How to Clean Close Variant Matches by Using Negative Keywords?

The negative effects of close variant matches on overall performance will lead to more challenges over time. Here is an approach to solve the hidden “not significant” search query problems and save those wasted budgets before too late.

Close variant matches are increasing over time. The growth is driven by more fuzzier matches to your keywords. The incremental traffic is of lower quality and affects your overall performance in a negative way. Let’s look at some approaches to solve this issue!

Close variants trigger more and more completely new queries

It seems that Google is forcing close variant matches to bring more traffic to the advertiser’s accounts. Since September I observed an increase of over 50% in unique queries per month. This happened to exact match keywords without changing anything on bidding settings. For me it is no question that we will see further growth of close variants.

The number of new unseen queries is increasing with close variants
+54% increase in unique queries by close variant matches from September to December 2020. What makes in even worse: Google started hiding “not significant” queries, this means the absolut number of totally new queries will be higher.

Where exact negatives fail,  broad n-gram negatives is the solution

I saw some Google Ads scripts out there for setting negative keywords for every close variant that appeared for your exact keyword. Maybe this approach was OK for a while but now we face a different situation. I found examples of exact match keywords with hundreds of different queries that were triggered by close variants. I think the problem probably won’t be the limit of 5000 negative keywords per ad group. Since September 2020 a lot of those queries are hidden in the search query performance report – this is a big problem. To block not only seen queries but also block future slightly different queries you should use 1-Gram negatives in broad.

There are examples of exact match keywords with hundreds of different queries that were triggered by close variants. Not only seen queries but also slightly different variations need to be blocked.

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For clean exact traffic, SKAGs can be the solution

I mentioned negative keyword limits before. If you have ad groups with a lot of keywords, limits will come in play. Setting negatives will also become more complex because of side effects of different keywords: A close variant negative for keyword A can also block the keyword B, that targets exactly that query, in the same ad group. If you mix up keyword match types within the same ad group or run Dynamic Search Ads I see no way of cleaning the traffic. Single keyword ad groups worked great in the past – in my opinion this is also the best structural approach to get rid of those close variants from your exact match keywords in combination with a n-Gram negativation strategy on ad group level.

So is it worth the effort? If you are a high ad spender: Yes! Just look at the bad performance numbers of close variant matches. Use our free tool to check your own performance. If you need an automated solution for publishing n-Gram negative keywords directly into your accounts via API get in touch with us.

Cheat Sheet

  1. To block not only seen queries but also block future slightly different queries you should use 1-Gram negatives in broad.
  2. Single keyword ad groups worked great in the past and they can also be the best structural approach to to get rid of those close variants from your exact match keywords in combination with a n-Gram negativation strategy on ad group level.

Join the conversation on LinkedIn

The negative effects of close variant matches on overall performance will lead to more challenges over time. Here is an approach to solve the hidden “not significant” search query problems and save those wasted budgets before too late.

Close variant matches are increasing over time. The growth is driven by more fuzzier matches to your keywords. The incremental traffic is of lower quality and affects your overall performance in a negative way. Let’s look at some approaches to solve this issue!

Close variants trigger more and more completely new queries

It seems that Google is forcing close variant matches to bring more traffic to the advertiser’s accounts. Since September I observed an increase of over 50% in unique queries per month. This happened to exact match keywords without changing anything on bidding settings. For me it is no question that we will see further growth of close variants.

The number of new unseen queries is increasing with close variants
+54% increase in unique queries by close variant matches from September to December 2020. What makes in even worse: Google started hiding “not significant” queries, this means the absolut number of totally new queries will be higher.

Where exact negatives fail,  broad n-gram negatives is the solution

I saw some Google Ads scripts out there for setting negative keywords for every close variant that appeared for your exact keyword. Maybe this approach was OK for a while but now we face a different situation. I found examples of exact match keywords with hundreds of different queries that were triggered by close variants. I think the problem probably won’t be the limit of 5000 negative keywords per ad group. Since September 2020 a lot of those queries are hidden in the search query performance report – this is a big problem. To block not only seen queries but also block future slightly different queries you should use 1-Gram negatives in broad.

There are examples of exact match keywords with hundreds of different queries that were triggered by close variants. Not only seen queries but also slightly different variations need to be blocked.

Share on Twitter

For clean exact traffic, SKAGs can be the solution

I mentioned negative keyword limits before. If you have ad groups with a lot of keywords, limits will come in play. Setting negatives will also become more complex because of side effects of different keywords: A close variant negative for keyword A can also block the keyword B, that targets exactly that query, in the same ad group. If you mix up keyword match types within the same ad group or run Dynamic Search Ads I see no way of cleaning the traffic. Single keyword ad groups worked great in the past – in my opinion this is also the best structural approach to get rid of those close variants from your exact match keywords in combination with a n-Gram negativation strategy on ad group level.

So is it worth the effort? If you are a high ad spender: Yes! Just look at the bad performance numbers of close variant matches. Use our free tool to check your own performance. If you need an automated solution for publishing n-Gram negative keywords directly into your accounts via API get in touch with us.

Cheat Sheet

  1. To block not only seen queries but also block future slightly different queries you should use 1-Gram negatives in broad.
  2. Single keyword ad groups worked great in the past and they can also be the best structural approach to to get rid of those close variants from your exact match keywords in combination with a n-Gram negativation strategy on ad group level.

Join the conversation on LinkedIn

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