If you didn’t know, Google Adwords is getting rid of true exact match keywords, and will be including “close variants” automatically. Here’s a rundown on it from Google.
But, as Rand Fishkin pointed out, this might mean that a bid on “fish sauce” may now begin to include “sauces for fish” searchers – which is obviously a very different search. We really don’t know exactly how close or broad Google has decided that a “close variant” is, and Google will be making that decision FOR you from this point forward. Rand’s enlightening white board on this is here.
So, if you’re an advertiser who has a delicate defining line between your keywords and definitely-not-your keywords, and you’ve been using exact match in order to hone out the stuff that is similar to — but actually very different from — your product or service, you need to act.
If you’d like to still be as precise as possible, you’ll need to take a few steps to try to combat this change to a more general search term. Here’s what I’m recommending:
1. Negative matches. Use the keyword expansion tools in Adwords to go through all the recommended explansion keywords that Google thinks are similar to your terms, and look for good “negatives” in the list, and add these as negatives. Really scour that list, and make everything that should be a negative keyword into a negative. This will help Google to not include any “variants” that include your negative keywords, and therefore keep your ads showing to a more honed audience.
2. Watch Conversion Rates. Keep a close watch on the keywords whose traffic bumps up without any change to conversion rates. Don’t bother trying to fix or hone any keyword where traffic bumps up but conversion rates don’t drop. Who cares if it wasn’t your intended phrasing if it actually works in the end? Be careful for such “over-correcting”.
3. Watch traffic from Adwords in other Tools. Search for similar terms to that in the webmaster zone and analytics, where you’re told the search phrases people actually used to reach your site. If you’re finding bad matches, add these to the negatives list in adwords.
After a few weeks, you should have it all sorted and be able to return to life as usual.