It’s always important to know about the changes made to ad platforms to determine what best practices to follow in the new paradigm. Left unchanged, your campaigns may decline in performance as some keywords may stop working.
Change 1: Exact match is no longer exact.
With Google Ads search campaigns, advertisers must indicate which searches they would like to bid on by choosing keywords and assigning match types. One of the options for match types is exact match. Exact match used to mean that a search term would have to appear exactly as the user entered it in order for it to match to the corresponding keyword. For example, if you added “startup marketing agency” on exact match to your account, then your bid would be entered into the auction only if a user input “startup marketing agency” as their search query. If the user searched for “growth startup marketing agency websites,” then your bid for “startup marketing agency” on exact match would not be eligible for the auction.
However, exact match is no longer so exact. Google has relaxed its criteria over the years, so exact match now matches to searches that Google believes meet the searcher’s intent. These matches are known as “close variants.” Previously, you could trust that your exact match keywords and the corresponding search terms were word-for-word matches (misspellings and plurals aside), but that is no longer the case. With this first major change, I cannot emphasize enough just how critical it is to check your search terms reports and add negative keywords for queries that are not relevant to your business.
Change 2: Modified broad match has been removed.
A less refined exact match is not the only major match type change Google has made in recent years. This year, Google did away entirely with modified broad match. Previously, by adding plus signs before certain terms in your keyword, Google would serve your ad as long as all terms denoted by a plus sign showed up in the search query, regardless of additional terms included in the query or the order in which the component terms appeared. This match type cast a wider net than phrase match but offered more quality control than regular broad match.
These changes and effects lead to a similar conclusion, which is that reviewing your search terms and negative keywords are now even more important than before. It also should make you warier of adding match types. Since exact match encompasses a wider range of searches now (and consequently errors), I recommend starting with exact match before expanding to phrase match. It’s always better to start more conservatively and scale things up when they are going well.
Change 3: Responsive search ads will be the only search ad type available for standard search campaigns.
The last major change to Google Ads is coming in June 2022, when Google will be ending support for expanded text ads for responsive search ads. From then on, responsive search ads will be the only search ad type available for standard search campaigns.
Responsive search ads enable advertisers to provide up to 15 headlines and four descriptions per ad, and Google Ads chooses which headlines and descriptions are shown to searchers based on which combinations are most relevant to their queries.
One concern with this change is the lack of control and whether the combinations will meet advertisers’ brand standards. As we will have no choice about using responsive search ads, it’s important to start considering the implications of this change now. I recommend leveraging the pinning feature to create a structure for how your three headlines will be used. Try to make sure that one headline includes your name and/or what you do, one includes your value proposition and one includes a call to action. Make as many ad groups as needed to maintain an “Excellent” rating from Google in regard to your ad relevance when creating your responsive search ads, but also try to minimize the number of ad groups so your responsive search ads learn as quickly as possible.
Reassessing Campaigns And Best Practices
Each of these changes requires you to reassess your Google Ads campaigns and implement new best practices. Being aware of how your keywords are matching and what negative keywords you need to add are now more crucial than ever. Leveraging automated conversion-based smart bidding strategies could also help you overcome these changes, as the algorithm-based signals should help identify which searches merit higher or lower bids.
Change is the one constant that you can expect in advertising technology, and it is paramount that you stay aware of platform changes and prepare for the ones that are yet to come in order to optimize for the best performance possible.