Back in 2014, Google pretty much killed off exact match keywords – a move that wasn’t too popular in the advertising community. Well, if that didn’t sit too well with you, then you might not be happy to hear that exact match keywords are about to get even less exact.

Google announced the change on Friday, optimistically saying that “close variants now connects more people with what they’re looking for”. Which translates to exact keywords triggering a wider range of variants – and advertisers are kicking off once again.

How are close variants changing?

Google is making two main changes to how close variants work. The first is that most “function” words will now be ignored – which includes prepositions (in, to, etc.), articles (a, the, etc.) and other words that often aren’t included in queries or have no impact on its meaning.

Ignoring function words

Source: Google

According to Google, this will only apply to queries where function words don’t change the meaning. For example, “bahamas cruise from miami” and “miami to bahamas cruise” in the table above match, because both queries are looking for a cruise that starts in Miami and takes them around the Bahamas.

So the function words aren’t exactly being ignored here, but rather they’re being considered. Because one query containing “to miami” and another “from miami” would have different meanings, thus not matching.

As Google puts it, “the ‘to’ in ‘flights to new york’ would not be ignored, because a ‘flight from new york’ is not the same as a ‘flight to new york.’”

Ignoring word order

The other change Google is making is ignoring word order when this doesn’t affect the meaning of a query.

Source: Google

Again, Google says this won’t happen when changing the word order affects the meaning of a query. And, if Google can pull this off, there’s not much reason for advertisers to get their undies in a twist. As long as the user intent is the same, this change will only bring more qualified leads to your site with the same goal.

Of course, advertisers never like to lose any control over how their ads are shown – especially when relevancy could be compromised. If these changes result in more clicks (more money for Google) and lower conversion rates for advertisers, then there’ll be reason to make a fuss. But we’ll wait to see how things unfold over the coming months before we make any judgements about the change.

Are you worried about Google changing how close variants work for exact match keywords? Let us know your thoughts and get in touch if you have any questions about what this might mean for your AdWords strategy.