab" by Google to appease their investors.

The Bottom Line

While an increase in click revenue will likely result from these changes, they could also serve to make AdWords that much more accessible to new marketers. Given the option, most experienced marketers will likely avoid the "near match" conundrum by opting out in the settings. However, if the algorithm works, like in any other case, user adoption will follow. If results mirror Melissa Mackey's above, however, Google will likely find itself in the middle of storm of protest from marketers "in the know" who call it like they see it.

This should be interesting.

Cleofe Betancourt

Author: Cleofe Betancourt


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7 Responses to “Google's "Near Match" Keyword Update: Swing and a Miss?”

  1. Brian says:

    The one thing I would be concerned about is whether our not readers on my blog will see ads targeted just to them instead of ads that may be a near match to what they like. I don't get enough ad revenue from Google as it is. Although, I may have the entire concept upside down, it just seems like when Google messes with an algorithm, any algorithm, it hurts my bottom line, either financially or traffic wise.

    • Hey Brian,

      I do not believe that this recent update will apply to the ads they are serving via Adsense. My understanding is that these changes impact Adwords marketers only. So, hopefully, the revenue keeps on coming your way:)

    • Brian says:

      That's good to know. I've never got into the marketing side of google ads. Never took the jump with their $100 free ads promos they kept sending out.

  2. Yousaf says:

    Latest update is a clear fail, just look at the pharma and casino niche results.

    • I'm thinking Google might want to stay as far away as they can from Pharma after the $500 million fine they recently paid the U.S. government for allowing questionable advertisers in that niche. The times, they are a-changing…

  3. Jonathan says:

    "in the know" Is not the important factor. The public at large get very annoyed once they realise one of the search drop-downs is shown as the preferred option and not the one they typed in. The ire is then anchored to the Google brand, amplified by years of parents knowing what is best for you !!!
    Keep it basic, keep the revenue earning Adwords. Just stop the layer cake that in turn creates more complicated SEO theorists.

    • I agree, Jonathan! In the long run there may be a "method to their madness", but Google dropping these changes on the SEM world without considering the backlash is a bit heavy handed. Still, you can always opt out of it, which is a plus.