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Keeping Up With Google: What Is Exact Match?

Exact match is a keyword match type on Google paid search that serves ads based on an exact keyword search or a close variant of that keyword. It allows retailers to narrow their audience to a group of customers using a specific search term or similar search term. With exact match, retailers can position their ads in front of people most interested in their products or services.

Exact match is one of four keyword matching options on Google. Other options include broad match, broad match modifier, and phrase match. Because ads display to audiences searching specific queries, it is best used to drive click-through rate and conversions. This specificity may make it difficult to drive impressions and clicks.

The keyword match type has expanded multiple times to include more keyword variants. These updates make exact match targeting appear for more searches and drive more impressions for retailers advertising on Google.

In this installment of Keeping Up With Google–a series that helps you stay up-to-date on the latest changes shaking up Google Ads–we break down exact match and its value for retailers.

Release Date:

Retailers got their first taste of exact match with the release of Google AdWords in October 2000. At the time, purchasing select keywords enabled retailers to serve ads that aligned to a Google user’s search query. The targeted ad would only appear if the user entered the same keywords or phrase purchased by the retailer.

The keyword match type has undergone quite a bit of transformation since then. Plurals, misspellings, and other variants joined the keyword matching option in 2014 while different word functions came in 2017. In September 2018, it broadened to include implied words, paraphrasing, and same-intent terms.

What It Does:

Exact match helps retailers engage with high-intent shoppers searching for specific products on Google. Exact match keyword bidding gives retailers more control over their Google Ads budget. They can place more spend on keywords that matter to their business and drive valuable clicks to specific products or services.

For example, if an apparel retailer wanted to drive more clicks to its selection of women’s travel bags, it would bid up on the phrase women’s travel bags in Google Ads. Exact match would serve ads for that phrase and keywords of similar intent, such as travel bags women’s and women’s bags for travel.

Retailers may want to build a negative keyword list of terms they don’t want their ads showing for. This list will filter out keywords that may weaken ad performance. In the case of the apparel retailer selling women’s travel bags, adding negative keywords like handbags and shoulder bags would prevent ads from showing to shoppers with different intent.

Which Channels:

Exact match is available in Google Search.

What It Means For Your Business:

The keyword match type can help drive more traffic to ads and save marketers from having to develop many permutations of keywords. Marketers can use this change to their advantage by creating more tightly themed ad groups. This targeting method is appealing to retailers with more mature strategies and a focus on customer lifetime value goals.

Google states that advertisers using exact match keywords saw, on average, 3% more clicks and conversions for those keywords. However, results will vary depending on your current campaign setup.

The vertical you operate in and keyword variants in exact match may result in volatility in performance. Exact match campaigns that were once the consistent, predictable backbone of your search account now require more maintenance. This may include restructuring your campaigns and managing negative keywords.

These optimization tactics should already be in effect if you use other match types like phrase match and broad match. Managing your campaigns to broadened exact match will likely be a short-term headache until the proper negative keywords are in place and you adjust to the new, more expansive norm.

Advertisers should be wary of broadened exact match if they utilize budget caps or have strict budgets. The increases in max exposure can cause budget capping or inefficient spend while you optimize to the broadened format.

Whether you manage your own campaigns, work with an agency, or partner with a third party, make sure you account for exact match in your search optimization strategy.

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