Back in March, Google began expanding its definition of what constitutes a close variant exact match, a change they expected to roll out “over the coming months.”
At last Tuesday’s “Mad Scientists of Paid Search” session at SMX Advanced, I presented the latest Merkle data on what kind of impact we’ve seen so far. Here I’ll walk through some of the data presented there and explain what it means for advertisers.
Close variant traffic share steady so far
Taking a look at the share of all “exact” and “exact (close variant)” non-brand traffic attributed to close variants for a set of Merkle advertisers, we find that it has remained relatively the same so far in Q2 compared to what we’ve observed since the beginning of 2016 across all three device types for the median brand.
I measured close variant traffic in this way because it gives a sense of what share of traffic would be attributed to close variants if every single keyword in an account were set to exact match. Thus, this method helps to minimize the effect of some advertisers relying more heavily on phrase and broad match types than others, which would heavily impact metrics like the overall share of search traffic coming from “exact (close variants).”
Looking at this same measure for brand traffic, close variants account for a much smaller share of exact traffic, and there has been no obvious movement yet as a result of Google’s update.
So it appears that the updates to the definition of what constitutes a “close variant” haven’t affected how much traffic these matches drive just yet, though again Google mentioned a timeline of “over the next several months.” But what about the conversion rate of close variants relative to pure exact?
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